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Galapagos: A Novel (Delta Fiction) Paperback – January 12, 1999
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“Beautiful . . . provocative, arresting reading.”—USA Today
“A madcap genealogical adventure . . . Vonnegut is a postmodern Mark Twain.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A satire in the classic tradition . . . a dark vision, a heartfelt warning.”—The Detroit Free Press
“Interesting, engaging, sad and yet very funny . . . Vonnegut is still in top form. If he has no prescription for alleviating the pain of the human condition, at least he is a first-rate diagnostician.”—Susan Isaacs, Newsday
“Dark . . . original and funny.”—People
“A triumph of style, originality and warped yet consistent logic . . . a condensation, an evolution of Vonnegut’s entire career, including all the issues and questions he has pursued relentlessly for four decades.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Wild details, wry humor, outrageous characters . . . Galápagos is a comic lament, a sadly ironic vison.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A work of high comedy, sadness and imagination.”—The Denver Post
“Wacky wit and irreverent imagination . . . and the full range of technical innovations have made [Vonnegut] America’s preeminent experimental novelist.”—The Minneapolis Star and Tribune
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I chose to read this one because, as a student of anthropology and biology, I am very fascinated with the Galapagos islands myself. This book was not exactly what I expected, but of all the Vonnegut books I've read, I've retained more of the plot of Galapagos than almost any other Vonnegut book (besides Slaughterhouse-Five). What I love about Vonnegut's books is that he uses absurd, farfetched storytelling to illustrate fallacies of American culture and consumerism. Being very satirical and almost lewd at time, it's also very thoughtful and poignant. For this reason, when I read a Vonnegut novel I keep a pencil in handle to underline or circle certain selections that are especially observant.
Because I feel Slaughterhouse-Five is a stronger book—even if only just—I'm rating Galapagos as four stars despite my desire to give it all five. Perhaps my biggest justification for subtracting a star so as to keep it markedly below Slaughterhouse is due to the occasionally glacial pacing of the book. In short, the book is about a group of strangers who board a cruise ship that's destined to take them on nature cruise to the Galapagos; however, the ship doesn't even depart until almost three-quarters through the book because of all the backstory for each character and their interactions as they meet. In Vonnegut's defense, most interactions have a greater purpose, either contributing to the overall story or as a way to illustrate some satirical point Vonnegut is trying to make about American culture. While I can appreciate the deliberacy of his pacing, it doesn't make Galapagos the most exciting read. However, the latter part of the book somewhat redeems the slow start by containing some of Vonnegut's trademark surreal and bizarre storytelling. I won't give anything away, but that's mostly because you really need to read the book to appreciate the strangeness.
Of all Kurt Vonnegut's novels, Galapagos is definitely one of my favorites, up there with Slaughterhouse-Five, Sirens of Titan, and Breakfast of Champions. As always, it's full of Vonnegut's impeccable humor as well as both his subtle and not-so-subtle wit. Highly recommended.
The circumstances surrounding the few survivors as humanity does itself in is just as intriguing as the results of the end of humanity as we know it. I love the imagination that went into describing the new humanity as a result of the next wave of evolution, Thought provoking and frightening to imagine something similar could happen at some point based on history and where we are today.
Top international reviews
"Galapagos" starts with the financial crisis of 1986 and ends with human species, devolved, lying down side by side, seals-like, furry and fingerless, with much lesser brains (and a lot less problems) on the volcanic shores of Galapagos exactly a million years later. Are you interested in Vonnegut's answer to Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species? - look no further.
I imagine "Galápagos" has to be re-read to catch up on all the little details and enjoy all dark humour. It is back on my reading list.
The quality of the writing is first rate: very readable, humorous, direct and free from waffle. The style reminded me quite a bit of Douglas Adams.
This particular story is a surreal and darkly comic take on the downfall of humanity. Although I enjoyed parts of it - again, I think, mainly due to the quality of the writing - the overall plot tended to lack direction and coherence, being driven by events arriving somewhat randomly 'ex machina'. This may well have been the author's intention, given the book's perspective on life, but it wasn't greatly satisfying for me.
Don't expect a great deal of suspense or excitement.
The book has a few ironic things to say about the human condition, but not really more than a few.
Because the bloke clearly knew how to write, I shall probably try some of his other work, perhaps the famous 'Slaughterhouse Five'.
Turned out to be a total page turner that I finished in a few days
This is despite the fact that the book is its own spoiler. It's not the destination, it's the journey.
Not entirely sure what conclusions I should draw from it. I suppose it is a rather appropriately post modern text demonstrating that given the right circumstances any future is possible
I found the ending an engaging puzzle, particularly when I considered the well known symptom of the illness the narrator has contracted before his death. Daren't say more, as I'd hate to spoil it for anyone.
Vonnegut is a quirky, interesting and funny writer but he is not for everyone. If you like his prose you will probably thoroughly enjoy this - it's a short, easy and appealing read. If a good old fashioned story is your thing, you'd do better to pick something else.
Read this, by the inimitable Vonnegut, and that says it all. Pithy, sardonic, amusing; Vonnegut, in short.
What a loss to the world of real writing.
Genius. And a bit sad.
Amazing echoes down the decades to the present day, especially politics and the human condition.
I like the way he plays with plots and breaks all the rules of writing fiction though some will think his work jumps about too much.