Going into Slaughterhouse-Five I knew that Kurt Vonnegut was reputed to be one of the best science fiction authors of all time, but not much else.
Based on the name alone, I assumed this was some serious science fiction with vicious aliens or a bleak post apocalyptic setting. Boy was I wrong.
Although I suppose this is science fiction - and satire - and absurdism - as it has been touted, that is not my take on this book. I read it as a very sad case of a WWII veteran who suffered severe PTSD at a time long before they knew what PTSD was.
There is black humor, but I didn't find it amusing, although it did lighten the tone of the book. But for me, the sad, world-weary tone prevailed throughout.
It bounces around in no chronological order and so can be slightly hard to follow, but it is easy and captivating reading. I was never tempted to put it down.
It is powerful. It is absurdism cloaking heartbreak. It is science fiction in its purest form of escapism.
It is something every military official, every politician, and every warmonger should read. And you should read it too.
And so it goes.
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Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five
introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after
he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a
plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously
through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's)
shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the
firebombing of Dresden.
Don't let the ease of reading fool you -
Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are
almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic
confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so
much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects
of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being
Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22,
it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an
eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of
authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination,
humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's
other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a
unique poignancy - and humor.
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