29 July 2009

Book Review: Slaughterhouse Five

Title: Slaughterhouse Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Published: 1991 Pages: 215
Genre: Dark Comedy
Rating: 4.5/5

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Plot Synopsis

Slaughterhouse Five is a semi-autobiographical account of Vonnegut's time in a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. But mainly it is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a time traveling man who alternately visits his life as a normal man, an alien captive, and a prisoner of war.

My Thoughts

When Vonnegut was all the rage and those who attempt to be trendy literates were scooping up his novels right and left, I hid in a no-Vonnegut-allowed literary hole and refused to even look at the covers of his books. My bad. This book was excellent.
Vonnegut quite cleverly gives readers an inside look into the world of war without making it a Book About War. He also includes an alien planet preceded by an alien abduction without making it a Book About Aliens. And finally, while Billy slips in and out of different times in his life, this is not a Book About Time Travel. Now if you were to ask me exactly what this book is about if it's not about war, aliens, or time travel, I may not have a perfect, definitive answer.

For me, the book was primarily about hope, for a better future, a better life, a better moment. Many events and quotes in the book lead me to believe this, but one main theme really struck this chord with me. Billy is trying to teach the world the Tralfamadorian perception of time which is completely non-linear. The Tralfamadorians know and can literally see that all moments are occurring at all times. Every person is existing in the now, the then, the everytime. This is why Billy can travel to his past, present, and future. This is why he can see his birth and his death.

To me, the belief and acceptance of this perception is about hope. If we are existing at all points of our lives, then death has no hold over us, nor do present-time pains and difficulties. While Billy is being held captive behind enemy lines, he gets to slip back in time to his wedding night, to his mother washing him when he was a baby. He gets to escape.
Slaughterhouse Five has more to offer than this, but it was what came to mind while writing, so there you have it. Read the book. You'll like it.

Other Reviews
Let me know if you have a review of this book and I'll add it to the list


  1. That's one of the things I love about him: his books often show the darkest side of human nature, yet they are still so filled with hope. This is such a good book.

  2. Exactly! Thanks for stopping by Nymeth. Do you recommend any other of his books?

  3. Hey - I'm subbing today and this book is being discussed, so I thought it might be fun to read what my bookbloggerbuds are saying about it. I *think* I read it - YEARs ago and don't remember it. Guess I better put it on my list to reread.


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