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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The passive demeanor of Billy Pilgrim brings an interesting view of a mindset that is indifferent to many circumstances that would cripple most people. However I also believe Pilgrim's passivity is a condition his experiences in war have left on him and is in fact the result of his own internal struggle with the war which follows him through his "travels". This leaves one to believe that Pilgrim is hardly what one would call a reliable narrator, and one is left to wonder what memories and trials of his are genuine or fabricated.
Kilgore Trout is by far one of the most amusing characters to me and provides good comic relief. Even through his cameo in the story is rather brief at best. My favorite element by far though was the race of the tralfamadorians and their perceptions of time and free will. The side commentary on Jesus Christ being your everyday average joe stripped of any mask of divinity makes me wonder how many christians have been outraged by this book. I think personally it presents a more humble version of Christ as a figure, which I personally felt complimented his overall philosophies very well and would make a a lot of sense if such a thing could ever be proven as fact.
If anyone is looking for a book that takes one far off the beaten trail Slaughterhouse Five is for you. I believe it's exceptionally beneficial to bury yourself inside a story that can challenge preconceived notions and occasionally mildly disturb; depending on the readers moral compass and general constitution. There are very few books I can say that I would pick up and read a second, third, or even fourth time. Slaughterhouse Five has certainly established itself into those ranks and has become one of my favorites.
The truth of the matter is that it all sums up to nothing. In Slaughterhouse Five, we explore the age-old question of fate versus free will; in Vonnegut's view, there is only fate. Our decisions, actions, and interactions all add up to moments that are as they were meant to be, regardless if we think we have the capacity to change them.
This futility of action on pre-determined events sums up Vonnegut's view on war - it is a futile and senseless game, where one can meander in and out, unscathed, while others who tried so hard to change the tide of the battle die by the hundreds of thousands. This view of the lack of necessity of war became so particularly clear to me in this passage, where Pilgrim (Vonnegut's protagonist) describes a war film run in reverse, where destruction is neatly vacuumed up into the device of it's deliverance, where all humanity, (including Hitler) ages in reverse to become babies, and ..."conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed." The passage is beautifully written, showing the destructive power of war reversed, simply with a different perspective. Even more astounding, however, in this reverse timeline, is the return of all humans to the root of Adam and Eve as "perfect people". Vonnegut paints a stark contrast between God's creation of perfection, and Hitler's war machine of destruction in an attempt to achieve the same goal through the creation of an "Aryan" people.
Whether you agree with Vonnegut's view on war does not diminish his artful exploration of it, fate, and our purpose of existence (or lack there-of.) Worth reading.
There are several interesting plot lines that appear totally unrelated at first but Vonnegut ties them all together. I will admit that when I saw that the protagonist could time travel and at times was on a different planet the urge to put the book down did raise its head. I’m really happy I fought the urge. Having read 2BR02B may be the reason I continued.
The hook is very good as is the progress to and threw the conflicts. There are also little facts scattered throughout the text that make the reader continue just to find what those facts mean. This happens in other works as well but hardly as well done. The conflicts are also well spaced teaching the reader more about the characters during each gap then placing them into the conflict before it is seen coming.
This is one of the more enjoyable books I read during 2016 and I read about 15 or so that year. To say I recommend it is an understatement.