on May 24, 2001
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.
on July 7, 2006
"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.
I have very little knowledge about the life that Vonnegut has lead which makes me uncomfortable trying to establish what he was trying to say about incestuous relationships but what I do know now after rereading it is that this was one of those dark, poignant books that has had an obvious impact on my thought processes. He makes some brilliant points about war, money, fame, religion, sex, politics and the meaning of life. Which he succeeds in not giving an answer to. Sometimes though it felt like he was skimming over some really great story points in favour of presenting his point of view.
Darkly comic, a little sad and thought provoking- I'd read it again, in another ten years.
on February 19, 2007
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
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
on October 24, 2013
If you've appreciated Kurt Vonnegut's work in the past, chances are you will find GALAPAGOS worthwhile. (Though that isn't a sure bet. The one star reviews for this book are filled with readers who enjoyed most of his oeuvre, but hated this one.)
On the other hand, if you have disliked Vonnegut's general themes, tone, style or cynical musings in the past, then you will be a glutton for punishment if you dive into this effort from 1985.
Readers who like short, snappy reviews can stop now - nothing else I can say about the book will be more helpful than what I've just said. If you like longer reviews, then read on.
GALAPAGOS is really more of a statement than a novel - it's Vonnegut's assessment of the human race. Simplified, it follows eight passengers on a cruise ship (and their backstories) as they are thrown together and marooned on one of the Galapagos Islands. Unbeknownst to them, at the same moment they are isolated from the rest of the world, a biomedical disaster sweeps through the human population. Paralleling the unique situation of the animals on the Galapagos Islands, the castaways are insulated from the disaster, and over the course of a million years, evolve.
As is usual for a Vonnegut novel, the plot is fragmented and skips back and forth in time. The narrator also will often give away plot points pages before they actually happen, so there is little in the way of traditional storytelling or structure. I assume this is done because the story is simply the framework Vonnegut uses to advance his larger theme, which, in my opinion, he sort of hits the reader over the head with in this book.
I've heard other readers whose opinion I respect mention their dislike of Vonnegut's work, and I never understood where they were coming from. But GALAPAGOS was revelatory to me - here, I think, is the essence of what many people dislike about Vonnegut, distilled to a point to where even I finally get it. Although Vonnegut's satires point out real faults within the human race, his tone suggests a smugness at his ability to highlight it out and ridicule it for us. His allure in the past for me was that by reading his work, I felt as though I was included in the select few who could detect and point out the foibles of the masses. GALAPAGOS punctured that bubble because it became obvious that that was what had been happening. GALAPAGOS is one of the very few books I've read which has made me reassess an author's entire output.
on February 8, 2006
I have read most of Vonnegut's work, and this is one of the funniest. I was surprised to find so many of his fans are turned off by this one. I think I know why: it is perhaps his bleakest view of human potential, and of course we don't want to believe we are capable of heinous acts. I think it is hard for people to recognize and acknowledge that civilization is a rather thin veil on our animal natures, even when many recent events show it to be true.
On the other hand, any cautionary tale (most of KV's are just that) has to include great loss and simultaneously hold out the possibility for redemption. The loss in this case (all of humanity and any hope for intelligent life on Earth) is huge, and the redemption slim. I think the redemption offered to the few kind characters in the book is satisfactory.
Here is the thing I think Vonnegut would have us consider: our actions may seem insignificant, but "compound interest" on your small acts of kindness or cruelty will be multiplied. If you don't like the outcome, change your behavior in subtle but important ways. Work for a better world, not just for yourself but for all generations to come. Be mindful of this now, before you too are old and maybe regret you no longer had the years to make that difference you'd hoped.
on August 14, 2002
1,000,000 years in the future our brains will evolve down to a size where they will actually be helpful to our survival.
Human's brains are currently far too big to help us in survival. This is the main theme throughout this very funny book. Vonnegut addresses, in his typical style, how counterproductive the workings of our 'huge' brains are; how they trick us and make our lives much more difficult than they actually need to be.
I was surprised to see all of the poor reviews for this book since I loved it so much.
Thought provoking and funny. Right in line with his other books.
on February 2, 2007
Here, Kurt Vonnegut takes the reader on an adventure a million years long, and even longer in the making. Though he doesn't say so, the tale he tells really starts when the humans took up the first tool and began to conquer the world. It ends, quite fittingly, on the crib of evolutionary theory, the Galápagos Islands. Vonnegut uses the book to take us to the edge of a global apocalypse and beyond. The future he imagines through his troop of unassuming cruise ship passengers is funny, scary, and not altogether impossible.
In this book, Vonnegut absorbs the reader first with his rambunctious writing style, carefully sugarcoating the fact that he is pointing the finger at us (you) for bringing the world where it is today. He is able to lead the reader through a series of unlikely events and stories by keeping his characters simple and his philosophizing straightforward. Whereas I often find myself lost in the mind-mazes in other Vonnegut books ("Breakfast of Champions" comes to mind), in "Galápagos" I was refreshed by the story's simplicity and unpretentious social commentary. I was able to laugh at how pitifully lost we humans sometimes seem and, by the end, I was ready to agree wholeheartedly with the central thesis of the book that all of the world's real issues have their root in one very complex organ: our oversized brains.
"Galápagos" is a must for any Vonnegut fan, nature lover, nature hater and, especially, for any human whose brain is just too big.
on August 9, 2004
GALAPAGOS is a profoundly moving and funny novel set in the reckless times of Ronald Reagan, when America itself seemed to be deevolving. Vonnegut also gives us one of his most succint and hilarious observations on humanity: that no matter how many ages we pass, we will still think farts are hilarious. Highly recommended.
on September 22, 2004
I've now read every Vonnegut novel with the exception of Hocus Pocus and Timequake, which I will read soon enough. Galapagos ranks in the top five, along with Player Piano, Sirens of Titan, Cat's Cradle, and Slaughterhouse-5.
Reading his works in chronological order, I found that Vonnegut was at his absolute best when writing a science-fiction type novel with a clear message/moral. While I certainly enjoyed his realistic works, such as Mother Night and Deadeye Dick, I find the others to be slightly more entertaining and fun to read. That does not necessarily mean they are better novels, I just personally enjoy them more.
Galapagos is a very interesting read that is narrated by a ghost who has been inhabiting Earth for over a million years. During this time, he witnesses the evolution of human beings from having big brains to having simpler and less complicated lives. The story focuses on 1986 and the years that follow as the last human beings on Earth are living on the Galapagos Islands and adapting to this new environment.
Overall, a wonderful read. If you've never read Vonnegut before, this isnt a bad novel to start off with.