Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
216 pages, Dell

"Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know."

I've made it a priority in 2012 to read more classics and last year during banned-book week, I noticed Slaughterhouse Five made the list. I honestly had no idea what it was about, just that Kurt Vonnegut was the author, and his name sounded a bit familiar. It's about time I read this great novel, and I was both torn and entertained.

Strangely, the narrator is Kurt Vonnegut himself. The plot centers around a man named Billy Pilgrim and his experience being a prisoner of war. Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time and has allowed himself to travel back to the days when he was a prisoner of war, seeing as how Billy Pilgrim is in his forties as the story begins.

Vonnegut did a spectacular job writing this novel. Published in 1969, he managed to mix humor with a very serious and sad subject. I found the characters equally enjoyable. Of course, we have Billy Pilgrim who has been in a plane crash and was the only one to survive it, with brain damage. Because of the brain damage from the plane crash, Billy isn't exactly doing so great. He seems to have a bit of dementia which has caused him to see a sci-fi planet called Tralfamadore. This sci-fi aspect intrigued me. On the planet of Tralfamadore, whenever the Tralfamadorians witness or refer to death, they say, "So it goes." Vonnegut uses this sentence quite often, seeing as how many people die. Roland Weary and Paul Lazzaro are just a couple of the side characters--both being prisoners of war with Billy. It's not to say I absolutely loved them, because sometimes they weren't the nicest of guys, but I definitely enjoyed reading more about them and their relations with Billy. Valencia is Billy's wife, and a safe one at that. Their relationship was odd. Valencia is obese and Billy feels a bit sorry for her. The romance between them wasn't there whatsoever and I found it kind of sad to be honest. But Billy was definitely my favorite character. He was funny and truthful about all of his experiences he endured.

The plot was what I also found to be interesting, mainly because of all the history in it. I didn't have much background on the bombing in Dresden beforehand, but Billy Pilgrim filled me in with all the harsh details. The historical aspects were what I liked learning more about and Vonnegut did a terrific job with both informing and entertaining me.

The writing was truly superb. Written in this casual, funny diction, Vonnegut captured both himself and Billy Pilgrim in this novel. Because the topic is especially touchy--being all about anti-war and people dying quite frequently--one may imagine how difficult it would be to make a novel humorous in the process. I found all of Vonnegut's character's thoughts to be fun to read about and I wanted to get to know more about Billy's life and how he came to be.

In short, Slaughterhouse Five was definitely worth my time and I recommend it to everyone. The sci-fi aspects, humor, and simply the way it was written is a reason anyone should pick up this book!

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Vonnegut's creativity when it came to aliens form Tralfamadore. How they didn't talk and communicated telepathically was very ingenious. I also liked the simplicity of the abduction scene. He described as you would generally think an alien abduction would happen. A bright light shining down on you and you being lifted up into a little whole with aliens standing all around you. I though it was great.