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Player Piano: A Novel Paperback – January 12, 1999
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“An exuberant, crackling style . . . Vonnegut is a black humorist, fantasist and satirist, a man disposed to deep and comic reflection on the human dilemma.”—Life
“His black logic . . . gives us something to laugh about and much to fear.”—The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Kurt Vonnegut’s black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as “a true artist” (The New York Times) with Cat’s Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.
- Publisher : The Dial Press (January 12, 1999)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385333781
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385333788
- Lexile measure : 930L
- Item Weight : 9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.24 x 0.76 x 7.96 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #20,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Also, it was peculiar to look at when this story was written, how long ago, and how automation was such a concern. That Kurt had such a clear sense of where we were going and where it could end. And oddly enough, it feels like, in some ways his future's come true, and in more ways, it's ~still~ coming true as we all sort of edge closer to being unnecessary.
I wonder if, in our own futures, we won't be buying our Ghost Shirts on Amazon with free Prime shipping.
The main character, Doctor Paul Proteus, is a manager at a factory that gradually becomes aware of the unfair situation for the people on the other side of the river. We follow him through his awakening, and it is interesting to see all of the terrible things he must go through that truly test his mettle and integrity.
Overall, I found this to be a great book, and was fairly surprised at how strong it was since it was Vonnegut's first novel. I would recommend this to anyone familiar with his works.
Perhaps I came to this at the wrong time, having just been reading Christopher Hitchens who does an excellent job of dissecting this kind of narrative (in a positive way). Once you've read Hitchens' analysis of the pattern addressed here, the patterns become all too obvious, and Vonnegut offers little beyond the basic pattern.
It certainly reveals the prejudices of its author, but today it is most interesting for having spawned many successors, ignorant or intentional, who address much the same issue of automation depriving workers of a purpose. Nothing here would surprise Thomas Hardy though, just substitute farm workers for factory workers, and industrialisation for automation and you're done. The only novelty here is the downbeat failure/meaninglessness of the revolution. You can force a positive spin on this if you work at it, but it takes an effort.
For a more modern work, Alan Moore's first Halo Jones book says as much in a lot fewer words.
For the same kind of mid-life crisis character as the protagonist, there are hundreds of books that deliver something more realistic, believable and meaningful. If this had been Vonnegut's only work, he'd be forgotten by now.
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It was a novel of its time and the methods of automation and computing have been replaced by silicon and not valves but the message is as important today as it was then. If we turn everything into an algorithm then we lose our humanity. Today the threat is from protocols, check lists and standard operating procedures. Once you have these machine like devices then you take away human thought. In theory this is there to improve quality control, but in reality when it becomes ossified like in the book then quality declines. So for anyone who wants to think about the future, this book should be on your reading list.
The moral of the story? It doesn't have to be that way. But somehow it always is.
I've only ever read short stories - years ago - by Kurt Vonnegut, and thought I'd start reading more of his work by beginning with his first novel. It seems so far ahead of its time and had me engrossed from start to finish. I will be reading more and wonder why it took me so long to explore his work.