What’s It About: A writer working on a book of personal accounts from the day of the Hiroshima bombing travels to a fictional third-world island in pursuit of a the bomb’s scientist’s children and a hot girl on a poster. Frivolity and meditations on religion, disaster, and primitivism ensue.
Why: Slaughterhouse Five was good stuff.
Thoughts: While enjoyable and thematically encompassing, I didn’t find this to be as insightful as I had hoped. I enjoyed the first half a lot more than I enjoyed the second half (though that tends to happen a lot with me), and once the dictator died and San Lorenzo froze over, woops spoilers, I sort of lost interest. However, there is plenty to digest in this book. Vonnegut leaves any type of preachy morality aside and opts instead for a looseness of ideas that is refreshing but at times frustratingly so.
The sudden ice-nine disaster parallels the bombing of Hiroshima. The whole book is a meditation on what humanity does to bring itself out of grief and despair, religion (the openly false Books of Bokonon first and foremost) being its primary tool. Bokononism reveals that not all believers are gullible dimwits, but rather, knowing that their faith is a construction, proceed to believe because there is a beauty in its unity, its poetry and song, its simpleness, and ultimately its fatalism. At least, I think that’s what you’re meant to feel right up until the big blast of ice/atom bomb that kills everything in sight. Yes, as outsiders looking in on disaster, it’s quite easy to feel that faith, even one we know to be false, can help us rise out of our despair and folly. It’s a human comfort we can afford. But when one is actually at the foot of a mountain of dead people, as Bokonon is at the end of the novel, what comfort is there to be had, even in nihilism, in the face of such overwhelming “human stupidity.”
Slaughterhouse Five was similarly strange as hell, but for some reason I enjoyed it much more. Ponder…