I haven't read much Kurt Vonnegut yet, though I'm trying to rectify that. So far, I've just read Slaughterhouse-Five, though I have a bunch more of hiI haven't read much Kurt Vonnegut yet, though I'm trying to rectify that. So far, I've just read Slaughterhouse-Five, though I have a bunch more of his books on the (endless) to-read list. This particular book was free to borrow on the Kindle, and who doesn't love free!
This was an interesting collection of stories. I liked most of them and thought one or two were duds, but overall they didn't blow me away.
However, the final non-fiction essay - that blew me away. It was absolutely brilliant and made me want to read more of his rants. (Do these exist?) I found myself nodding and highlighting passage after passage. I think the book is worth it for this essay alone.
I would have rated this 3 stars, but bumped up to 4 just for this essay.
Completely forgot to mention the unfinished scifi story at the end - there was definitely some great build-up and I wish we had gotten to read the entire thing!
Bunch of my favorite highlights (all from the non-fiction essay):
We like to pretend that so many important discoveries have been made on a certain day, unexpectedly, by one person rather than by a system seeking such knowledge, I think, because we hope that life is like a lottery, where simply anyone can come up with a winning ticket. Paul of Tarsus, after all, became the leading theologian of Christianity in a flash, while on the road to Damascus, didn’t he? Newton, after being hit on the head by an apple, was able to formulate a law of gravity, wasn’t he? Darwin, while idly watching finches during a brief stopover on the Galápagos Islands during a voyage around the world, suddenly came up with a theory of evolution, didn’t he? Who knows? Tomorrow morning, some absolute nobody, maybe you or I, might fall into an open manhole, and return to street level with a concussion and a cancer cure.
Our friend Kirkpatrick concludes in his book that Europeans came ashore “in what they dimly realized was the land of Paradise…but all they ever found was half a world of nature’s treasures and nature’s people that could be taken, and they took them, never knowing, never learning the true regenerative power there, and that opportunity was lost. Theirs was indeed a conquest of Paradise, but as is inevitable with any war against the world of nature, those who win will have lost — once again lost, and this time perhaps forever.”
“Behind every great fortune lies a great crime,” said Balzac, alluding to European aristocrats who imagined themselves to be descended from anything other than sociopaths. Count Dracula comes to mind. Yes, and the coinage of every Western Hemisphere nation might well be stamped with Balzac’s words, to remind even the most recent arrivals here from the other half of the planet, perhaps Vietnamese, that they are legatees of maniacs like Columbus, who slit the noses of Indians, poked out their eyes, cut off their ears, burned them alive, and so on.
Another native German Heinrich, Heinrich Böll, a great writer, and I became friends even though we had once been corporals in opposing armies. I asked him once what he believed to be the basic flaw in the character of Germans, and he replied “obedience.” When I consider the ghastly orders obeyed by underlings of Columbus, or of Aztec priests supervising human sacrifices, or of senile Chinese bureaucrats wishing to silence unarmed, peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square only three years ago as I write, I have to wonder if obedience isn’t the basic flaw in most of humankind.
When I was in Sicily, accepting a prize for my book Galápagos, which argued that human beings were such terrible animals because their brains were too big, everyone was suddenly talking about a story that had just appeared in the papers and on TV. It said that American troops with bulldozers had buried alive thousands of Iraqi soldiers in tunnels where they were hiding from our shells and bombs and rockets. I answered without hesitation that American soldiers could not be found who would do a thing that heartless. Wrong again.
So the wake of North American TV is something like the wake of a bulldozer, in which everything has been made nice and neat, dead level and lifeless and featureless. But a better analogue of TV’s wake in the space-time continuum is a black hole into which even the greatest crimes and stupidities, and indeed whole continents, if need be, can be made to disappear from our consciousness.
Let us give poor old Columbus a rest. He was a human being of his times, and aren’t we all? We are all so often bad news for somebody else.
But TV is making the weapons disappear by having us look elsewhere.
Back then, I still believed, as I do not believe nowadays, that the human condition was improving despite such heavy casualties. We are incorrigibly the nastiest of all animals, as our history attests, and that is that.
This book of short stories was hit or miss for me, though more hit than miss, especially the scifi stories.
The opening story, "The Fog Horn," was haunThis book of short stories was hit or miss for me, though more hit than miss, especially the scifi stories.
The opening story, "The Fog Horn," was haunting and beautiful. I really enjoyed it, though that's not too surprising since it involved the sea.
One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless sure and said, "We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I'll make one. I'll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I'll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I'll make a sound that's so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I'll make me sound and an apparatus and they'll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life. The Fog Horn
"The April Witch" was definitely creepy, definitely Bradbury.
I really enjoyed "The Wilderness" - it was unique and I dug the scifi aspect.
They floated in an immense sigh above a town already made remote by the little space between themselves and the Earth, a town receding behind them in a black river and coming up in a tidal wave of lights and color ahead, untouchable and a dream now, already smeared in their eyes with nostalgia, with a panic of memory that began before the thing itself was gone. The Wilderness
"The Big Black and White Game" really got to me.
"The Murderer" was really telling of our current times, and prescient considering it was written in the 1950s.
"The Great Wide World Over There" was pretty depressing.
The morning blew away on a wind, the morning flowed down the creek, the morning flew off with some ravens, and the sun burned on the cabin roof. The Great Wide World Over There
"The Great Fire" cracked me up!
The second part of the book, sort of second part, which started with a letter from the author, seemed to be made up of mostly scifi stories, which I enjoyed overall. I thought the first story following the note (which had sexist notes but was written in the 60s so I guess I can give it a pass), "R is for Rocket," was really good (again in spite of the sexist tone).
"The End of the Beginning," about going into space to build a space station, was full of brilliant writing.
All I know is it's really the end of the beginning. The Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age; from now on we'll lump all those together under one big name for when we walked on Earth and heard the birds at morning and cried with envy. Maybe we'll call it the Earth Age, or maybe the Age of Gravity. Millions of years we fought gravity. When we were amoebas and fish we struggled to get out of the sea without gravity crushing us. Once safe on the shore we fought to stand upright without gravity breaking our new invention, the spine, tried to walk without stumbling, run without falling. A billion years Gravity kept us home, mocked us with wind and clouds, cabbage moths and locusts. That's what's so really big about tonight . . . it's the end of old man Gravity and the age we'll remember him by, for once and all. I don't know where they'll divide the ages, at the Persians, who dreamt of flying carpets, or the Chinese, who all unknowing celebrated birthdays and New Years with strung ladyfingers and high skyrockets, or some minute, some incredible second in the next hour. But we're in at the end of a billion years trying, the end of something long and to us humans, anyway, honorable.
Tonight, he thought, even if we fail with this first, we'll send a second and a third ship and move on out to all the planets and later, all the stars. We'll just keep going until the big words like immortal and forever take on meaning. Big words, yes, that's what we want. Continuity. Since our tongues first moved in our mouths we've asked. What does it all mean? No other question made sense, with death breathing down our necks. But just let us settle in on ten thousand worlds spinning around ten thousand alien suns and the question will fade away. Man will be endless and infinite, even as space is endless and infinite. Man will go on, as space goes on, forever. Individuals will die as always, but our history will reach as far as we'll ever need to see into the future, and with the knowledge of our survival for all time to come, we'll know security and thus the answer we've always searched for. Gifted with life, the least we can do is preserve and pass on the gift to infinity. That's a goal worth shooting for. The End of the Beginning
There was "A Sound of Thunder," which was essentially the main attraction of this book. A movie by the same name came out a few years ago - and it was pretty laughably terrible. The original story is much better (albeit much shorter as well).
"The Exiles" started off really eh but I liked the ending.
"Here There Be Tygers" was interesting to consider; it could be a Doctor Who story. But the Doctor wouldn't approve of Chatterton, whom I wanted to die right away (though that's not a very Doctor-y thought either). His thoughts were also reminiscent of Avatar.
You have to beat a planet at its own game," said Chatterton. "Get in and rip it up, kill its snakes, poison its animals, dam its rivers, sow its fields, depollinate its air, mine it, nail it down, hack away at it, and get the blazes out from under when you have what you want. Otherwise, a planet will fix you good. You can't trust planets. They're bound to be different, bound to be bad, bound to be out to get you, especially this far out, a billion miles from nowhere, so you get them first. Tear their skin off, I say. Drag out the minerals and run away before the nightmare world explodes in your face. That's the way to treat them." Here There Be Tygers
"Frost and Fire" was a compelling story.
The nightmare of the living was begun. Frost and Fire
Enjoyed "The Time Machine" - it was sweet despite the subject matter.
War's never a winning thing, Charlie. You just lose all the time, and the one who loses last asks for terms. The Time Machine
I also enjoyed: - The Flying Machine - I See You Never - The Rocket - The Rocket Man
I think this one is worth a read. Final rating: 3.5 stars....more
Sweet, short stories about love created from Storycorps interviews. The book is split into three parts: Found, Lost, and Found at Last, to arrange theSweet, short stories about love created from Storycorps interviews. The book is split into three parts: Found, Lost, and Found at Last, to arrange the stories somewhat by theme.
The most poignant section to me was Lost. These stories, while sad, were the ones I enjoyed the most. The emotions were really captured.
The only reason I picked up this book was because Andy Borowitz compiled the stories. Overall, I was mixed on the stories - some were funny, the otherThe only reason I picked up this book was because Andy Borowitz compiled the stories. Overall, I was mixed on the stories - some were funny, the others were not my cup of tea. I ended up skipping a couple stories or I would never have finished. it was a wide variety of humor as well. I wouldn't recommend this for most people, unless you are really into comedy.