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Player Piano: A Novel Paperback – January 12, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (January 12, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385333781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385333788
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A funny, savage appraisal of a totally automated American society of the future.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“An exuberant, crackling style . . . Vonnegut is a black humorist, fantasist and satirist, a man disposed to deep and comic reflection on the human dilemma.”—Life

“His black logic . . . gives us something to laugh about and much to fear.”—The New York Times Book Review

From the Publisher

Vonnegut's spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

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).

Customer Reviews

Now more than ever, this book needs to be read.
Sergio
The tension between the good of technology and the bad (reflected in the ending of the book) is masterfully done.
Texas
In the book, a computer takes over the U.S. and most of mans' work has been taken by machines.
Tom Roberts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 96 people found the following review helpful By OAKSHAMAN VINE VOICE on October 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
This year is the 50th anniversary of this novel. I remember that I was working as an engineer back when I first read it. This was appropriate since most of the main characters are engineers. I remember being struck at how close Vonnegut's predictions about society actually were. Now that I've reexamined them 20 years later, I am even more impressed.

The basic premise of the story is that American industry is run by a tiny group of wealthy and powerful managers and engineers, while the vast majority of the population are stripped of their well-paying industrial jobs and forced to live as poor, powerless menials.

This elite of managers and engineers live in closed, gated Orwellian communities, where they watch each other closely for the slightest hint of nonconformity or disloyalty to the system.

Vonnegut shows how most managers and engineers have always had a contempt for the average American worker and have been looking for a way to replace them even before WW2. He thought that this would primarily be by automation (as opposed to simply shipping the jobs out of the country.)

Vonnegut also assumed that agriculture would be totally mechanised by large corporations and the small farmer made extinct.

There is also the eerie prediction that the President would be a man of low intelligence who would get elected on the basis of a "three hour television show." It would make no difference because there would be no connection between who was elected and who actually ran the country. Remenber, this was in 1952....

Oh yes, he also predicted that no one would be able to get any job worth having without a graduate degree.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A lot of people, even Vonnegut fans, probably haven't heard of this book, for whatever reasons. Vonnegut really doesn't discuss it that much, mostly because he dislikes the label of science-fiction, which this book, along with The Sirens of Titan and even Slaughterhouse-Five, clearly is.

Still, this book is a must for Vonnegut fans or even those interested in old science-fiction in the style of Orwell or Huxley. Those looking for Vonnegut's classic deadpan black humorist style won't find it here. The beginnings of it are here, however and Vonnegut's tale of Paul Proteus' rebellion against the oppressive government is still as entertaining and fascinating as it was years ago. Read with the aforementioned 1984 and Brave New World, this book provides a slight contrast by using a different tone and more humor, but the message is still the same, that technology will ruin us all and bring about our ultimate downfall.

Fortunately this book has been reissued so that fans can see how Vonnegut started out, and fortunately, unlike most writers' first novels, Vonnegut's initial effort is just as readable as his later works
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By kenneth.halaby@us.ms.philips.com on April 1, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am only 25 and already burnt out and disgusted with the corporate world. This book really hit home with me. Vonnegut mocks and satarizes corporate life, which, after reading this book, obviously hasn't become any less discouraging or frusterating as it was 47 years ago. Player Piano is a must read for anyone who is appauled by the reality that, with few exceptions, one must completely sell out and conform in order to advance in a large corporation. Anyone who is currently mired in corporate America will recognize at least one or two of the characters and/or situations in this book as ones they themselves have had to (or continue to) deal with regularly, and therefore will feel a strong bond with Paul Proteus by book's end.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tom Roberts on August 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Some books I can plow through in an afternoon, regardless of the number of pages. However, every time I read something by Vonnegut, it becomes so deeply philosophical and thought-provoking that I can only take it in small bites.
It's about the future of America. It was written in 1952, as his first novel. In the book, a computer takes over the U.S. and most of mans' work has been taken by machines. Citizens are split into two groups: the ones who have high IQs and the ones who don't. In an almost communist society (where the government takes certain steps to ensure a person's well-being through provisions), a few people decide to call for a revolution against the machines, with surprising twists and an ironic ending.
It made me consider how much of my life seems automated--wake up, go to work, go home, repeat--and how much more I need to be less mechanized and more human.
This is a book that I think I'll buy so I can re-read it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Norburn on March 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Vonnegut's debut novel, published in 1952, is a little constrained. There are hints of Vonnegut's sardonic wit, wild imagination, and unconventional writing style, but only hints. Unlike virtually all of Vonnegut's other novels, Player Piano tells its story in a linier fashion. It starts at the beginning and ends at the end. There's nothing really wrong with that, but for fans of the author, accustomed to Vonnegut's eccentric voice, it feels a little too conventional.

Vonnegut is a humanitarian and the message of Player Piano is that people need to have a sense of purpose, and that if you take that away from them - their lives will be empty. Throughout the novel, a leader from another country tours the cities of the United States and having no similar word in his own language, confuses `civilians' for `slaves'. The message of course, is that the civilians, in this machine dominated world, are in-fact slaves.

Similarities between this novel and Brave New World are inevitable, as both novels explore the relationship between technology and happiness, and the role class structure plays in our society. In both Player Piano and Brave New World, the protagonist is unfulfilled by the trappings of the privileged class and longs for something `real'. Player Piano is arguably more hopeful than Brave New World (and certainly 1984) suggesting that people will band together to fight for their freedom, however futile, even if it means that they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again.

Player Piano is admittedly dated. It is evident from this novel, and others of the era, that people were wary of the advent of computers and the proliferation of machines and technology.
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