Kevin Hosein's Reviews > Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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Oct 04, 2012

really liked it
Recommended for: Science fiction fans looking for something a little different

And so it goes...

Slaughterhouse-Five is science fiction and farce book-ended with an autobiography. It is fiction between fact. The story opens with the despondent author of the book, Vonnegut, himself, as he sets out to write an "anti-war" novel. He realizes the futility of an anti-war novel, and says it would do him just as well to write an anti-iceberg novel, with reference to the Titanic. Sometimes you just cannot stop what is coming.

He intends to write a book about war because of his experience in the Dresden bombings during World War II. The story of Billy Pilgrim, another prisoner-of-war at Dresden comes into the limelight now. Billy is described as being "unstuck in time", which means that he is unable to live his life chronologically. A few years back, after Billy's daughter's wedding, Billy had been kidnapped by a troupe of aliens called the Tralfamadorians. What is unique about these aliens is that they can see a fourth dimension: time, while we humans can only experience it. They can see all moments of their past and future. They even know how the universe will end.

Billy acquires this ability after being taken by them and sees all moments in his life, even his own death by assassination. Due to this, Billy develops a new relaxed outlook on death, characterized by the arc words splintered throughout the novel, "So it goes." These words succeed any death mentioned in the book, whether it be of microscopic organisms or the thousands who died brutally in Dresden. Billy sees the entire scope of time and space and thus, his mindset on everything changes.

Vonnegut describes mundane situations with a certain quirkiness and humour that I haven't found in other novels. It always strikes me that Vonnegut's books are written with an extraterrestrial readership in mind. The novel is both easy and difficult to read. Easy because of its short length and its straightforward writing style. Difficult because of its concept and its inclination to the non-linear. Due to the nature of the book, there is no climax. No denouement. No real conclusion. If you can see everything, past, present, future there wouldn't be. I guess that's understandable in this case.
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