P.'s Reviews > Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
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bookshelves: booksread2011, science-fiction, 1001challenge

"Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."

So you thought Scientology was wacky? Then you obviously haven't read 'Cat's Cradle'. Forget Hubbards' many layered, 'brownie point' rank system to reach the exalted state of 'Xenu'; you need
'Bokononism'. It's not only completely rubbish and written by a mad man, but also insanely fun to implement. OK, I know it's not 'real', but I really enjoyed the little sing-song calypso psalms that pepper the story every now and then.

'Cat's Cradle' is, when all's said and done, dystopian fiction. It looks at the delicate balance of the ecosystem, and how one crazy idea in the head of a crazy and very capable person can in effect, completely destroy life as we know it. Written in the first person, the story involves a writer obsessed with the scientist Hoenikker, the supposed 'father' of the atomic bomb and his attempts at writing a thesis around the day the bomb went off. During his research he gets to meet Hoenikkers weird and defective offspring, not to mention his work colleagues who give him insight into the frightening genius of the man.

What is evident is that a) Hoenikker's scientific intelligence was off the scale, but b) had severe emotional lacks which means that c) he approached his work with all the curiosity of a child, but none of the responsibility of an adult. This revelation sends huge shockwaves through our researcher, especially when he realises that the last project the good doctor was working on, was 'Ice 9'; a sliver of which has the capacity to turn every water particle into ice. Some killing machine right? And where did the idea come from? A random crazy general from the American War Department who is constantly complaining how the Marines are fed up of working in all that mud all the time.

But the doctor died before it was ever realised, so we can breathe a sigh of relief, right? Right? No, we can't. The nightmare scenario begins to unfold, as our poor researcher boards an airplane for the island of San Lorenzo which consequently will also be the very place where this strangest of Armageddon's take place.

Dystopian fiction is usually quite depressing and grey, but Vonnegut changes all that. 'Cat's Cradle' is in essence about a very upsetting scenario which despite all the light-hearted humour, still seems like it COULD happen in reality. But it is the humour that saves it from being just another 'Brave New World'. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but makes very accurate observations about society and the ludicrous things we use science for. Vonnegut doesn't beat you over the head with his message about weapons of mass destruction, but leaves a margin of seriousness within all the silliness for you to chew on.

This is an intellectual novel that is very easy to get into that also resonates deeply with current issues of climate change, war and destruction. Read this. You won't regret it.
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Quotes P. Liked

Kurt Vonnegut
“After the thing went off, after it was a sure thing that America could wipe out a city with just one bomb, a scientist turned to Father and said, 'Science has now known sin.' And do you know what Father said? He said, 'What is sin?”
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle


Reading Progress

June 17, 2011 – Started Reading
June 17, 2011 – Shelved
June 17, 2011 – Shelved as: booksread2011
June 17, 2011 – Shelved as: science-fiction
June 17, 2011 –
page 95
46.12%
June 17, 2011 –
page 95
46.12% "Bokononism. I swear Vonnegut could have written a whole new religion. Ron Hubbard, move aside."
June 19, 2011 –
page 130
63.11%
June 20, 2011 –
page 180
87.38%
June 21, 2011 –
page 206
100.0%
June 21, 2011 – Finished Reading
December 21, 2011 – Shelved as: 1001challenge

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Cara Lee As always, Zee, you give a cogent and appealing analysis of the kinds of things that make me decide whether I want to read a book. I haven't read Vonnegut's work yet, but I've been wanting to, and you've sold me on making "Cat's Cradle" my first Vonnegut choice.


message 2: by P. (new) - rated it 4 stars

P. Thanks Cara, I wish I could write half as good as you. Appreciate your comment :)


message 3: by Harold (last edited Jul 12, 2011 05:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Fabulous review. It's many years since I read Cat's Cradle but this makes me want to reread it asap. Have you read Sirens of Titan? That was my first and favorite Vonnegut. iirc I read Cradle second.


Cara Lee Thank YOU, Zee. You're much too kind, though I appreciate the compliment.

Zee wrote: "Thanks Cara, I wish I could write half as good as you. Appreciate your comment :)"


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