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Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) Paperback – January 12, 1999
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Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
Don't let the ease of reading fool you--Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters..." Slaughterhouse-Five (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy--and humor. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
From Publishers Weekly
"Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time." So begins Vonnegut's absurdist 1969 classic. Hawke rises to the occasion of performing this sliced-and-diced narrative, which is part sci-fi and partially based on Vonnegut's experience as a American prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany during the firebombing of 1945 that killed thousands of civilians. Billy travels in time and space, stopping here and there throughout his life, including his long visit to the planet Tralfamador, where he is mated with a porn star. Hawke adopts a confidential, whisper-like tone for his reading. Listening to him is like listening to someone tell you a story in the back of a busthe perfect pitch for this book. After the novel ends, Vonnegut himself speaks for a short while about his survival of the Dresden firestorm and describes and names the man who inspired this story. Tacked on to the very end of this audio smorgasbord is music, a dance single that uses a vintage recording of Vonnegut reading from the book. Though Hawke's reading is excellent, one cannot help but wish Vonnegut himself had read the entire text.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top customer reviews
Vonnegut acts as the narrator in this novel which describes the life and times of Billy Pilgrim, who serves as our main character in describing the bombings of Dresden which is the focus of Vonnegut's book. The author after being captured by the Germans in late 1944 was sent to a prison camp in Dresden in a slaughterhouse. In these quarters of the slaughterhouse Vonnegut was a prisoner when the Allies did the fateful bombing destruction of Dresden in 1945. Vonnegut was forever living with that memory and hence this rather comical piece of a science fiction novel came as a result of this historic event.
The author acts as the narrator who describes the actions of Billy Pilgrim. In Vonnegut's story telling he interweaves science fiction. In his use of science fiction, we have Billy Pilgrim as a time traveler who has the ability to enter all phases of his life at will. This was done by his introduction to the space travelers from Tralfamadore. Vonnegut has Pilgrim going in and out of the time continuum in no particular order. In this process we learn of the life and times of Billy Pilgrim, and so it goes. Vonnegut interweaves the actions of the Dresden bombing with his childhood, his actions as a soldier, his married life and his relationship with his postwar friends, his wife and his daughter.
The author states his case as to the mindset of Mr. Pilgrim. The actions that he survived and subsequently had to deal with are fully described in Vonnegut's stickler epic dissertation of life after the effects of war. The author presents to us a man who suffers from what we call today as PTSD. Vonnegut obviously was a man who suffered this rather unfortunate trauma. The novel represents his cry for help.
As a reviewer I can say that the author's presentation of these facts is indeed classical within the parameters of a written novel. However as a confirmed student of history the author has erred in describing the death toll of the Dresden Air Raid as being 130,000 people. In fact Vonnegut alludes to the fact that the death toll in Dresden exceeded the death toll of Hiroshima. Not true at all! Vonnegut's writing was classical, but historical mistakes cannot be tolerated. This book is of 5 Star quality but Vonnegut who was actually there in Dresden when this occurred did not do his due diligence. Hiroshima had a far greater death toll and was way more catastrophic. Vonnegut got this entirely wrong, and for that rates only four stars!!