Thursday, 20 December 2012

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut (3.5/5)

The back says: Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this latter-day Pilgrim’s Progress, a miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse, in the most original anti-war novel since Catch-22.

I say: This is another novel that I’ve heard people talk about for yonks but never picked up – probably because I never knew what it was about. The full title is Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, which is explained in the novel as such: the narrator is visiting an old war friend whose wife doesn’t want him to write about the war since they were “just babies then,” so he says he’ll call the book The Children’s Crusade. Slaughterhouse-Five refers to the number five slaughterhouse in which they were kept prisoner.

So it goes.

Then we are introduced to Billy Pilgrim who was also in the war with the narrator and his friend. The narrator pops up every now and then as a minor character in Billy’s story, which makes for interesting little cameos where you go ‘ah.’ Now, here’s where the weirdness of the novel begins. Billy claims to be able to time travel and therefore his story is told in a disjointed manner. He is also abducted several times by aliens from the planet Tralfamador where they put him in a zoo for the Tralfamadorians to observe. So we weave between his trips into space, his experiences in the war and his life afterwards as an optometrist.

So it goes.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this novel; parts of it I loved and others were a bit annoying. The fact that Vonnegut uses the phrase “and so it goes” was one of the main annoyances. According to Wiki it is used when “death, dying and mortality occurs as a narrative transition to another subject, as a memento mori, as comic relief, and to explain the unexplained. It appears 106 times.”

So it goes.

I do realise that this is satire and sometimes it’s done in a brilliant way, like with the issue of the boots, the stealing of random things, and the starving horse, but there’s something about it that sort of misses the mark. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but maybe it’s just that I don’t like Vonnegut. This is my first time reading him, and I did like his style of writing fine enough. It was funny in an inoffensive way, quirky enough to keep me interested and well-thought out.

It just left me a bit meh.

So it goes.

I think I was expecting more, or something else, and even though there are a few philosophical issues brought up that beckon deeper discussions, I’m too underwhelmed to care. So 3.5/5 is all it gets and I’m not too disinclined to try it again in a few years.

So it goes.

Yes, I realise that I am using it indiscriminately throughout this review, but I’m trying to make some kind of point that has pretty much died at this point.

So it goes.

Zing!

2 comments:

  1. I definitely felt quite meh-ish about this book, but then I did read it when I was supposed to be reading other things and so felt guilty about it and also kind of read it quickly to get to the other things?

    So it goes.

    In other words, I need to read it again kind of just to check how I properly feel about it. Maybe.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe. Ha ha. But I too second guess my judgement sometimes when I don't like a book that everyone seems to rave about, but meh.

      So it goes.

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