Brian's Reviews > Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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's review
Mar 16, 2011

liked it
Read in January, 2011

So it goes (I guess what you say when someone dies but you're already resigned to the inevitability of it all)

Slaughterhouse felt like a sixties novel to me. I haven't read many Vonnegut before (maybe just Player Piano when I was in high school), so maybe it's more Vonnegutesque than just sixties. But it felt highly stylized, intentionally shocking and jarring. But in the context of today's postmodern novel, it seemed too deliberately stylized to me.

Once again, I may be too imperceptive to really appreciate, so I'd love to hear comments, but my assessment of Billy Pilgrim's time travel and Tralfamadorians bit was that Billy was traumatized by the war and his head injury, having flashbacks and hallucinations and taking us along with him. The result is his perception that a lifetime is a static thing, that we cannot change the future as it's already happened. Pretty grim.

Two passages I liked. First is when he's watching a World War II movie, but in reverse. It goes for a while and ends with:

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders [anti-bombs which had collected the fire and explosions and were sucked up by American planes] were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anyone ever again.

So some good antiwar sentiment. Still like Catch-22 much better for that though. And the second was about the intent and impact of the Gospels, as observed by an alien visitor from a sci-fi novel:

He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.

But the Gospels actually taught this:

Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected.

Not sure I agree, but certainly provocative.

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