Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Reading Level: Teen+
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: January 12th 1999
Review Source: Dial Press Trade Paperback
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 is not only Vonnegut’s most powerful book, it is also 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.
The novel, of course is regarded as modern literary masterpiece, is one to be devoured leisurely. Trying to read this quickly, I have found, made the reading that much harder to fully comprehend everything that’s trying to be expressed. The book focuses on Billy and how he struggles to understand all the death he has seen first hand through the second Wold War. It reads as a science fiction because Billy reinvents his understanding of his life, through his time traveling and Tralfamadorians (aliens), to come to terms with everything in his life (coming to grips if you will).
I wouldn’t recommend Slaughterhouse-Five as the first book for someone wanting to delve into the works of Kurt Vonnegut. Start anywhere else, it’s not a bad book but is vastly different from his other work. It focuses on horrors or war, PTSD and alien abduction, think military and satire.