on July 13, 2002
Vonnegut's novels were never tightly plotted or dizzlingly complex, and ever since The Sirens of Titans there's been less and less plot. But what we've gotten is more and more Vonnegut, which has turned out to be a good thing. His latest and (he says) his last novel turns out to be a hodgepodge of random musings, Vonnegut family history lessons, irrelevant asides and once in a while something that touches on a story. And somehow it works. The premise is that Vonnegut was trying to write a novel about everyone in the world being thrown back ten years and then being forced to relive those ten years. After it's over and time runs normally again, everyone is so used to not having free will that they don't know what to do. But that idea didn't take off and so we have this. Toeing the line between fact and fiction (among the best is the meeting between Vonnegut and longtime alter ego Kilgore Trout), this novel is more about Vonnegut than any other novel previously. He talks about life in general, speaks bluntly and warmly of his family, both living and dead, all in his easily read style, which makes pages fly past as you read but somehow they still manage to stick in your head. Yeah, it's not the innovation of Slaughterhouse-Five and the cutting cynicism of the earlier novels has been replaced by a sort of contented cynicism, as if his bitterness has settled on him like a comfortable old skin. There's nothing new here that you couldn't find in his other novels (all of which are highly recommended), even the structure is reminiscent of Breakfast of Champions, but the presentation is what counts here and everything comes across so effortlessly that it's a joy just to watch him put the novel together, even when chapters race past that are really only barely connected strings of random thoughts. More importantly it made me laugh outloud in more than a few spots, made me think in others and in some places was actually genuinely touching, something that's been missing in some of his latter day novels. Overall it's a fine extension of his work and while not his best, it's a great way to get acquainted or reacquainted with an author who's done some of the finest fiction of the last fifty years. If you're just getting to know Vonnegut, there's plenty more where this came from, and if you're coming from a long time back, you'll find plenty here that's familiar, but just as rewarding.
on January 26, 1998
If you are looking for a plot, rising action or deep characters, don't read this. For those of us who have been Vonnegut fans, it reads like a Bible of his ideas. The best parts of a good number of his novels are the prologues. This book is a 195 page prologue, with about 10 pages of fiction. I had the opportunity to read Timequake back in July, (about three months before its offical release date) and I was thrilled when I reached the final page. Many of his devoted readers find his humanistic ideas to be the best stuff he writes. This book holds more of that than any other he has written. His ideas on his own age and demise as a writer add a ton to this beautiful farewell to the philosophy of Kurt Vonnegut. If you are unfamilar with him, and looking for a great book to start on, go back to Slaughterhouse-Five, Sirens of Titan or Cat's Cradle. If you are familiar with his stuff, this book simply serves as a great companion piece to his other books.
on August 30, 2002
This is the third Vonnegut novel that I've read so far. I loved and hated this book. The 3 stars that I gave this book is somewhat unfair to Vonnegut because the book wasn't necessarily poor, it's just not what I had expected.
What I loved: the idea and creativity of a "timequake" and the scraps here and there of the timequake.
What I didn't expect: these little extra memoirs and the last third of the novel. You find yourself reading "a completely different book" consisting of Vonnegut's own personal reflections; you can just about call it an autobiography.
In conclusion, this is probably not the book for you if you're looking for something that flows and has well, a plot. Otherwise, if you're simply in for chunks of Vonnegut's classic satire, look no further!
on May 25, 2005
Having read the bulk of Vonnegut's work (so many great books, so much clever, boisterous, mocking, incidental drivel...)Timequake felt like a cheat at first. More parts memoir than actual novel, Timequake must be differentiated between Timequake One (the dead version that balked birth) and Timequake Two (the revised performance). Intending this as his last novel (or so he says), Vonnegut gets a little crazier than usual and a lot nostalgic. The threading of his personal life experiences into the fabric of the novel make it hard at first to discern fact from fiction, and then you realize...It's Kurt f*cking Vonnegut! Who cares? Fact or fiction, it's all entertaining. Vonnegut is as wry and sardonic as ever. He talks a lot of sh*t here.... So, is KV done telling stories? Is Timequake to be the last real shot of his insightful wisdom of the world at hand? Is it worthy of a last novel by a modern-day genius? Tough questions. Let me answer them all with one word. Maybe.
Is this is awesome as Breakfast Of Champions or Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five? Hard to tell. All of Vonnegut's work, at least for me, sort of melds together into a single mishapen tapestry. Vonnegut is Vonnegut. His writing is addictive as nicotine or heroin. I gotta have it.
on December 20, 1999
Reading TIMEQUAKE makes two things eminently clear.
One, Kurt Vonnegut has become a cranky old man. The book is full of diatribes about how newfangled gadgets like TVs and computers have ruined the world. He even occasionally lets slip a wistful cliche like "the lost art of conversation." In contrast to his SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE character Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut himself has become stuck in time, viewing today's world from the distant vantage of the 1930s and 40s, and declaring the modern era postliterate, and therefore fallen. He even lends authority to his viewpoint by finally acknowledging his place in the pantheon of the century's greatest writers, a place which he richly deserves.
And that brings me to the second insight that TIMEQUAKE makes readily apparent: Vonnegut's literary genius is undimmed. The man can put words together like nobody else on earth -- his passages and paragraphs are so mind-altering that they ought to be considered controlled substances. The timequake at the center of this book is a wonderfullly pliable symbol, allowing Vonnegut fresh takes on all his familiar themes: war, suffering, the arts, the human capacity for evil, and the mysterious dynamic of free will versus predetermination. What's more, the book is unfailingly, hysterically funny, resonating with that particular Vonnegutian laugh, a laugh that carries an abyss of blackness within its mirth, but is nonetheless somehow comforting.
Those who complain that the book is rambling or lacks direction are missing the boat entirely. As Vonnegut himself explains midway through the book (perhaps in anticipation of this very criticism), his writing style is that of a "basher." He defines "bashers" as writers who "go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they're done, they're done." Make no mistake, the words in TIMEQUAKE are there for a *reason*. They aren't arbitrary or accidental. Vonnegut didn't just scribble down whatever happened to cross his mind and then try to sell the stack of notes as a book. Or if he did, he should be allowed to, because the result is such an intricate, precise organization of connections that the best metaphor for it is the inner workings of the computer on which I write this review -- an immensely complicated piece of work which accomplishes its function very well indeed.
I wouldn't recommend TIMEQUAKE for somebody who's never read Vonnegut before (and how I envy such people for the newness of the experience that awaits them) -- Vonnegut novices ought to start with brilliant, accessible novels like CAT'S CRADLE or GOD BLESS YOU, MISTER ROSEWATER. But for Vonnegut fans, of which I am definitely one, TIMEQUAKE is an indispensible farewell from the voice of an old friend.
on October 3, 1997
I first became a fan of Vonnegut in high school when a friend let me borrow Cat's Cradle. After completion, I voraciously read the entire Vonnegut catalog within the span of about 15 months. Thus when I saw on Amazon that his new and final book was soon to be released, I became ecstatic. The basic plot of TIMEQUAKE is irrelevant and takes a back seat to Kurt's desire and need to reminisce and give us advice based upon his 74 years on a planet filled with people destined for suicide. The aging Vonnegut's pessimism about the human condition is not ground-breaking material, yet the novel has an enjoyable and comfortable sense of familiarity to it. Kurt is similar to the stereotypical grandfather: "I remember back in the day...before TV, before WWII, before computers, before art and literature lost importance, etc... when life was so much simpler and better." At times Vonnegut's complaints seem like the petty ramblings of a bitter, cynical old man; but for the most part his common sense advice, no matter how simple, rings truthful and just might be the ideas needed to save the species. TIMEQUAKE is a pure pleasure to read, a truly wonderful farewell gift from an author who has meant so much to my literary and personal development.
on November 2, 1997
No other American author has so continuously introduced new ideas on how one should view the crazy happenings on this planet Earth or the planet Booboo for that matter. In a new form of "novel" incorporating direct autobiography, indirect personal observations through his alter ego, Kilgore Trout, and a series of storylines scattered with typical Vonnegut characters, the author looks at life from angles most of us have never reposed. The underlying tale of a ten-year repeat of the universe's history via a timequake forces the readers to think about all the little timequakes in our lives and the moments we would like to relive. A timequake requires one to relive it all with no changes. The author's reflections on his own family in small timequakes present a very human and appealing side of this important contibutor to our understanding of what life is all about. This was a very satisfying read for Vonnegut regulars. This should not be the first Vonnegut book for a new reader. Let us hope this is not Kurt Vonnegut's last novel as he proclaims. What a writer. Ting-a-ling!
on June 8, 2001
Kurt Vonnegut is certainly in my mind, and in those of most objectionable readers, one of the 20th century's greatest writers. If you have not yet read anything of his, you should take time out now to do so. However, this book is radically different from just about anything else out there (even from Vonnegut) that I wouldn't recommend making it your first reading of KV. If you are new to the author I suggest rather something like Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five. Timequake, however, is pure gold for the die-hard Vonnegut fanatic. It is written in a rather odd and unthinkably off-beat style, truly, as the book jacket claims, "a literary form such as the world has never seen." There is absolutely no plot whatsoever. And there's basically only one character. The vast majority of the book is, in fact, not fiction but personal ancedotes from the author. Vonnegut appears in the novel both as an autobiographical figure reciting reminisces from his past, and as a character in the novel placed in fictional situations. Obviously, this is by no means a conventionally written book. However, this can be tremendously rewarding for Vonnegut fans, because here we get to see a lot of his views on different issues, as well as see him disclosing quite a few events about his past (not that he hadn't done that before, but still.) Read this if you've already made a sizable chunk in the author's repetoire.
on May 9, 2004
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut is a book placed in the years 2001 to 19991 and back to 2001 again, this will become clearer later on in the review. The world is about to suffer a timequake, the universe has not decided whether or not it wants to keep on expanding or shrivel up and die. The universe is zapped back ten years and then it decides to continue expanding, however it must go over the ten years that it zapped itself back from all over again. During the rerun as it is called in the book, everyone is forced to do everything all over again exactly as the did it before the rerun. The story follows Kurt Vonnegut's alter ego, author Kilgore Trout through his journey through the timequake.
Timequake is filled with the sarcastic humor that Kurt Vonnegut is known and loved for. Almost every chapter contains some sort of analogy or joke that will make you chuckle as you read across the page. Vonnegut's unconventional style of writing keeps you immensely interested in the book. He skips from subject to subject in every chapter, also every chapter seems to have its own moral and lesson as opposed to there being only one or two morals in the entire novel. His style of writing could even be described as him telling the reader of some of his and his characters past experiences, with no sort of chronological order, most of his thoughts are completely random, yet incredibly funny. One funny thing in the novel is how Vonnegut refers to World War One and World War Two as "humanities unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide." The rest of the book is packed with things as funny and even funnier from page one.
This novel is much more than the simple fiction story, as Vonnegut fans have learned to expect, but more of a journey through which you grow more and more thoughtful with every turn of the page. He sways your opinions and makes you consider sides of the story you never knew existed on subjects such as society, war, poverty, life, and love. He truly bedazzles readers time and time again. He introduces crazy theories, as he has done in many of his other novels, and thus keeps you thinking and interested. You can always discover something new or go into an idea even further every time you read the novel.
This novel is a gift to everyone who reads, it packs everything that you want from a book, humor, an deep thesis, drama, and is even more. It truly is a book that gets you thinking about things you never even thought you would think about and leaves you pondering his theories even after you have finished the text. This unfortunately is Kurt Vonnegut's final book, however even if this is true he has certainly gone out with a bang. I highly recommend this novel.
on November 28, 2000
You were sick but now you're well again, and there's work to do ... Timequake is a book about a book, "Timequake One", sort of. Which is to say, Vonnegut uses the supposed book "Timequake" as reference material typically saying "I wrote in Timequake One" while filling the rest of the story with cynical bitterness and sarcastic commentary which is simultaneously hilarious and solemn. He threads the plot of Timequake (wherein the cast of the universe is forced to live ten years of their lives twice, the second "rerun" being on automatic pilot) through relentless commentary about our modern world pitting himself and his "alter-ego" out of print science fiction writer Kilgore Trout as main characters in what can be best described as part auto-biography, part fiction. As I read this book I found so much relevant in my day to day life I could hardly believe it. There are some real thought provoking criticisms of our modern world presented here. I like the frank style of writing, and I deeply appreciate Vonnegut's bitterly sarcastic musings: "Then again, I am a monopolar depressive descended from monopolar depressives. That's how come I write so good." Give us a break, Mr. Trout. READ IT.