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Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).
I'm really surprised to see so many people who consider Galapagos to be one of Vonnegut's worst novels. I love his work and I've read many others... I have to say Galapagos is one of my favorites. On the surface, the unconventional style is great. It's told from a million years in the future, with events revealed in non-cronological order. This nonlinear storytelling really drives home Vonnegut's philosophies about the meaninglessness of time (as in Slaughterhouse Five and Sirens of Titan, for example). Also, the grandiose nature of his plot is great. The end of the world and the human race as we know it... typical Vonnegut, but still good stuff. Above all, this book is very funny. As in his other books, he treats such serious matters as war and death lightly. This underlying irony is very present in Galapagos. However, Galapagos is by no means a "light" book. The subtlest twinge of sadness peeks through all of the humor -- just enough sadness to leave an impact. On another level, Galapagos is great for its concept. The human race is only screwing itself over, and it's about time it starts going backwards again. The pessimism of it all is delightful, yet rings true. My one gripe with Galapagos is its weak character development. In a way this is OK, as it reinforces the message of the human race as a lost cause. However, it would have been nice to have someone, anyone, to sympathize with. But in the end Galapagos is interesting, funny, unconventional, and just a great read.
"And people still laugh about as much as they ever did, despite their shrunken brains. If a bunch of them are lying around on a beach, and one of them farts, everybody else around laughs and laughs, just as people would have done a million years ago."
Galapagos was the very first Kurt Vonnegut book that I ever read- serendipity saw me come across it at the school library when I was thirteen years old. Thirteen years later I don't think a more glorious introduction could have been made.
You know what is going to happen right from the beginning, the ghost of Leon Trout (son of fictitious sci-fi author Kilgore Trout) has no qualms about informing you of how, a million years in the future (well, 999,980 if you consider that most of the events were meant to have taken place in 1986), the Laws of Natural Section have seen human beings evolve, their Big Brains shrinking and their bodies adapting to a life of fishing and copulation on the Galapagos Archipelago. The tale that follows then is the story of how `modern' humans came to be, the chronicle of the few passengers who stole away from a dying planet on the Bahia de Darwin and found themselves stranded on a volcanic rock for the remainder of their lives and thus making them the Adam and Eves of a new world where children are furry and have flippers.
It isn't just about Natural Selection, but an array of other subjects that are too far reaching to go into now, but would make it an enjoyable book to study further. He does make it clear that we don't fit into this world and we are destroying it, that our big brains cause most of the problems in the world and it would be much easier if we evolved to the same level as the animals that surround us.Read more ›
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You know what my big brain told me to do? It told me to read all the Vonnegut I could get my hands on, and my big brain finally got something right. More social commentary from the master of fiction with a message, Galapagos tells the story of the last band of humans and how they evolve, absent technology.
What's the cause of all human misery? An oversized brain, which brings up the book's tagline - My Big Brain Told Me To . . .
What would humans be like without this oversized brain? What would the earth be like without a species with an oversized brain? These are the questions Vonnegut explores in depth.
As usual, Vonnegut's narrator is a master satirist with a rambling tone who seems to be going in wrong directions, but ties all threads together brilliantly. In this book, the narrator is the son of Kilgore Trout, a frequently recurring character in Vonnegut novels.
I don't think it's the best Vonnegut novel which makes it merely fantastic.
- CV Rick
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Vonnegut is an author that really grows on me. Galapagos is the latest novel that I've read, and (like the rest of his) immediately becomes my favorite. The premise of the book is that humanity is going to make an enormous change of genetic course due in part to it's own stupidity. The onion is peeled, and the story reveals more about the problems in humanity while following the story of the future common parents of mankind. The book maintains several consistencies with Vonnegut's other works: - A witty style that covers sharp criticism. (Like they've said of Twain, "They'd hang him if they thought he was serious") - A satire that's sometimes obvious, but sometimes hiding behind the story. - Cameos by characters from his other books. - A solid criticism of modern societyu
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