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Cat's Cradle: A Novel Paperback – September 8, 1998
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“[Vonnegut is] an unimitative and inimitable social satirist.”—Harper’s Magazine
“Our finest black-humorist . . . We laugh in self-defense.”—Atlantic Monthly
From the Inside Flap
- Publisher : Dell Publishing (September 8, 1998)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 038533348X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385333481
- Lexile measure : 790L
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.25 x 0.64 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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But let's face it: It's Vonnegut. Satirical. Whimsical. Deadly earnest in a half-joking kind of way. Not particularly optimistic about the future of us People, and not, apparently, particularly fond of us either. Three stars of Vonnegut is worth maybe four stars of Wolfe, maybe five stars of Koontz. Just three stars of Twain, though.
So about this book: it's a quick read. There are like 127 chapters in the story, but they all fit (in my edition) into just 287 pages. 287 very spacious and roomy pages. The chapters tend to be about a page-and-a-half long, some just a couple of paragraphs. Vonnegut bounces right along, telling the story of John, as John seeks to write a biography of one of the father's of the atom bomb. (A fictional father.)
The work no doubt contains some of Vonnegut's more creative ideas: ice-9; Bokononism; Mona Aamons Monzano, the most beautiful girl ever; a completely incomprehensible dialect of what might have once been the English language; and, of course, the end of the World. The story starts out innocently enough, but one thing just leads to the next and the next and before you know it, you will find yourself enmeshed in a world of utter ridiculousness, but you had better take it seriously or you may end up on "the hook." Pronounced "hy-u-o-ook-kuh."
So, not too deep, but deep enough. Not too, too funny, but totally, irreverently so. Not too long, but not too short. You will most likely enjoy this book.
The story follows a reporter named John. John wants to write a book Felix Hoennikker, who was one of the principle engineers of the atomic bomb. While investigating him, he meets many things: a new religion called Bokononism, a stone angel, a philosophical dwarf, a Hoosier, and a chemical more dangerous than the A-bomb itself.
Vonnegut spares no one in this volume, taking shots at scientists and the religious with equal fervor. Vonnegut writes some of the best absurd ism in literature, and anyone should be glad to read this. Enjoy.
They say Cat’s Cradle is a satirical commentary. I say it is pure prophecy, far more accurate than the technobubble prophecies of our days.
Yes, it is Cat’s Cradle which accurately foreshadowed the Jonestown mass suicide by 15 years.
Yes, it is Cat’s Cradle which put (then respected by a large portion of the human intelligenzia) Mao, Stalin etc in their correct place in human history: targets to be eliminated from humanity’s annals.
And I am afraid, that it will be Cat’s Cradle, predicting, rather accurately, the end of the world by a mysterious “Ice-Nine” substance, now being in its “Ice-Two” or “Ice-Three” version. Hope, this will take some time.
Kurt Vonnegut’s writing feels so natural, as you and me breathing. Yes, this great man was surely exhaling words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, chapters and whole books, even in his sleep.
I cannot even begin to describe how good and cathartic reading Cat’s Cradle feels. Put in your abandoned island books lists, in your read before dying list, in any list you like. But you should read it.
As for me, I hold to what I said in the beginning. Please, take me back to 1963.
Cat's Cradle is a story about the end of the world, but I promise you it is not like any apocalyptic story you have read. This is the kind of book that is stuffed with information to contemplate, while at the same time being totally skimmable. Essentially its the kind of books that goes fast, but has so much more to pick up on subsequent reads (I definitely plan to read it again). Cat's Cradle offers an interesting analysis of religion through Bokononism, in which believers maintain that they are all instruments of God's Will, whether they wish to be or not.
While the plot is entertaining and the ideas worth contemplating it was really Kurt's voice that propelled me through the story. Right from the beginning I latched onto his dry wit and rolled with it through to the end. As it happens, I really enjoyed it. Er, rather, as it was meant to happen.
See the cat? See the cradle?
Top reviews from other countries
“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?'
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.”
An absolute delight of a read!
What we have is a 'road to global oblivion' warning from KV, very much in line with, as is often correctly stated, Dr Strangelove. Published in 1963 it was very much of its time - Cuba et al - and pretty much concerns mankind careering towards the end of the world by means of new weaponry (Ice-nine), the industrial complex, ignorance and self-interest. The story is told through a cast of eccentric personalities, typical of all KV's work, and is largely set on the mythic and very dark Caribbean island of San Lorenzo..
So what's wrong ?
Well, three things. First of all the characters. They just don't carry the wit and sympathy of those found in the earlier novels (especially the masterly 'Sirens of Titan') or following novels (such as the masterly 'Slaughterhouse 5'). 'Cats Cradle' is a transitory work falling between the genres of these other books, 'Titans' being clear cut Sci-Fi and 'Slaughterhouse' being pretty much that fantastical description defying invention that was to become Vonnegut's own personal style. It has always seemed to me that Vonnegut developed the gift of painting the most complex and fullest of characters with the sparsest most basic of palettes. Here it just didn't work.
Secondly, setting. St Lorenzo is dark, brooding and haunting. If it's meant to be a cartoon representation it failed with me. It's just too dystopian and this takes it away from the type of slapstick satire that Vonnegut made his own.
Thirdly, plot. It's just too predictable.
So, why 4 Stars ?
Well, its an important book. Important in terms of the subjects it addresses, important in its place in the counter culture history of the sixties and important in the development of Kurt Vonnegut the satirist. It should be read, just as I had to read 'Howard's End' all those year's ago at college - I didn't like it but it was good for me.
So, buy it and read it because you should. HOWEVER, at all costs do not read the Introduction by Benjamin Kunkel until after you've read the book - it's spoiler laden. Actually, don't bother with the Introduction at all - it's awful.
Read it, you will see.
As expected, this book plays with the mind from the very beginning - what is truth and what is a lie? Can religion be founded on lies? Who holds the power to end the world? KV opens up his head to the reader through the narrator, Jonah, presenting his ideas and then questioning them in a way which makes you question yourself.
Reading the book feels as if you are there with Jonah, experiencing his amazement and revelations as he mets all the bizarre characters and uncovers their stories.
Structurally, the book is just over 200 pages long and split into 127 chapters. This helps makes the novel a very accessible read. The style of writing is very straightforward with lots going on below the surface.
There are many different levels on which this book can be read and I suspect that everyone will find different ideas in here, many of which the author did not intend at all (this would delight KV I am sure!)
And then there's the plot....... The imagination of the author is amazing. He creates countries, religions and scientific theories during the course of the story and they work wonderfully for most of the book. I felt though that he overused some of the ideas and the ending was dragged out further than it needed.
I'm not sure I'll jump at the idea of reading another of his but I did enjoy the experience.