81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2012
Please note that my rating is about the quality of the Kindle edition, not the quality of Vonnegut's writing.
On the one hand, the short stories are wonderful and showcase some of Vonnegut's earlier writing. On the other hand, the Kindle edition would likely embarrass any author, and particularly one whose precision of language was equal to Kurt Vonnegut's. Specifically, the book appears to have been created by scanning a hard copy and then using optical character recognition (OCR) software to convert the images to letters, without making an effort to even so much as electronically verify that the OCR got it right (e.g. even a Word grammar checker would have turned up most of the obvious mistakes). This results in an almost verbatim rendering of the original, but not quite. In the Kindle version it is quite jarring to find, for example, the word "mat" appearing nonsensically in the middle of some sentences where the word "that" was plainly intended. Two examples: "It was in this news mat Nancy perceived a glint of hope" or "Why, honey bunch, they call mat truth serum." Mostly, "that" shows up correctly, but not always. Perhaps the most obnoxious example is in the short story "Deer in the Works" where a character's name is first given as "Lou Flammer" then inexplicably switches for a few pages to "Lou Hammer" and then switches back to last name "Flammer" again. Vonnegut doesn't make those sorts of mistakes. Kindle does, and it is a shame to do it to a writer of such ability. Nevertheless, what Vonnegut writes in these short stories are entertaining, thought provoking, disturbing, and somewhat of a time capsule for the mindset of America in the 1950s and early 60s. My only suggestion is to buy a hard copy version and read what Vonnegut actually wrote, instead.
96 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2003
If you don't already know Kurt Vonnegut's work, this may be the best introduction to it -- especially considering that short stories are the art form that Vonnegut started out with, where he developed his craft.
And if you already know Vonnegut but don't know this book, then think of this as the author in delicious bit-sized chunks.
But read the book!
I would not say that Welcome to the Monkey House is Vonnegut's best book -- in fact, it may not even be in the top five by my calculations -- but it is the one book of his I would keep if I had to give all the other away, simply because of the diversity of the stories he tells and the simple writing skill they illustrate.
And I might argue that the best single STORY Vonnegut ever wrote is "Harrison Bergeron" the riveting and still-relevant tale about human nature that effects me as much today as it did when I first read it 20 years ago. Vonnegut without a doubt proves with this story that all writers are not created equal.
87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2002
I'm not a huge fan of short story collections since I'd much rather sit through a single story throughout all those pages instead of a series of tales that at best tend to be hit or miss and wildly inconsistent. However there are some writers that I will acknowledge are masters of the form, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury and of course Kurt Vonnegut (that's not even counting the "classic" short story masters who I haven't read) who's novels sometimes come across as longish short stories anyway. Most of these stories were written early in his career, in the fifties or sixties and it looks like someone actually made an attempt to sequence them instead of just dumping them in chronoloogical order, thus there's a bit of a procession as you move along, finally ending with the darkly hopeful 'Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow". Along the way you'll find that the quality is quite high and many of these are very much vintage Vonnegut. He mixes around with genres and so SF exercises such as "Harrison Bergeron" and "Welcome to the Monkey House" (classics both) sit comfortably next to more typical stories such as "Manned Missiles" (which gets my vote for most effective story in the collection and surprised me the most). There aren't really any clunkers here, some are simpler than others and will pass you by without much impact, but the majority all have some moment or theme to recommend them as keepers and give you something to think about long after you've finished them. Sure, most of the stories were written in a different time but regardless of the SF or the Cold War backdrop or whatever, these are essentially timeless and deserved to be read again and again.
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Having never read Vonnegut before, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. The title led me to expect some degree of science fiction. What I found was a collection of rich, wonderfully written stories about a wide assortment of subjects. Vonnegut is a great writer, pure and simple. Many of the stories dealt with the future and the state of society, and Vonnegut struck me as having a somewhat cynical yet witty view of the subject. I found the themes of his stories to be somewhat akin to my own fears of life as we will some day know it, in a world where the government attempts to create utopia on earth. Two of the more memorable stories found in these pages are "Harrison Bergeron" and "Welcome to the Monkey House." In the first story, we find the type of society that I fear the most, a socialist republic where all people are required to be equal; those who possess intelligence and pose the danger of actually thinking are controlled by implants which forcefully disallow any thought from entering their minds. In the latter, we find a Malthusian world of overpopulation where everyone takes pills to numb the lower halves of their bodies and people are encouraged to come to Federal Ethical Suicide Parlors and voluntarily remove themselves from the crowded world. Other stories deal with massive overpopulation troubles.
On the other hand, we find more simplistic stories in which Vonnegut conveys individuals in a deep, touching light, striking great chords of sympathy in this reader's mind. A woman who is obsessed with redecorating the houses of her neighbors yet cannot afford to buy decent furniture for her own house; a young woman who comes to a strange town, captivates everyone with her beauty, is criticized and publicly humiliated by a young man for being the kind of girl he could never win the heart of, and is richly shown to be an innocent, lonely soul; a teen who acts horribly because he has never had a real family but is saved from a life of crime by a teacher who makes the grand effort to save the boy--these are some of the many subjects dealt with by the author. There is even a heartfelt story about a young Russian and young American who are killed in space but who inspire understanding and détente between the two superpowers by bringing home the point that they were both young men with families who loved them and who had no desire for anything but peace--written during the height of the Cold War, that story really stood out to me.
All of the stories are not eminently satisfying to me, but the lion's share of them are; a couple of stories seemed to have been written for no other reason but to make the author some money, which is okay (especially since Vonnegut introduces the stories by saying he wrote them in order to finance his novel-writing endeavors). I may have been less than satisfied by a couple of stories, but even the worst of the lot was written wonderfully and obviously with much care, and I daresay that few writers could do better on their best day than Vonnegut does on his worst. Sometimes, as one ages, one fears that he will eventually have read all of the best books in the world, but then one discovers an author such as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and it is one of the best and most exciting things that can happen to that person.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2005
I just read this book last year, as a tenth grader. It might sound as though I'm exaggerating if I say it changed my life, but I believe that almost everything you read changes you in a small way. Well, this book changed me in a big way. I'll still be thinking about these stories months after I read them. They're the kind of stories that make you want to close your eyes and think for an hour after you're done reading them. This book was my introduction to Kurt Vonnegut, and it remains my favorite.
I also think its amazing how a book read by somebody 30 years ago can still have the same effect on a young person today, and I hope that 30 years from now, this book will still change people.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2000
If you like Vonnegut this collection of short stories is a must. This is the only book of short stories that I have ever read cover to cover. This is the only book I reread almost on a yearly basis.
I have give this book as a gift often to people suprise they say that it is Vonneguts best work. Unlike other short story writers, Vonnegut short stories different from one another and do not repeat the same boaring gimmics over and over.
"All the Kings Men" is about an insane game of Chess
"Eipac" is about a computer who becomes more than a computer.
"Who will I be today" is about two people who fall in love by not being themselves.
"DP" is about a half black / half German orphan who stumbles on a unit of american GI's during WWII
"Slow walk into tomarrow" is about an AWOL soldier who goes takes a walk with only woman that he could ever lovethe day before she is to marry another man. (THIS IS THE BEST)
There are about ten more each unique as Vonnegut.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 1999
Welcome to the Monkey House takes me to places both mentally and emotionally. I have never been a big reader but a friend had mentioned the book. He said that it was a good read. I have to disagree with him. It was an ecellent read! I loved the first story to the last. Kurt hits every string with perfect cord. I feel like I'm watching T.V. when I read his stories. He describes in great detail the surroundings but lets you feel the emotions for yourself. "A Long Walk to Forever" is a great example; the magazine she is holding when he comes to the door, to the orchard they walk to; yet the ending takes you to the point that you know exactly what happens without Kurt having to tell you a thing. I truly believe that this is the best I'll ever read!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2005
I was once told that the true writer can write short fiction as well as lengthier works. If that is true then Vonnegut is a true master. "Welcome to the Monkey House" is a true masterpiece. The short stroies are a study of our society. The story that is the name of the book shows how a society can go wrong with the idea of doing good. The hero is a rapist who lives in a society that actually encourages suicide. The women who work at these suicide centers have sex with their clients before they die, but the women cannot feel anything below their waist so they cannot enjoy sex due to "medicine" they take. The "hero" lets the drug wear off then rapes the women so they can feel for the first time sexual pleasure. The study is the rapes of women by one man as compared to the societal rape by making women not be able to feel pleasure. Tough stuff. The story ends with the explanation of how the idea of anesthetizing the pleasurable feel of sex started, which is the name of the story.
Harrison Bergeron is every bit as scary because it is what happens when the law makes everybody equal. There is always someone that has to run the show and they can't be equal. "All of the Kings Men" is about a game of chess where captured soldiers are the actual pieces and their leader has to make tough choices.
Not all of the stories are so depressing. "Who will I be Tommorrow" is about a couple who fall in love by never being themselves. It is fun and light although it does explore the deeper meaning of relationships.
"Welcome to the Monkey House" is a masterpiece and should not be missed. It is a thinking man's book, but at the same time so well written that is it is truly enjoyable as it is on it's own. Highly reccommended.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2001
Unlike his later novels ("Slaughterhouse-Five", "Bluebeard", "Jailbird"), where he utilized a biting economical style, the short stories in this collection are comprised of a more standard prose. That being said, they are still Kurt Vonnegut stories, and thus offer a mixture of radical sci-fi ideas and character creation that goes down just as easily in smaller chunks as it does in the longer novel form.
The stories here that made his reputation as a sci-fi writer (a reputation that doesn't come close to covering his oeuvre) are startling in their originality and awe-inspiring in their execution. `Harrison Bergeron' is a quick drawing of a "utopian" society, where the strong and smart wear handicaps to level the playing field. Vonnegut manages to create a unique world, and then destroy it, while saying much about our world. I'm sure anyone who has seen the film version of this story wonders why they tried to stretch it out to an hour and a half, when all was already said in those seven pages. The title story is another futuristic utopia, where overpopulation has created the need for voluntary suicide clinics and a complete repression of sexual desire. It's a society ripe for rebellion, and that's just what it gets. `Unready to Wear' follows a society in which those who have learned to transcend their physical bodies are at odds with those who haven't. None of these tales follows any long, drawn out narrative. They all tend to make their point, quickly, and move on with other business. Vonnegut never gets lost in his creations, or bogged down in trying to make them sound credible. He has an incredible knack for simplicity within complex ideas.
There are other stories here besides the sci-fi tales. My favourite is `Miss Temptation', which shows us a small town, mesmerized by the daily walk up Main Street of a hermit-like woman of startling beauty. The twist near the end is heartbreaking, and manages to not only indict the characters in the story for their objectification, it indicts the reader as well. `More Stately Mansions' is a tale of modern suburbia, which says something about one woman's obsession with decorating, as well as all of our obsessions with `looking the part'. `All the King's Horses' is loaded with dramatic tension, as an American Army Colonel, captured by a Communist guerrilla chief during the Vietnam war, is forced to play chess using his battalion and his family as pieces. Any captured pieces are executed. Besides the tension of the game, Vonnegut manages to slip in some criticism of xenophobia.
These stories are just a few of my favourites. The book is filled with wonderful pieces, each of equal strength, all showcasing Vonnegut's early-career skills as a writer.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2012
The errors introduced by the OCR scan were not removed. It's not even that they missed some, they must not have checked at all, because the name of the main villain in the story "Harrison Bergeron" (one of the all time great stories ever) is horribly botched (Diana Moon Glampers, the US Handicapper General, is now "Diana Moon dampers" [no capitalization!]). Worth $1.99 as today's Kindle special deal, a rotten
value at its regular price.