Daniel's Reviews > Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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Apr 05, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: re-read, 2009
Read in April, 2009 , read count: 2

Breaking with my usual habit of giving what I like to think are clear, well-reasoned explanations of why I did or didn't like a particular book, I'm giving "Slaughterhouse-Five" five stars with little elaboration. I'll simply say that this was my first time revisiting the book since first reading it in high school, and part of the reason for my high rating is that it held up incredibly well -- something I can say of few books I loved as a teenager.

Kurt Vonnegut's writing simply touches my reptilian brain stem in a way few authors' books do. I don't know that I love "Slaughterhouse-Five" as much as I do "Breakfast of Champions" -- one's favorite Vonnegut book is often the one he read first, and for me that was "Breakfast" -- but it's still a great book.

In "Slaughterhouse-Five," Vonnegut makes mention that one of his recurring characters, science-fiction author Kilgore Trout, has great ideas but is a terrible writer. Fortunately for his readers, Vonnegut both had great ideas and was a wonderful writer. His exploration of the life of a character who spends his entire existence bouncing among various highlights of his life -- becoming, in Vonnegut's parlance, unstuck in time -- is consistently creative and insightful. One may be tempted to criticize Vonnegut for making Billy Pilgrim an overly passive character, for never having him take control of his life or fight back, but such passivity makes complete sense for someone who realizes he has no free will -- that the story of his life, and death, has already been written and nothing he does will alter it.

Despite its dark subject matter, "Slaughterhouse-Five" is occasionally quite funny, and not just sardonically so. Having forgotten the scene from my first reading of "Slaughterhouse-Five," I laughed out loud at Kilgore Trout convincing a less-than-brilliant woman at a party that all of his novels are completely true -- that it would be a violation of the law for him to write a story that was untrue.

It turns out I said more about "Slaughterhouse-Five" than I intended to. Be glad, though, that I managed to write this whole review without saying "so it goes." Well, until now. So it goes.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Megha One may be tempted to criticize Vonnegut for making Billy Pilgrim an overly passive character, for never having him take control of his life or fight back, but such passivity makes complete sense for someone who realizes he has no free will -- that the story of his life, and death, has already been written and nothing he does will alter it.

I really like what you said here. Well put.


Hoyon Kim I absolutely agree on your opinion of BIlly's passive characteristic. One of my friends complained on how Billy doesn't try anything, but I think it couldn't be helped. And beside, his giving up attitude is one of the best things about this book.


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