Although Vonnegut never says so, the events of the book are being described as if to an alien. This is his way of clearing his mind to look at people's prejudices and absurdities anew with no historical or cultural assumptions as if he were a child experiencing them for the first time, but a child with an adult mind. This enables him to convey his bitter cynicism about human beings with a sense of ironic humor worthy of Mark Twain. Our imaginations are "flywheels on the ramshackle machinery of the awful truth"--i.e., we have to make up stories to sugar coat the reality of human visciousness, selfishness, and stupidity. The lesson is: "WE ARE HEALTHY ONLY TO THE EXTENT THAT OUR IDEAS ARE HUMANE."
Many of Dillard's psychological insights, stylistically evocative passages, and even needed character background are lost in this abridgment.
It's fun to see Spenser up against an assailant who may be his equal as a shooter and about whom his usual contacts know nothing. It's also intereting that (with the exception of one bad apple) all the constituted lawmen are on his side. But there is a too-long stretch of the year of repetitive training that it takes for Spenser to recover from his injuries. This is exacerbated by the reader who has great voices for most of the men except Spenser, but never varies his exceedingly slow pace. Spenser is quick witted, but the reader annoyingly drawls his repartee.
This is pre-PC history (the graphic descriptions of human sacrifice among the Aztecs are labeled "barbaric," for example--but the history is accurate and not Euro-centric. The narrative is detailed, but never anything but exciting.
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