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Player Piano

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  35,180 Ratings  ·  1,263 Reviews
Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul’s rebellion is vintage Vonnegut—wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.
Paperback, 341 pages
Published January 12th 1999 by The Dial Press (first published 1952)
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Jan 10, 2017 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Man created machines in his own image...

And man and machine alike were told to worship one deity: the CORPORATE PERSONALITY!

The 10 Commandments according to the Church Of Corporate Thinking:

1. Thou shalt believe in one corporation
2. Thou shalt have no other corporations beside the one you serve
3. Thou shalt honour all traditions and communal behaviours of your corporation
4. Thou shalt accept whatever the corporation tells you as truth
5. Thou shalt have no other truths except for corporate truth
In his first novel, published in 1952, Vonnegut envisages a dystopian future where nearly all jobs have been rationalised away by increasing automation. But, just when things seem most hopeless, a saviour appears in the form of a brash, uncouth but lovable billionaire, who, despite having no previous political experience, rides a populist wave to become President. He immediately expels all illegal immigrants and starts a war against an alliance of Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Within month ...more
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
Jan 22, 2017 Adina rated it it was amazing
Vonnegut is a genious. Woth each book it goes higher on my favorite writers list. Review to come later.
Jan 25, 2017 BlackOxford rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
The Cybernetic Script

One of the most important but least discussed consequences of WWII is an ideology. It is an ideology that unites the political left and right, and even transcends the ideologies of Capitalism and Marxism with their apparent conflicts about the nature of human beings and their politics. It is an ideology that became and remains the dominant intellectual force in the world in my lifetime. This ideology goes by a name that is only occasionally used today and is probably recogni
Joshum Harpy
May 18, 2012 Joshum Harpy rated it it was amazing
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
Matt  Dorsey
Oct 12, 2007 Matt Dorsey rated it really liked it
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
Jun 07, 2007 graycastle rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi
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
Aug 31, 2012 Lyn rated it really liked it
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut was his first novel, first published in 1952. Early fiction from Vonnegut is told in a more straightforward fashion than Vonnegut readers will be accustomed to from his later works, but his imagination and wit are still unmistakable.

This is a dystopian work describing a United States after a third war where machines have taken the place of 90% of industrial workers. Government work available to displaced workers comes from either the Army, emasculated and bureaucra
Alan Chen
Mar 11, 2014 Alan Chen rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Proteus is in charge of the Ilium works and at 36, is prominently placed in the company and only looking to move up. The company is mostly run by supercomputers and had very little use for humans. In fact, most humans now either go into the army, do public works that really aren't necessary or just collect checks for doing nothing. You get placed in a job by your IQ and there's nothing you can do if your IQ/personality test doesn't find you fit to do. While Proteus has been content moving up in ...more
May 09, 2015 Dan rated it really liked it
"The most beautiful peonies I ever saw," said Paul, "Were grown in almost pure cat excrement" (300).


I began to read this book the week SOL (an acronym Vonnegut would have loved.... like his EPICAC computer mainframe...) testing commenced at the high school I teach at... a full week, in other words, of licensed teachers getting paid to STARE at children take standardized computer-based examinations. These are the tests that apparently establish competence or confirm mental infirmity. T
Jul 08, 2010 Chloe rated it really liked it
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
In a world where actuaries in Japan are getting fired by the hundreds because an algorithm now does their job, where Amazon's utterly creepy house robot Echo can organize your life and transfer info on your every move to God knows who, and where Google has created AIs that live on the Internet and talk to each other in an encrypted language so sophisticated that humans can't figure out what they are saying, "Player Piano" is eerily prescient.

In fact, as someone who works for a major insurance co
Tyler Jones
Dec 03, 2014 Tyler Jones rated it really liked it
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
Apr 04, 2014 Natalie rated it it was amazing
My favorite Vonnegut. Epically dystopian--disturbingly relevant. Somehow it manages not to shove it's agenda down your throat but does gently haunt you.
Dec 08, 2015 Alex rated it liked it
For his first book in 1952 Kurt Vonnegut made an entry in a long string of dystopian novels stretching back to (where else) Eugene Zamyatin's 1921 classic We. It's not the best entry.

The We Lineage
In order of quality:
Brave New World
Player Piano

These books all deal with futures in which social class has ossified and production has mechanized. They deal with the automation of society, and with socialism (in wildly different ways).

Vonnegut was a socialist. The way he deals with it is b
Aug 19, 2008 Hank rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: managers and corporate cheerleaders.
Shelves: dystopian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 26, 2010 Nikki rated it it was amazing
(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
Nov 21, 2008 Ryan rated it really liked it
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.
Nathan Titus
Jan 12, 2013 Nathan Titus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Chris Dietzel
Oct 30, 2014 Chris Dietzel rated it really liked it
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
May 06, 2016 Aloke rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, scifi
Despite its science fiction trappings this is really a fun house look at the present. Writing in 1952, Vonnegut depicts a world where automation has rendered most jobs obsolete except for a small cadre of managers and engineers who administer the factories and create new machines. Those put out of their jobs are provided a safety net of medical care, housing, income, etc. but deprived of meaningful work they are resentful of the status quo. Of course this sounds prescient today with threats of A ...more
MJ Nicholls
Oct 08, 2010 MJ Nicholls rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins
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
This was Vonnegut's first novel and what a quantum leap the author makes from this drab and dated work to his amazing second novel published 7 years later: The Sirens of Titan.

Player Piano was the most conventional and boring of the Vonnegut novels I've read. It's clear he still hadn't found that profound, irreverant, dark humor that him high up on my pantheon of favorite authors. He clearly had yet to find his voice.

There just wasn't much here to sink my teeth into, but I'm glad to have read
Mar 08, 2012 Rob rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Mar 05, 2012 Lee Sree rated it it was ok
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
Apr 23, 2016 S. rated it really liked it
My first Vonnegut novel. I was very impressed. If this is his first novel than the others must be fantastic.
Pamela Mclaren
Jan 25, 2014 Pamela Mclaren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This is a hard book to describe. Well written, well paced and a great story but it scared and depressed me a bit because we are coming close to this. Right now, we are creating computers that can do ever more things -- put together things, compute things, etc. Its as if this could come very easily to real life.

Its a story set sometime in the future where machines are pretty much doing everything and the only positions of value are those that machines can't do. There are two groups of people -- t
Nov 27, 2014 William rated it it was ok
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.
Arash Kamangir
Dec 01, 2016 Arash Kamangir rated it it was amazing
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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...

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