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Player Piano

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  28,152 ratings  ·  918 reviews
A player piano's keys move according to a pattern of holes punched in an unwinding scroll. Unlike music synthesizers, the instrument actually produces sound itself, keys moving up & down, driving hammers striking strings. Like its counterpart, a player piano can be played by hand also. When a scroll runs the ghost-operated instrument, the movement of its keys produce t ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published 1974 by Dell (first published 1952)
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It’s been almost thirty years since I read Player Piano, and all I had retained from that first read was the name of the main character, a faint recollection of the novel’s focus on a future world heavily reliant on automation, and a vague sense of not liking the book all that much despite Vonnegut being one of my favorite authors. I had hoped to like the book better as a seasoned adult, but instead I found re-reading Player Piano to be a tedious chore which surprised me, as this year I have ret ...more
There was a period in my life when I read all the Vonnegut I could get my hands on, which is mostly a very rewarding experience, but oh man, this is terrible. It's his first novel, and it really should've been a short story - even as a short story, it would've been forgettable. Classic scifi man/machine themes unleavened by the irony I would usually expect from Vonnegut, drawn out far too long, with characters who lack depth or interest. Read, I dunno, anything else by Vonnegut instead, and you' ...more
Matt  Dorsey
Is it acceptable to call a soft sci-fi dystopian novel badass? Does that reveal the total nerd at the core of my character?

The only reason I can see for this book not to be mentioned as one of Vonnegut's greats is that it's edged out by the half-dozen or so outright masterpieces in his canon. But for a first novel, this is ace. It's Vonnegut's most conventionally structured novel, and possibly even his least original. The plot is more or less a tweaking of Huxley's 'Brave New World' (Vonnegut h
Joshum Harpy
I was working as a janitor the day that Kurt Vonnegut died. Sweeping the floors, I listened as the news came over talk radio and I remember distinctly standing up stiff and staring hard at the speakers while the news sank in. I had recently heard in interviews and read Vonnegut sharing his feelings about his own death. That he had reconciled himself to it and felt that he had done much with his life, that he was ready to go (I'm paraphrasing, of course his words were funnier and more acidic). St ...more
For some reason I had thought that I had long ago run through the works of Kurt Vonnegut. He was one of the first writers whose books I can remember consciously deciding that I needed to read each and every one of. The moment is still clear in my memory- I had just been introduced to Kilgore Trout and his trunk of pulp novellas in Breakfast of Champions. I'm not quite sure what happened with that goal, but I'm guessing I lost the thread of the quest sometime after reading Galapagos back in high ...more
Aug 19, 2008 Hank rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: managers and corporate cheerleaders.
Shelves: dystopian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Dietzel
In reading this I was surprised to find a book that wasn't filled with Vonnegut's usual sarcasm and absurdity (in a good way). Then I realized this was his first book and that he was still probably finding his voice as a writer when he wrote it. Instead of relying solely on comical misunderstandings and dialogue, you find a more genuine story of people struggling to find a purpose in an unhappy world. Although nothing for me will ever match 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' I enjoyed this more than books l ...more
(written in 2008)
I’m always a fan of Vonnegut. I loved this book. What made it so fascinating (what makes all his books so fascinating actually) was that pieces of it were eerily close to the attitude of the world today. Every once and a while something would be familiar enough to make you think that perhaps this world isn’t so far off. And that is a scary thought. Makes you honestly wonder what mankind is capable of. How much freedom are we willing to give up for security? What are we willing t
I can't really explain why I didn't like this one more than I did. I did some vigorous head-nodding with the message, and it's an at-least-decent showing for a first novel, and there are moments that seem downright prescient for something written 60 years ago. So why did I keep nodding off in the middle of it? Why did I entertain thoughts of abandoning it? It's a 2-star book with several 4-star moments, but not enough to average out to 3-stars. Not for me. Were my expectations too high? Was I sp ...more
Lee Sree
That's not the Vonnegut I like!

It was just so dead serious and extended to the max, while it was more of a short story material. I find that book way too long, colourless and just plain boring. I really hated the main character, whose only goal in life was to be a part of something. I felt sorry for him and his inability to see that everyone around is only trying to use him, starting from his own wife, ending at the system. Or maybe he did know that but didn't complain because it satisfied his
It's pretty amazing that Vonnegut could write so brilliantly about a technological backlash in a computerized society well before the age of the PC and the internet. Besides the fact that vacuum tubes are considered high tech in this book, it could have been written yesterday. You know, if he hadn't died. I didn't love the way the book wrapped up, but I'll cut him some slack since it was his first.
Tyler Jones
There are probably several reasons why Kurt Vonnegut was such a popular writer, but I will give you two.

Reason one: His personality. Vonnegut had a distinct voice. Sarcastic and biting, yet also forever sticking up for the little guy. He was funny as hell. He had Personality - and it was this Personality that his readers adored. With each successive novel, his readership craved more of the same, which meant that the actual plot of the books became less important than the voice of Vonnegut himsel
Mike Gyssels
Vonnegut establishes himself as a satirical juggernaut in his first novel, and true to the jacket, his commentary is extremely close to reality. Though more grounded in the technological reality it was written in than say Huxley or Orwell (all technological apparatuses operate based on tapes and recorders), Vonnegut's vision of the future is no less haunting and truly uncanny.

The satire offered by the "Shah" is harsh, poignant, and altogether hilarious--this novel is everything that the "black
MJ Nicholls
Vonnegut's first novel (circa 1952!) bears little relation to his later, greater works, barring the subject matter. Player Piano is an ambitious speculative story about evil man-made machines turning society into one big fascist corporation. Yes, yawn, but this was seven years after D-day. Time has not been kind.

His storytelling is lucid, amusing and real, but falls away in the second half. This book is twice the length of his other works, and too self-consciously first-novelly to sustain intere
Erik Graff
Aug 11, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vonnegut fans
Recommended to Erik by: Martin Steinfels
Shelves: sf
At a friend's suggestion, I gave Vonnegut a second chance, not allowing myself to be impressed by the flippancy of his Cat's Cradle in high school. Picking up three of his other novels, I delved into them, one after another. While the others were highly entertaining, Player Piano, the most ostensibly serious of the lot, was almost a painful read--perhaps because Vonnegut was still learning the craft of writing.
Adam Floridia
I optimistically hoped that re-reading Vonnegut's canon would get me out of my current, severe!, reading slump. I ambitiously even thought that I might be diligent enough to take copious notes, add to my thesis, and publish a book!

Nope. Somehow a new house with all the accompanying new projects and a new child with all the accompanying needs and the same old two year old with more energy than ever have managed to keep me in my slump.

Plan B. Keep reading when the urge strikes and, in lieu of writ
Nathan Titus
Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers, and this is my favorite book by him. However I don't consider it exactly a Vonnegut book because it is absolutely unlike anything else he has ever written.

Vonnegut likes to brag that he has never written a book with a villain in it. To that I add that he has never written a book with a hero in it except for Player Piano. His other characters are merely protagonists, people who do not even so much as have things happen to them as observe that things happen.
Venkat Narayanan
Why did I rate this 5 stars?
I don't know.

Is it because of Vonnegut Bias?
nah, it's nothing like Vonnegut, but it is Vonnegut.

Is it because of my blind madness towards any book which is remotely dystopian in setting?
Maybe, but that's not the only reason.

It's because of Dr. Paul Proteus - His psyche is something closest to my values. Confused, Manipulated, Loved, Hated, Betrayed, Chanced etc.. But still he is still funnily rooted to reality and tries to have his foot upon the absolute middle. That'
Not the best Vonnegut. Confused message, rather boring plot, and not even funny. The only interesting aspect for me was the old science fiction standpoint, seeing a little how people in the past thought the future would be and how it might be different if it were written today. But I'd skip this one in general.
For me this is an A-typical Vonnegut. This read did not flow the way his other books did for me. I couldn't really identify with any of the characters. While reading my mind would sometimes drift to ideas previously given to me in other Atlas Shrugged or 1984...machine taking over etc. etc.....the 1% vs the 99% yada yada yada. I felt like he was trying to convert me rather than entertain me. I'm still a Vonnegut fan, but this one and me just dance well together....we didn't gee haw. ...more
Jun 21, 2014 Julie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Julie by: Brion
Soooooo..... this got assigned to me by my brother. It is his favorite Vonnegut novel. I have to say, that while I didn't dislike it, I didn't love it either. I think out of the Vonnegut novels I have read (this one, Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle) I liked the other two more, probably because each one had more of a sci-fi element to it.

That's not to say that the concepts presented here aren't interesting. It pits man against machine, not in, say, a "giant-robot-attacking-the-city" way, but
Brent Mckay
Interesting, like all Vonnegut. Reading this debut, however, reminded me of early Richard Pryor, George Carlin, or Chris Rock, when they were still honing the styles that would make them great.

This is a dystopian depiction of humans too reliant on machines. It's a treatise on what humans do after they've engineered their usefulness away. Many authors have covered this territory more presciently and much of it feels dated. The most interesting element was Vonnegut's depiction of corporate think--
After finishing the book last night, this is the Vonnegut I enjoyed the least. To compare to Sirens of Titan, which previously held this title, I'd say Titan had bouts of being overly rando, even for Vonnegut. After reading Player Piano I have new insight on my previous critique of Titan, in that I feel the randomness was not nearly as unpleasant as the drab predictability of this book. The characters rarely surprised or excited me, and I felt like I totally understood the rather heavy-handed me ...more
Zach Irvin
Vonnegut's first book, and it feels a lot different from his later work. There is not as much authorial/narrator intrusion in Player Piano as in Vonnegut's other stuff. The characters were great, and there was a pretty big cast of them that kept the novel plugging along. Although, towards the end, some of the characters dropped off pretty abruptly. I thought that some of the themes in this one were incredibly relevant to our time. Specifically, the idea of machines analyzing consumer data to pre ...more
I read a bunch of Vonnegut's stuff in late high school and college (15-20 years ago) and remember really enjoying him. I didn't recall if I had read this one or not (and now after reading it am sure I did not) before and figured either way he is probably worth a re-visiting in an effort to update these reviews. This one (which I have discovered to be Vonnegut's first and was published in 1952, 5 years before Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged) was engaging and forward thinking social commentary. Certainl ...more
Anna Janelle
It really killed me to give Mr. Vonnegut two stars, but, honestly, getting through this one was like pulling my own teeth out. I believe that this was his first, so, really, I should cut my main man some slack here. BUT being a graduate student who just got married and recently found out that I'm expecting (that's right, married and pregnant within the course of a week - right here, folks), I don't have the time or patience to make excuses for other people. Even good ol' Kurt.


There were some rea
Marshall Vandegrift
An interesting novel. Vonnegut's first, and it shows, but many of the trademark Vonnegut elements are already there. Much more straight "science fiction" than most of his works, but pure social SF despite a few (often hilariously out-dated) technological trappings.

The central theme is a questioning of the purpose of technology. In the world of Player Piano most human labor has been entirely replaced by machines, leaving the majority of the population with little to do. The humans and machines ar
I've always thought highly of Vonnegut's writing, even though I've only read a few of his books. Player Piano, however, didn't live up to my high expectations. It was at least interesting, and I'd say it was pretty good for a first novel.
What was interesting was that it was written at a time before computer mechanization had ever been a possibility, but this book, like many science fiction books, looked forward to a future of sophisticated inventions and the changes to society they bring. It al
Jenny Achiam
I was so glad to finally read my favorite author's first novel. I was expecting some naivete on his part. Or at least- I wasn't expecting the masterful command of pathos that I've encountered in his later works. I figured he wouldn't have developed that yet and was looking forward to reading a less astonishing work with an underlying potential for greatness.

But by god! Vonnegut doesn't miss a beat. Ever. This novel was not only as full of impact as his later ones, but in some ways more-so. With
Michael Armijo
How timely to read this book as technology is in overdrive during this first and second decade of the 21st Century. I had recently read ROBOPOCALYPSE by Daniel H Wilson. I would recommend this book as the one to read before ROBOPOCALYPSE. ROBOPOCALYPSE makes for the ideal sequel.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (b. November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer with such famous works as Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) which blend satire, gallows
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Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journali
More about Kurt Vonnegut...
Slaughterhouse-Five Cat's Cradle Breakfast of Champions The Sirens of Titan Mother Night

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