Huffman, TX, United States | Member Since 2006
I had no expectations coming into reading Slaughterhouse Five, and as such, I wasn't immediately hooked into the storyline but rather settled into it over the first few chapters. I was turned on to this book after seeing it appear in so many "best of" lists. It also helped that professor Drout recommended it in his Modern Scholar survey of science fiction literature. I don't wholeheartedly believe this is science fiction at all. Seems to me like historical fiction about the after effects of war. Possibly about dealing with PTSD. Looking at it that way, you can see why the novel remains relevant to our time. That's not to say that the novel is only relevant because of our ongoing national commitment to war. So it goes. Vonnegut manages to construct his prose in a manner reminiscent of Hemingway, but approaches the structure of the story in a thoroughly modern way which is, at times, disjointed and appropriate to the mental state of the main character.
All that being said, readers should be cautious in taking Slaughterhouse Five at face value. It is a memoir of a broken man. It would be easy to blindly accept Vonnegut's notion that since war is ultimately meaningless, all things are meaningless, meaningless things were always meant to happen, they were designed to happen, we have no free will to do anything to stop it, our only choice is to allow things to happen to us, we have no free will at all. In my opinion, that is dangerous thinking that will lead many astray. It is important to recognize that one may very well feel like that is the way of the world when subjected to the kinds of atrocities mentioned in the book, however, if you remove free will from the equation, then the Nazis who brutally murdered innocents were as responsible for their actions as a child who dies in a fire bombing is for his own death. The author makes the case that a Nazi's job is to kill, a victim's job is to die, a bomber must bomb, and children must die. It's just the way things were designed to be. Historically speaking, it is important to document that war has the effect of sapping hope in this way... But the pitfall is to accept this as truth and not as the words of a broken man. I would suggest Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning as a counter study to this novel. There we see despair turned to hope instead of the other way around.
Ethan Hawke did a marvelous job in his performance. I was thoroughly convinced that here was a man who had witnessed so much tragedy, that his only recourse was to totally disconnect from all emotions and even to disconnect from his own reality. He delivers the harrowing events of war and the tragedy of life afterwards with a calm sort of complacency that is soothing and disturbing. You get the sense that this is a person who has accepted his fate, relinquished all hope, and decides to take what comes his way with apathy. It is, in fact, all he has left to offer. Perfectly played.
Scalzi serves up another witty and fun story with lovable characters and excellent narration from the "always on point" Mr. Wil Wheaton. There's a lot to like here, especially for the obvious Star Trek TOS fan. I wish I didn't have to say it, but I don't know if this book works outside of a working knowledge of the original Star Trek series. In any event, it makes the book more enjoyable. Like an inside joke.
There is a surprise touching ending to coda 3. It's romantic and sad, and also hopeful. I would never have expected it but it came to me as a little gift at the end of an story that is otherwise mostly levity.
I don't even know how else to put this. THIS BOOK IS EPICALLY AWESOME. If you grew up geek in the coming-of-age of computers and video games... This is a no-brainer. I haven't been this satisfied with spending a credit since I downloaded Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in 2008. But back to this book, nostalgia cross-referencing every aspect of growing up between probably 1975-1995. If you want to know if you will enjoy this book ask yourself this: Are you a geek? One who enjoys sci-fi and video games? Like computers? 3 yes answers should have you buying this. Here's a short list of things the book references (from memory):
TRS-80 Tandy Computers/Color Computer 3
Amigas, Commodore 64s
Atari 2600 (Extensively)
Games like Pitfall, Kaboom, Dungeons of Daggorath
Back To The Future
Voltron and Transformers
General Hacking and Computer culture
Text messaging, L33t Speak
Dungeons and Dragons
Boom Boxes, Mohawks, Acid Washed Jeans
Rush, Def Leppard, Pat Benatar, Cindy Lauper (and a slew of others)
School House Rock
Japanese/American cross culture (Manga, Cartoons, Games)
The "setting" for the book takes place in a computer simulation that reminded me of the visuals from the Scott Pilgrim Movie, particularly where things look like the inside of a video game, music notes and light coming from instruments, VS subtitles underneath P2P Fights, Things pixelate into "bonus items" when they get destroyed.
Honestly... there's so much that it's hard to remember. Quit reading this and just go download it.
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