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Basic Training

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  732 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Written to be sold under the pseudonym of "Mark Harvey", this 20,000-word novella was never published in Vonnegut’s lifetime. It appears (from the address on the manuscript, a suburb of Schenectady, New York, and from the style and slant) to have been written in the late 1940s. Vonnegut was working at that time in public relations for General Electric and used pseudonyms t ...more
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Published September 29th 2015 by Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio (first published March 22nd 2012)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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J.L.   Sutton
When I picked up Basic Training, it seemed familiar. I hadn't immediately realized I'd read Kurt Vonnegut's Basic Training four and a half years ago in the collection We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works. I continued to read it anyway because I haven't ever regretted reading Vonnegut. While Basic Training didn't hit it out of the park, I still don't regret the (re)read. I'd probably only recommend this to Vonnegut fans looking for more insight into his work. It is accessible in ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious fans of Kurt Vonnegut
Shelves: kurt-vonnegut
I have very mixed feelings about this. Not about this novella, which I thought was interesting, thought-provoking, and deep -- especially considering it was only 22,000 words long -- but the fact that there is so much unpublished content from Vonnegut still waiting to be released.

When Vonnegut died back in 2007, I thought I only had a relatively small amount of his fiction left to read (having already read seven of his fourteen novels, and some of his short stories). When Armageddon in Retrospec
Rebecca Crunden
❧ audiobook review

He searched his conscience in vain for a grain of remorse to justify the desolating punishment the general had promised. When you punish somebody, you take away from them what they want, he reasoned. All I had in the whole wide world was my music, so that's what I lost: everything.

A new old Vonnegut. I'm not sure you can go wrong with a novella by Kurt Vonnegut that's narrated by Colin Hanks! This is one of Vonnegut's unpublished stories, likely written in the 1940s, it seems.
Apr 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is an early novella by Kurt Vonnegut that was rejected by the Saturday Evening Post in the 1940s while its author was still working for General Electric. Although it brings in a number of themes from his work, Basic Training strikes me almost as juvenilia. There is a single sentence at the beginning of Chapter II which reminds me of the later Vonnegut:
At 2 a.m., Central Standard Time, as reckoned by the parlor mantle clock in the home of Brigadier General William Cooley, retired, a light be
Garrett Zecker
This was a posthumous novella release, from what I understand, only in ebook form. I picked it up for a dollar, or it may have even been free. It is an interesting book because it doesn't really follow the style, tropes, violence, humor, or even joy that most Vonnegut brings. It seems to take place in the past - but maybe it takes place in Vonnegut's contemporary America from when he was young. I can't really tell. I may even be coloring these opinions based solely on the book's cover photo. Reg ...more
Jan Strnad
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Vonnegut before he was "Kurt Vonnegut Jr. the writer of biting satire and wildly imaginative science-fiction-so-good-they-don't-call-it-science-fiction." The prose lacks Vonnegut's patent terseness and acerbic wit, but it's still darned fine writing. I didn't find the biting satire that the blurb writer claims, but I did find a great little coming of age story and a softer side of Vonnegut than what one encounters in his later works.

It's a fine novella, well worth the modest Kindle cost,
Randal Cooper
Reading this very early Vonnegut piece gives one hope: The writer who turned out this mediocre-at-best novella full of stock characters, cliched situations, and ridiculous motivations eventually became a national literary treasure. So even if your writing is borderline abyssmal right now, if you keep working at it, you could become great, too*!


* Prospects of becoming great will be greatly enhanced by witnessing a gruesome example of man's inhumanity to man firsthand. Also helpful: m
Jun 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A previously unpublished novella by Vonnegut. Basic Training is not nearly as absurdist or fanciful as his later novels. The plot/setting/characters are all structurally congruous and reasonable. Basic Training is basically a quaint bildungsroman that deals with issues of love, authoritarianism, family and heroism. It reminded me a lot of J.D. Salinger's and Carson McCuller's novellas, and wouldn't feel too overshadowed by those authors or out of place in the pages of Harpers, the New Yorker, or ...more
Jun 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, fiction
Very quick read. Early Vonnegut missing the fantasy but not the humanity.
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a novella about a young man, Haley, who moves to a farm with his uncle, The General, and his cousins after being orphaned.

I have never read Kurt Vonnegut before so didn't know what to expect. This novella seemed to lack a proper storyline, the ending was uninspiring. I have read of Vonnegut's wit, but this seemed to be absent (or I missed it/didn't understand it).

On looking at other reviews and ratings, I seemed to be in the minority. This audiobook passed 2 hours of baking, but I wish I
Mary Greiner
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So glad I ran across this book in a sale. Vonnegut is just fabulous at capturing the vagaries of life. From the title I was expecting more of a military story, but that is a mere sideline through vivid and unrelenting memories.
The only basic training in this novella is the training most of us experience in getting the naivete knocked out of us.
If you love Vonnegut, you will certainly enjoy this.
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful early Vonnegut. The before commercialized Vonnegut; who I like and enjoy. Expand your grasp beyond the early when reading Basic Training to more than a "story", to a life lesson formative, experienced and learned. Interspectivly touching a person's soul. ...more
James Townsend
This is an early novella by Kurt Vonnegut that was rejected by the Saturday Evening Post in the 1940s while its author was still working for General Electric. Although it brings in a number of themes from his work, Basic Training strikes me almost as juvenilia.
Budd Margolis
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now and then you have to go back and read a Vonnegut just to remind yourself what a genius this man was. Any book he writes is worthwhile and this short story is both engaging and full of characters that bounce off each other in a spiral of intensity. Wonderful.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting as an early Vonnegut story, but ultimately just not that interesting.
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
Basic Training was supposedly written "in the late 1940s", which means it predates the short stories in Bagombo Snuff Box by a few years, Sirens of Titan by 10, and Slaughterhouse-Five by 20. And yeah, it shows. If you know what to look for, there are some things here that clue you in that Vonnegut wrote this story of a sensitive young man sent to live on a farm with his cousins and their father The General; the powerless boy hero tossed about by life, the casual cruelty of war (The General, all ...more
Phyllis Duncan)
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a "long-lost" novella by Kurt Vonnegut. He wrote it in the late 1940's, and it was rejected by several magazines. He put it aside and never did anything else with it. It was published in March, almost five years after his death. It's the story of a teenaged boy, orphaned by a car accident, who comes to live with his uncle and cousins on a farm. Interestingly enough, nearly twenty years after he wrote Basic Training, Vonnegut's sister and her husband died within days of each other, and Vo ...more
Mark Wilkerson
Basic Training is not at all what I expected it to me, coming from Vonnegut, the author of so many humorous yet sobering explorations into the human psyche. This novella is far more sober than anything else I've read from him. That's not a bad thing, necessarily. This is a far more linear, Steinbech-ian style brief glimpse into an episode of the protagonist's, Haley's, teenage life. Haley is sent to live with his uncle, The General, a peculiar character.

This novella could easily have been lengt
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vonnegut
Early, early Vonnegut. A prelude to longer works with similar themes but still a delight. As an already die hard KV fan, I was satisfied. I wouldn't necessarily recommend as a newbie's intro to this great author if only because its brevity & relative lack of Vonnegut humor wouldn't be an accurate representation of his vast collection of incredible writing. Not to say this story needed to be longer, or that it was completely humorless, or that Vonnegut's later published short story collections ar ...more
Robbie Bruens
A brief and slight bildungsroman from Kurt Vonnegut's very early years. The whole thing functions well enough, but doesn't offer much more than competence and sturdy craftsmanship. None of the characters are necessarily what you'd call indelible even if they all come alive fairly convincingly in a spare number of words. Vonnegut's distaste for militarism and authoritarianism are already apparent, but he shies away too much from the darkness at the core of those ideologies and the book isn't funn ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are a select few authors whom I will read everything they have ever written without fail or question. Kurt Vonnegut is one of those authors. This book is early Vonnegut. Not the Vonnegut I'm used to having started with Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle. Not a bad story, it just doesn't have any of the bite that his later books had. Also, I was a bit mislead by the title, thinking it was a precursor to Slaughterhouse-Five but the "Basic Training" in this instance ...more
Roy Klein
If I read the book without knowing the author's name, I would've never pinned it on Vonnegut. There's the seed of his style in here, but this is obviously very early work, where he was still shaping into the unique author he turned out to be.

The short story is enjoyable, albeit predictable. The characters are typical, almost stereotypical. The plot is easy to anticipate; almost any significant object presented in the story is used in the way you'd expect it to be used. Despite that, the flowing
Adam Bender
For Vonnegut fans, it's interesting to read his early work. He hasn't quite found the short, punchy style that made him famous, and the characters aren't quite as zany as those in his later work. Hey, the man is still developing his sarcasm.

Structurally, it feels a bit like a play -- with two major set pieces, loud actors and a clear middle to the book. And as a novella (Kindle single) it's also pretty short. But it's fun while it lasts.

If you haven't read Vonnegut, you'd be better to start wit
Andrew Ellis
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick breeze of a read, this 22,000 word novella was probably written in the late 1940's, but was unpublished until very recently.

As he so often does, Vonnegut treats themes of how we treat people we love, and whether or not things we do for people really help them or not.

Set on a farm where young Hayley is sent for a few months before leaving for a conservatory education, the book has deep characterizations and and an eventful plot.

Most of all, Vonnegut's humor shines throughout. The central
Robin Tashima
This is an unpublished early, pre Slaughterhouse Five novella written when Kurt Vonnegut was in his late twenties. it was easy to see how Vonnegut would later become a powerful author. His wit and sarcasm shine through. The book was a quick, easy read giving insight into life in the late 40s America. The characters were endearing and the plot was simple, but entertaining. I would definitely recommend this for those who want to get a glimpse of Vonnegut through this short novella.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book actually made me shiver as well as tear up a little. I get why Vonnegut has a following as this appears to be one of his lower rated titles( and I thought it a 4 star). I related to this book in a way that maybe some will or won't. Growing up with out a father figure other than that of Boyscout leaders and various other male role models this book really spoke to Hailey's coming of age as a young man. Its simplicity at the end really made sense to me. ...more
Lee Dunning
Just a novella, so not a long commitment, but even so, when I finished I found myself feeling a bit cheated. I'm used to finding, in Vonnegut's work, some amusing, wry and deep look at humans and the civilizations we build. I didn't get that with this story. It almost came across as a writing exercise instead of a meaningful story. Just too slice of life for me, I guess. Or maybe the deeper meaning went over my head. ...more
Joshua Bohnsack
This was interesting. It certainly wasn't "bad," though proved to be predictable. I like when Vonnegut occasionally leaves the sci-fi to the side and writes within a realist view. These stories often seem very human.
This piece left me feeling anxious for every character and there were unresolved depth to their personalities, which I could never quite grasp.
Overall, good, short read and a decent find for any canonical reader of Vonnegut.
Mar 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good story and an interesting glimpse of Kurt Vonnegut writing in his late 20's. He wrote it a couple of decades before Slaughterhouse-Five and Welcome to the Monkey House were published.

Novellas are a great fit for Kindle Singles and offer a just-right story length option (not too short, not too long).
George Seaton
"Basic Training," was written just after Vonnegut returned from WWII, in the late '40s. It is a well-written, not overly inventive little story that may charm those who are Vonnegut fans. I found it interesting as evidence that even Vonnegut started somewhere, evolved and eventually mastered his craft... ...more
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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

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