Kurt Vonnegut, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #13
It is rather difficult to name a certain genre Kurt Vonnegut’s works might belong to; to me, they are a mixture of science fiction, black comedy and philosophical fiction. Being honorary president of the American Humanist Association, he also promoted humanist beliefs and social reforms through his books. Some of the novels are available now in Kindle edition.
Cat’s Cradle (published in 1963) is one of the most famous Kurt Vonnegut’s books; it’s my favorite. In 1964 the novel was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel; to express appreciation of the novel the University of Chicago awarded the author his Master’s degree in anthropology. In the center of the plot the writer places “ice-nine” – a newly-discovered matter that can cause freezing of water once it has been in contact with it, thus leading to a global catastrophe on the Earth. The substance was created by Felix Hoenikker; though a bright scientist, he is an amoral person who does not care about the way his discoveries, including the atomic bomb, might be used. “Vonnegut’s madly amusing imagination is in full play here, and the novel is a triumph of contemporary satire.”
Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (published in 1969) is an anti-war science fiction novel. Though often subject to censorship, the book was nominated for a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award in 1970. It tells the story of American soldier Billi Pigrim who was taken prisoner of war in World War II and brought to a slaughterhouse in Dresden. A fantastic thing happens then as Billi is kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and learns to travel in time. “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.”
Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday (published in 1973) is a satirical novel with the title taken from the popular slogan of Wheaties breakfast cereal. In the book, though, this phrase is said by a waitress every time she serves a customer a martini. One of the main characters, Dwayne Hoover, is brought into madness by a book written by Kilgore Trout, an unknown pulp fiction writer. “Breakfast of Champions is a slippery, lucid, bleakly humorous jaunt through (sick? inhumane?) America circa 1973, with Vonnegut acting as our Virgil-like companion.”