By Kurt Vonnegut
When I decided to read Slaughterhouse-Five for this year’s Banned Books Week (and the couple weeks following, as well, apparently), I was a little baffled that I hadn’t already read any of Vonnegut’s books because I like science fiction and I’ve had Vonnegut recommended to me multiple times. I even vaguely recalled meaning to read some books but never getting around to it.
Then, I got a couple of chapters in, and remembered that I hadn’t just meant to read his books before, I’ve actually started several of his books in the past, and put them down again. I just cannot get started into Vonnegut’s books, which is so frustrating because I really enjoy both sci-fi and social satire, and he is a king of both. So, I bring you this review in three Acts: Dismissiveness, Grudging Respect, Zealous Appreciation.
Act I: Dismissiveness
I spent roughly the first half of the book trying to put my finger on the problem. It isn’t as though I especially disliked it or thought it was a bad book; I just felt that I didn’t totally get what he was trying to say and that his writing style wasn’t one that speaks to me. When Tom asked if I was enjoying it, I had to admit that I wasn’t, and when he looked a bit disappointed, I followed up by saying that I thought it was a little too philosophical for me, like Vonnegut is communicating a theory about life, instead of sharing a concrete facet of life, and I get impatient with that. Tom nodded, because he has despaired of my disinterest in philosophy before, but I continued to mull over my answer.
And I think it was something even further, that his people weren’t interesting to me as characters. That they seem more like placeholders in his philosophical argument; their actions only serve to augment the message of the book. So, I didn’t have any vested interest in the future of the characters, which is especially true in this non-chronologically-linear novel where the future is all spelled out early on, and even the characters in the book don’t have much interest in it, either.
Acts II and III with spoilers and excerpt after the break…