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Publisher's Summary

Slaughterhouse-Five is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW who has, in the later stage of his life, become "unstuck in time" and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously.

Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut's usual large cast of continuing characters (notably here the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralfamadorians, who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence). The "unstuck" nature of Pilgrim's experience may constitute an early novelistic use of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder; then again, Pilgrim's aliens may be as "real" as Dresden is real to him.

Struggling to find some purpose, order, or meaning to his existence and humanity's, Pilgrim meets the beauteous and mysterious Montana Wildhack (certainly the author's best character name), has a child with her, and drifts on some supernal plane, finally, in which Kilgore Trout, the Tralfamadorians, Montana Wildhack, and the ruins of Dresden do not merge but rather disperse through all planes of existence.

Slaughterhouse-Five was hugely successful, brought Vonnegut an enormous audience, was a finalist for the National Book Award and a best seller, and remains four decades later as timeless and shattering a war fiction as Catch-22, with which it stands as the two signal novels of their riotous and furious decade.

©1969 Kurt Vonnegut (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"James Franco is an inspired choice as narrator for this anti-war classic. While still young, he still manages to sound world-weary.... Franco has fun with the offbeat characters and Vonnegut's quirky text but keeps the overall tone thoughtful.... Franco's reading gives the 1960s classic a freshness that will appeal to both new listeners and Vonnegut's many fans." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 01-22-17

Everything is nothing, with a twist.

I've read Slaughterhouse-Five several times and I'm still not sure I know exactly how Vonnegut pulls it off. It is primarily a postmodern, anti-war novel. It is an absurd look at war, memory, time, and humanity, but it is also gentle. Its prose emotionally feels (go ahead, pet the emotion) like the tug of the tides, the heaviness of sleep, the seduction of alcohol, the dizziness of love. His prose is simple, but beautiful.

Obviously, part of the brilliance of this novel is born from the reality that Vonnegut is largely playing the notes of his own song (obviously, obscured by an unreliable narrator, time that is unstuck, and generous kidnapping aliens). It is the song of someone who has seen horrible, horrible things but still wants to dance and smile (so a Totentanz?).

Emperor, your sword won't help you out
Sceptre and crown are worthless here
I've taken you by the hand
For you must come to my dance

I had to work very much and very hard
The sweat was running down my skin
I'd like to escape death nonetheless
But here I won't have any luck

It is essentially art pulled out of the tension between despair and hope, grief and celebration, love and death. It is a classic not because it has a message about war, but because it has a message about life. Vonnegut aimed at war and hit everything.

43 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • JL
  • 12-01-15

Good book, meh narrator

Although I liked the book, I wasn't a fan of James Franco's reading of it. His mumbling and flat affect made the book made the book feel a bit tedious.

50 of 58 people found this review helpful

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So it goes...and I didn't want it to end

I have read this book three times and listened to Ethan Hawke read on CD twice.

James Franco adds an incredible voice to this classic anti-war novel with its disjointed chronology. He is deadpan and on the mark, giving the satire room to breathe.

As for the novel, I was forced to read it in high school and reluctantly fell in love the shambling WWII vet Billy Pilgrim.

He flops between time periods like an awkward flamingo, makes a living as a bored optometrist, makes love to his giant of a wife and infuriates his daughter with tales of alien abduction. And what middle-ager wouldn't want to be abducted if his co-abductee were a bosomy porn star?

There's also an extraterrestrial zoo.

Vonnegut has written a masterpiece.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Don't Quit Your Daytime Job, James

Vonnegut is one of a kind, and if you like that kind, Slaughterhouse Five is not to be missed. However, the same cannot be said about this audiobook. I usually like James Franco as an actor, but I was greatly disappointed with his narration of this book. There was nothing at all remarkable about his voice. He mumbled some of the time, and he sounded bored and listless all of the time. He seemed to be phoning it in.

56 of 66 people found this review helpful

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Read it again.

Would you listen to Slaughterhouse-Five again? Why?

I read this book perhaps 30 years ago. I'm delighted to be reintroduced. A great author and great story. Even if depressing.

What did you like best about this story?

The dry wit.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me laugh and cry.

Any additional comments?

This book is read very well. The actor gets the subtlety of the book. <br/>If you read this book in high school, read it again and you'll appreciate it even more.

22 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Vastly overrated.

James Franco fumbles through the narration and at times becomes so inaudible that you will find yourself replaying portions over and over to understand what is being said.

Vonnegut has several writing crutches that become glaringly apparent when listened to as an audiobook. You will be pulling your hair out after 15 minutes from him ending every other sentence with "so it goes" or "and so on."

There are glimpses of an interesting story or at the least thoughts in the book, but not enough to have you wanting more or to hold your attention.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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What a waste of time and money

Can't fault the narrator as he did a good job. I thought this story was terrible. Like being the only sober person in a room of drunks or stoners rambling on about aliens and time travel.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Surprising in many ways.

I had heard a lot about this book and pretty much bought it on a dare with myself thinking "what could go wrong". As much as I like James Franco as an actor, I really wasn't sure of what to expect.

If you feel the same about it, and hesitant about the purchase of this book, take the risk. Franco's voice and narration are a bit unsettling at first but so is the book. As unlikely as it may sound ,it's a great pairing.

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Yes, it will be a bumpy one.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Important Post-War Novel

If you could sum up Slaughterhouse-Five in three words, what would they be?

psychedelic, surreal, chaotic

What did you like best about this story?

Billy's time travel back and forth and beyond and how Vonnegut made the transitions. The refrain "and so it goes" every time someone died was hilarious.

Which scene was your favorite?

This is hard to say, because I love them all. The firebombing of Dresden and its aftermath stood out.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

And So It Goes.

Any additional comments?

The novel is fresh, modern, non-linear. Vonnegut pushed the form. It requires focus to listen to. Enjoy the ride. Do not try to make sense of it. Enjoy. "And so it goes."

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Good Performance

The dry reading fits the prose perfectly. Emphasis and character voices are used well. You can tell James Franco is a fan. Not to mention that the book is a classic all interested should read.

21 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Dean
  • 04-11-17

A must for anyone.

Genuinely an amazing peice of work. Listened to it one sitting and only felt disappointed that it had to end so soon. So it goes.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack
  • 04-18-16

loved it

I totally loved it. book is great and Franco is class as per usual. Hopefully he does more.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • jitesh
  • 04-16-16

story wasn't slaughtered

6 hours of bizarre stories. Well worth a listen made especially pleasing by James Franco.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Lancaster
  • 04-16-17

As astute and relevant today as it was in 1968.

Vividly read, beautifully written. The madness of war is lampooned with pity and wild imagination.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ms
  • 04-03-17

Astonishing and beautifully written and read.

A tale of the utter futility of war. What it is really like, the aftermath, the consequences for those who take part. Everyone should read or listen to this book. There is nothing glamorous about death and destruction.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew Dawkins
  • 01-22-17

A brilliant listen

A fantastic novel read in a touchingly wry way by James Franco. I highly recommend giving it a listen.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • steven
  • 03-09-16

Worth every penny

A great book strangely haunting yet amusing in places and Franco's performance is very soothing a mix of dryness and charm

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Wras
  • 04-03-17

trapped in the amber of this moment.


A book about war and the inhumanity of being human, a timeless time perspective of all the things that keep on repeating the same mistakes with horrible regularity and yet we choose to accept as new phenomena of our very particular time, were we commit very old crimes “So It Goes”.

A sad beautiful tale that is not afraid to expose the ugliest of truth, a desperate attempt at creating a change in a world that is stuck in the amber of its own creation constant war to prove we were right once, or we can sell over there in freedom because we won the war and “So It Goes”.

A classic that is rebellious and confrontative, with anarchic, nihilistic thoughts, to liberate us from complacency and acceptance of the of the status quo, “So It Goes”.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon
  • 06-05-17

Did I Enjoy it or Experience it?

"Unputdownable", "unmissable", "unreadable" we've seen them all in amongst the many reviews that populate sites like Audible and Amazon. Well how about "unreviewable"? That's pretty much how I'm finding Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five".

Audible have it in the Fiction-Humour section. There is some really black humour in there but particularly in this form with James Franco's laconic drawl it really isn't going to have you searching for the LOL icon. It's often described as sc-fi but although yes there is a race of aliens so it can reasonably have that tag attached to it I wouldn't call it that either. It's also a book about war and here is where, if anywhere, I would settle. After all it was inspired by the author's real experience of World war II and in particular the Dresden bombing. Even if I settle on that though it isn't going to satisfy anyone who wants a detailed account of the awful events that took place there.

My take on it, which is just one of many possible conclusions, is that this is a story of a confused mind left traumatised by life and particularly the sheer inhumanity of the war. It jumps around time but there are clear signposted images of how Bill Pilgrim's personal narrative came about. I don't think the aliens in Vonnegut's story are supposed to be real, they are figments of Pilgrim's tortured imagination designed to reconcile him to what has happened to him. A Three Musketeers candy wrapper, some sci-fi books he adores and the similarities to those stories and so on are cleverly placed.

The result of his time displacement though is that the story is deliberately disjointed and at times the links aren't obvious or indeed even there. As a representation of a troubled mind I think it's excellent and would recommend the book on that basis. Whether that is actually enjoyable though will very much be a matter of taste. I'd say give it a go because it is very, very clever but be prepared that it might not meet your personal taste. I'm still not convinced as to whether I enjoyed it or simply experienced it. The fact that I'm struggling with it in so many ways is as good a reason to recommend it as any though if you want a reading challenge.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • 04-29-17

Disappointing reread....

I had read Slaughterhouse 5 years ago as a young adult engaging with a Global using world. This time I listened to learn how Vonnegut had narrated stories and insights concerning the massive Dresden bombings that took place in WW2. I found that Insights regarding post-traumatic stress disorder were blown off course by creating a sci-fi world with which the lead protagonist interacted... the omni-present refrain "so it goes" added to my irritation.

Can't say I'd recommend this - its somewhat dated and outclassed by a range of other anti-war insights.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Cyndi
  • 05-19-16

Excellent detail and black humour

I thought James Franco's voice and readiig style suited this book perfectly. An interesting and engaging alternative treatment to the topic of war , especially those who survive it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-26-17

Great original theme and style

loved it especially the alternate title The Children's Crusade and the dedication to Mary O'Hare.

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  • chris
  • 10-18-17

Good to fall asleep to

James Franco tends to talk in a lazy monotone, which may present a challenge if you are planning to stay awake during this.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-08-17

Really good!

I really enjoyed listening to this audio book, would recommend to a friend and and family members

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  • Lyndon
  • 05-21-17

so it goes

There are affections that I want to remember as they were simply stunning. So it goes

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  • Maria
  • 05-03-17

Definitely not a science fiction

I was throughly impressed with Slaughterhouse-Five and enjoyed it immensely. It is now in the list my most favourite books.