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Player Piano

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  50,932 ratings  ·  2,311 reviews
Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul’s rebellion is vintage Vonnegut—wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.

Alternate cover edition here
Paperback, 341 pages
Published September 2006 by Dial Press (first published 1952)
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Darryl High IQ, Money, Prestige, A purpose (in theory)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  50,932 ratings  ·  2,311 reviews

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Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Man created machines in his own image...

And man and machine alike were told to worship one deity: the CORPORATE PERSONALITY!

The 10 Commandments according to the Church Of Corporate Thinking:

1. Thou shalt believe in one corporation
2. Thou shalt have no other corporations beside the one you serve
3. Thou shalt honour all traditions and communal behaviours of your corporation
4. Thou shalt accept whatever the corporation tells you as truth
5. Thou shalt have no other truths except for corporate trut
Ahmad Sharabiani
Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut

Player Piano is the first novel of American writer Kurt Vonnegut, published in 1952. Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul’s rebellion is vintage Vonnegut—wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.

It depicts a dystopia of automation, describing the negative impact it can have on quality of life. The stor
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dystopia, us
I just remembered that I did not review Player Piano. I did not have the time to do it when I finished the novel one month ago and then I forgot.

I am not going to write a full review because I lost the momentum, but I have a few comments.

First of all, If you never read Kurt Vonnegut I would not start with this one. It is very good but I believe it would be better savored by readers that already enjoyed other works by the author. This is his first novel and his fragmented writing style and sati
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The main business of humanity is to do a good job of being human beings," said Paul, "not to serve as appendages to machines, institutions, and systems.”

player piano – Salo University

When Kurt Vonnegut does dystopia (as he does in his first novel, Player Piano), you know it's not an empty idea for him to rail against, but a way for him (and us) to work out the implications of a new reality, in this case, our desire to improve the world with technology. In this early dystopian vision (set in the near future after WWIII), the
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american
The Cybernetic Script

One of the most important but least discussed consequences of WWII is an ideology. It is way of thinking that unites the political left and right, and even transcends the ideologies of Capitalism and Marxism with their apparent conflicts about the nature of human beings and their politics. It is an ideology that became and remains the dominant intellectual force in the world in my lifetime. This ideology goes by a name that is only occasionally used today and is probably rec
In his first novel, published in 1952, Vonnegut envisages a dystopian future where nearly all jobs have been rationalised away by increasing automation. But, just when things seem most hopeless, a saviour appears in the form of a brash, uncouth but lovable billionaire, who, despite having no previous political experience, rides a populist wave to become President. He immediately expels all illegal immigrants and starts a war against an alliance of Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Within month ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut was his first novel, first published in 1952. Early fiction from Vonnegut is told in a more straightforward fashion than Vonnegut readers will be accustomed to from his later works, but his imagination and wit are still unmistakable.

This is a dystopian work describing a United States after a third war where machines have taken the place of 90% of industrial workers. Government work available to displaced workers comes from either the Army, emasculated and bureaucra
Leonard Gaya
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Vonnegut wrote Player Piano in his late twenties, and it is the first novel in his long and successful literary career. At this stage, the author is still relatively “well behaved”: the structure of the story is reasonably straightforward, events occur in chronological succession, the protagonist is, for the most part, in full possession of his mental faculties. In short, there is still some way to go before the Slaughterhouse-Five meta-fictional, po-mo craziness. However, the distinctive featur ...more
In a world where actuaries in Japan are getting fired by the hundreds because an algorithm now does their job, where Amazon's utterly creepy house robot Echo can organize your life and transfer info on your every move to God knows who, and where Google has created AIs that live on the Internet and talk to each other in an encrypted language so sophisticated that humans can't figure out what they are saying, "Player Piano" is eerily prescient.

In fact, as someone who works for a major insurance co
It’s been almost thirty years since I read Player Piano, and all I had retained from that first read was the name of the main character, a faint recollection of the novel’s focus on a future world heavily reliant on automation, and a vague sense of not liking the book all that much despite Vonnegut being one of my favorite authors. I had hoped to like the book better as a seasoned adult, but instead I found re-reading Player Piano to be a tedious chore which surprised me, as this year I have ret ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Disappointed in this one, it was underwhelming. I hadn't read Vonnegut in a long time and was excited to read this. Unfortunately I found the characters rather unlikable, obnoxious, one-dimensional caricatures, while the narrative operated like a chess game in which I could guess most every move before it was made. I also found the messaging heavy-handed. Yeah, I agree or at least am concerned with most of the themes brought up, but it was done with a lack of subtlety that grated on me.

In terms
Joshum Harpy
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was working as a janitor the day that Kurt Vonnegut died. Sweeping the floors, I listened as the news came over talk radio and I remember distinctly standing up stiff and staring hard at the speakers while the news sank in. I had recently heard in interviews and read Vonnegut sharing his feelings about his own death. That he had reconciled himself to it and felt that he had done much with his life, that he was ready to go (I'm paraphrasing, of course his words were funnier and more acidic). St ...more
Jun 07, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi
There was a period in my life when I read all the Vonnegut I could get my hands on, which is mostly a very rewarding experience, but oh man, this is terrible. It's his first novel, and it really should've been a short story - even as a short story, it would've been forgettable. Classic scifi man/machine themes unleavened by the irony I would usually expect from Vonnegut, drawn out far too long, with characters who lack depth or interest. Read, I dunno, anything else by Vonnegut instead, and you' ...more
Sep 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
The main business of humanity is to do a good job of being human beings.

Kurt Vonnegut's first novel and what a start it was. This is not my first time reading it though but a reread. I remember not liking it but then again, I was distracted most of the time and didn't let the story sink in until now on the reread. It's not as laugh out loud funny as his other books but don't get me wrong, there is humor here but it's much more subtle. Doctor Paul Proteus is in charge of Ilium Works and the world
da AL
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Seriously, anything by Vonnegut is a must-read!
Matt  Dorsey
Oct 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Is it acceptable to call a soft sci-fi dystopian novel badass? Does that reveal the total nerd at the core of my character?

The only reason I can see for this book not to be mentioned as one of Vonnegut's greats is that it's edged out by the half-dozen or so outright masterpieces in his canon. But for a first novel, this is ace. It's Vonnegut's most conventionally structured novel, and possibly even his least original. The plot is more or less a tweaking of Huxley's 'Brave New World' (Vonnegut h
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This novel, Vonnegut's first, is a more traditional narrative than his later books. The story is told linearly, the chapters are much longer, etc. However, the unmistakable Vonnegut themes are very much present, and make their first appearances here. "Player Piano" deals with the ideas of the danger / dehumanizing effects of technology and how that interacts with basic human dignity. Writing in 1952 about the "false gods" of technology, one need only look around today to think that Vonnegut was ...more
Tyler Jones
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are probably several reasons why Kurt Vonnegut was such a popular writer, but I will give you two.

Reason one: His personality. Vonnegut had a distinct voice. Sarcastic and biting, yet also forever sticking up for the little guy. He was funny as hell. He had Personality - and it was this Personality that his readers adored. With each successive novel, his readership craved more of the same, which meant that the actual plot of the books became less important than the voice of Vonnegut himsel
Tristram Shandy
Jul 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
“‘The machines are to practically everybody what the white men were to the Indians. People are finding that, because of the way the machines are changing the world, more and more of their old values don’t apply any more. People have no choice but to become second-rate machines themselves, or wards of the machines.’”

Two weeks ago, it occurred to me that it might be a fine idea to read Kurt Vonnegut’s novels in their chronological order because I really enjoyed Slaugherhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle
Dec 08, 2015 rated it liked it
For his first book in 1952 Kurt Vonnegut made an entry in a long string of dystopian novels stretching back to (where else) Eugene Zamyatin's 1921 classic We. It's not the best entry.

The We Lineage
In order of quality:
Brave New World
Player Piano

These books all deal with futures in which social class has ossified and production has mechanized. They deal with the automation of society, and with socialism (in wildly different ways).

Vonnegut was a socialist. The way he deals with it is b
Brett C
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kurt-vonnegut
This book shows the looming reality to encroaching technology as we see robots replace the human workforce in the industrial setting. Pre-programmed ways of thinking, conformity, and thinking outside-the-box all clash into themselves in Kurt Vonnegut's first story. I enjoyed this read. ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Player Piano felt different from other Vonnegut books: the sentences weren’t as bare, the pages were full and his fingerprint felt more spread out. Chapters ran twenty pages long which allowed for little details to creep in (like how a phone becomes moist after talking on it for a few minutes) and the main message of the book felt more sunken into the story than usual. If Vonnegut’s prose is fast food and James Joyce a steak house, then Player Piano falls somewhere around Applebee’s but with goo ...more
Jul 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, pre-80s-sf
I have enjoyed every Kurt Vonnegut book I read… until now.

Player Piano is Vonnegut’s first novel but his other books that I have read are so very good that I could not help but have high expectations for this one even though it is his debut. It is set in a future where society has been fully mechanized, humanity is fully served by machines resulting in demarcation among the masses who were formerly of the workforce, and a social divide where the managers and engineers are the elites living luxu
Mr. C
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
"The most beautiful peonies I ever saw," said Paul, "Were grown in almost pure cat excrement" (300).


I began to read this book the week SOL (an acronym Vonnegut would have loved.... like his EPICAC computer mainframe...) testing commenced at the high school I teach at... a full week, in other words, of licensed teachers getting paid to STARE at children take standardized computer-based examinations. These are the tests that apparently establish competence or confirm mental infirmity. T
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
For some reason I had thought that I had long ago run through the works of Kurt Vonnegut. He was one of the first writers whose books I can remember consciously deciding that I needed to read each and every one of. The moment is still clear in my memory- I had just been introduced to Kilgore Trout and his trunk of pulp novellas in Breakfast of Champions. I'm not quite sure what happened with that goal, but I'm guessing I lost the thread of the quest sometime after reading Galapagos back in high ...more
Sep 24, 2014 rated it liked it
A commendable early attempt at greatness, this was written before Vonnegut attained his whacky genius status. His later, weirder novels are better, but this one gave us a glimpse of things to come.
Ivana Books Are Magic
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I heard that Vonnegut was a fantastic writer and (what you'd know) it is true. Player Piano is a novel set in near future. It is a dystopian kind of future, set in USA. In this part of the word, most of the labour is done by machines, meaning that only a selected few get to have a real job. Others aren't exactly starving, the state feeds them but that's about it. They are depressed and lack a sense of purpose in their lives. The plot focused on a young engineer who is increasingly unhappy and fr ...more
MJ Nicholls
Vonnegut's first novel (circa 1952!) bears little relation to his later, greater works, barring the subject matter. Player Piano is an ambitious speculative story about evil man-made machines turning society into one big fascist corporation. Yes, yawn, but this was seven years after D-day. Time has not been kind.

His storytelling is lucid, amusing and real, but falls away in the second half. This book is twice the length of his other works, and too self-consciously first-novelly to sustain intere
Dec 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
seriously loved this book 100%
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: managers and corporate cheerleaders.
Shelves: dystopian
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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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