12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
"I see everything twice!",
This review is from: Catch-22 (Everyman's Library) (Hardcover)Who is more dangerous to your sense of self-preservation, the enemy soldier who wants to kill you, or the superior officer who orders you into hostile fire? Joseph Heller took everything that is wrong and insane about war and bureaucracy and turned it loose onto the pages of CATCH-22.
Time does not progress in a linear fashion is this book. Characters that are furious when the minimum number of bomb-missions to be flown is raised to sixty are later appalled when it is raised to thirty. The pilots and crew are trapped in an endless circle of logic, time and red tape. Yossarian's attempts to preserve his life end with him exactly in the same place that he was before. Everything is structured so that escape is completely impossible. All the regulations and requirements keep looping around back upon themselves leaving Yoassarian with no options left.
The strange and bizarre characters that Heller created are really what give the book its teeth. Virtually every character has constructed a routine for himself (since this is set in the male-dominated military camps of WWII, just about all of the major characters are men) that distances him from the actual war effort. The leaders bury themselves into the deep sands of regulation and order, and grapple with tough problems like paperwork, the military hierarchy and organizing parades. The soldiers spend their time drinking, having sex with Italian prostitutes, getting into bar-fights or trying to get rich. What is interesting is that almost none of the characters even mention the opposing side in the war. CATCH-22's war is not about bravery or heroics, it is about selfishness and greed and insanity.
I disagree with those reviewers who have said that the order of the book appears random, as if Heller had written the book in a straightforward fashion and then merely shuffled the chapters around. With the book written in this way, we see the development of certain characters within their own bubble of time, freed from the distractions that other characters and their unrelated subplots would bring. It allows Heller to bring specific themes to the foreground when they are needed or let them sit in the background when they are not.
This is a really excellent book and I highly recommend it. I rate it at five stars because I honestly cannot find any fault with it. The book moves effortlessly from hilarity to tragedy while pausing only briefly to look at how the individual deals with the horror of war. Everything in this book is absolutely and hilariously absurd. One of Yossarian's friends, Milo, owns so many supplies and controls so much of the market that he is able to buy eggs at seven cents each, sell them at five cents and still run a handsome profit. A computer with a sense of humour decides to promote a man to major based purely on the fact that his last name (and his middle and first names) are the same word as the position.
This is a must read for everyone. The illogic will delight you, the humour will tickle you, and the reality of it all will scare the hell out of you.
Note: The Everyman's Library edition contains a new introduction by Malcolm Bradbury, a timeline for notable events in the period during which the book is set and the preface that Heller himself wrote for the 1994 re-issue. If you are planning on buying this book, I recommend getting the Everyman's Library edition, as the added features are quite worth it. Plus, it comes with one of those built-in cloth bookmarks that are so handy.