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Cat’s Cradle (1963) is Vonnegut’s most ambitious novel, which put into the language terms like “wampeter”, “kerass” and “granfalloon” as well as a structured religion, Boskonism and was submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for a Master’s Degree in anthropology, and in its sprawling compass and almost uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) invention, may be Vonnegut’s best novel.

Written contemporaneously with the Cuban missile crisis and countenancing a version of a world in the grasp of magnified human stupidity, the novel is centered on Felix Hoenikker, a chemical scientist reminiscent of Robert Oppenheimer… except that Oppenheimer was destroyed by his conscience and Hoenikker, delighting in the disastrous chemicals he has invented, has no conscience at all. Hoenikker’s “Ice 9” has the potential to convert all liquid to inert ice and thus destroy human existence; he is exiled to a remote island where Boskonism has enlisted all of its inhabitants and where religion and technology collaborate, with the help of a large cast of characters, to destroy civilization.

Vonnegut’s compassion and despair are expressed here through his grotesque elaboration of character and situation and also through his created religion which like Flannery O’Connor’s “Church Without Christ” (in Wise Blood) acts to serve its adherents by removing them from individual responsibility. Vonnegut had always been taken seriously by science fiction readers and critics (a reception which indeed made him uncomfortable) but it was with Cat’s Cradle that he began to be found and appreciated by a more general audience. His own ambivalence toward science, science fiction, religion and religious comfort comes through in every scene of this novel.

Topics: Caribbean, 1960s, Bitter, Black Humor, Irreverent, Satirical, Apocalypse, Postmodern, 20th Century, and American Author

Published: RosettaBooks on Dec 15, 1963
ISBN: 9780795311963
List price: $8.99
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This book is probably my favorite of Vonnegut and seems to best capture his style. It is more in line with the rest of his writings than Slaughterhouse Five.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Humorously debates the issue of an ultimate weapon.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I've read a few Vonnegut books before, but this is the place to start to get a sense of his worldview. Dark humor at its best.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
So when did the modern novel take the wierd turn? Well, by "modern" I'm really thinking post-1950. You have Graeme Greene and George Orwell pumping out social commentary in a realist vein. Then along comes this absurdist tendency. Obviously I need to read some more...As for Cat's Cradle - yes, some clever stuff, some amusing stuff, even some profound stuff. I liked the narrator's initial reaction to seeing Mona's photo ("peace and plenty!") contrasted with the dippy-profound abstraction he finally pairs up with.But, overall, its hard to take such thinkly applied charicature seriously. It was an enjoyable and worthwhile read, but nothing on the profound and multi-layered experience of how novels can be written.read more
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In Slaughter House Five Vonnegut took on war, sex and revenge. Here he takes on religion, not to attack it, but turn it inside so it might start to make sense again. PS the Grateful Dead publishing company for their music is called Ice Nine.read more
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This is almost a prequel to Stephen King's The Stand set in a Woody Allen-esque banana republic. Reminiscent of Gallapagos, a small band of unlikely characters is described in their paths toward each other, their isolation from 'humanity' and how they face and resolve earth-ending situations. While pleasantly there's no real mention of aliens, the book does have a solid science fiction component. It's not a commentary on combat like Slaughterhouse Five, but it does carry the common theme that the further away from war we are the less we have to face its reality; a chief character is a thinly veiled Einstein who happens to be-perhaps unlike Einstein-unfazed by his creation. An aspect of lewdness adds realism but little else, and some threads seem to end nowhere. A well-written, somewhat immature science fiction satire commenting on nuclear war and general human dynamics.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I bought this at an airport bookstore on a whim and enjoyed it immensely. Well written, slightly goofy, LOL a couple of times. This is how criticism can be really effective. Much better than hate speech.read more
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A propelling narrative with odd characters. Vonnegut is convinced that we will destroy ourselves.read more
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A light, easy to flip through book. The style is not particularly rich, but entertaining. The ideas are less so. I do not share the pessimism and fatalism expressed by the author.read more
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This really wasn't my cup of tea, but I recognize it for what it is, an excellent apocalyptic novel, written with massive amounts of satire, dark humor, and cynicism. The protagonist, John, begins work writing a book about the first A-bomb, and gets mixed up with the inventor's children. Surprisingly enough, the creator of the bomb, who had already died, is ultimately responsible for the end of human life. Vonnegut creates an absurd fantasy world, full of lies, a parody of religion, propaganda, a new language, novel sexual practices, a midget, and John as president. Vonnegut's bleak and pessimistic view of science, mankind, and religion comes across loud and clear. The book was probably more applicable to previous times (Cold War, nuclear proliferation), but parallels can still be drawn in today's society.read more
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I think I need to read this book again, this one was hard to get through at times.read more
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Greatest thing since sliced bread - really! Helped me get thru my adolescence only moderately scathed. Vonnegut's magic, I believe: whether pages and pages or just a single sentence is devoted to a character, each one is treated as equally important. There are no "minor characters" in Vonnegut, and I think he therefore teaches us that there are no minor characters in life.read more
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This is a great introduction to Vonnegut.read more
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Classic Vonnegut. Rueful, cynical gallows humour combined with a strangely touching innocence and optimism.'Optimism' might seem a strange word to describe a novel in which all higher life forms on the Earth are destroyed. (This is no great spoiler: it's a rare Vonnegut novel that doesn't at least toy with something like this notion.) But the catastrophe, while indeed ultimately the fault of human scientific hubris and moral inadequacy, has as immediate cause an unfortunate accident. Vonnegut's world is peopled by the foolish, the arrogant and the incompetent, but nowhere is there evil to be found. His cynicism is aimed at our abilities, not our intentions.It's also woven through with his dry humour and his unique voice. Illustrating pretty much all of this at once: "The whore, who said her name was Sandra, offered me delights unobtainable outside of Place Pigalle and Port Said. I said I wasn't really interested, and she was bright enough to say that she wasn't really interested either. As things turned out, we had both underestimated our apathies, but not by much."Perfection.Cat's Cradle has one other great feature to recommend it: Bokononism, a religion of lies and love. The wisdom of Bokonon is very much Vonnegut's own, but expressed in Zen-like paradoxical aphorisms and cute 'Calypso's. I'll close with one which hit home, given that I'm currently working on a PhD more-or-less on the philosophy of language:Tiger got to hunt,Bird got to fly;Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?'Tiger got to sleep,Bird got to land;Man got to tell himself he understand.read more
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Not sure exactly what this book was supposed to be about, but it was an enjoyable read; a weird, but interesting story.read more
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My favorite book in high school. It had a profound and lasting effect on my thoughts on religion, and it's still my favorite Vonnegut.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book is a great example of Vonnegut’s work. Vonnegut shows why he is the master of satire in this book about a writer who tries to write a book about the atom bomb. This writer ends up experiencing the end of the world and reflects on modern man. Kurt Vonnegut creates a world where government is run by whoever feels like it and a religion is created by a man who writes calypso songs. The insanity is rampant, but it helps the reader to appreciate the insanity of reality. It is chaotic, and can be slow in some places where the emphasis is on the characters. It analyzes the human aspect of tragedy and teaches you to reflect on your own actions as well as those of humanity in general. Overall though, if you can understand the underlying meaning it is a great literary work.read more
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This was the first Vonnegut I read. It's still my favorite. Bokonon and everything that comes with him will lift a young reader miles above who they had been.read more
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Vonnegut best work. Briliant mix of science fiction, humor, religion and philosophy. And the hebrew translation rocks too.read more
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I love this book. It's everything great about Kurt Vonnegut--desperate and funny.read more
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I really liked this book.I record this impression for whatever it may be worth. "Write it all down," Bokonon tells us. He is really telling us, of course, how futile it is to write or read book reviews. "Without accurate records and ratings of everything you ever read, how can men and women be expected to tell good books from the bad ones?" he asks ironically. So, again: I really liked this book.You, non-Bokononist readers, consider this a recommendation.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Cat's Cradle is a sort of satire on religion, in the face of the apocalypse. The narrator travels to a small tropical island where all of the inhabitants practice the forbidden religion of Bokononism - a cross between secular humanism and a cheerful nihilism. Vonnegut writes a deceptively simple and witty story, that ends up packing a punch with regard to religion and philosophyread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A totally absurd book. I enjoyed every page!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Such a wonderful book, a must-read. The infinitely-quotable Bokonon and the countless other fascinating little ideas this novel presents make it probably my strongest recommendation of all the books in my library.read more
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Third book for the readathon.

I don't know what went wrong with reading Vonnegut before, but I liked Cat's Cradle a lot more than The Sirens of Titan. The short chapters helped -- I'm guessing some people find it too fragmented, but I found that that helped draw me on. The tone of it helps, too: dry and ironic.

There's something about the background characters, like Bokonon and Hoenikker, that's pretty compelling, too. The idea of ice-nine, and the fake religion that makes so much sense... I remember liking the ideas behind The Sirens of Titan, so maybe it isn't so surprising that I enjoyed Cat's Cradle.

As with several other books I've read recently (notably, Poul Anderson's books), I was encouraged to read this by the references to it in Jo Walton's Among Others. Busy, busy, busy...read more
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I know this one came first, but having read Galapagos first, I kind of felt like Cat's Cradle was just a rehash, and I could sort of see where it was going. This also had a lot of the same themes and made a lot of the same points as a lot of his other books, and I think I'm just burned out on Vonnegut. I probably would have enjoyed this immensely had I read this before Galapagos, Breakfast of Champions, and Timequake.In theory, I think I actually liked Cat's Cradle better than Galapagos, but the latter is way out of left field and more to my taste. I definitely prefer the linear plot in Cat's Cradle, though.Cat's Cradle also had its share of ridiculous content, to be sure. Bokonism, a made-up religion, is used throughout to illustrate several points. An apocalypse comes at the end of the novel in one of the silliest scenarios I've ever seen, but if the technology existed, it would certainly be a plausible scenario. The characters also have their share of eccentricities, but this time around they were a bit too abrasive for my tastes.I also just felt restless the entire time I was reading it, which I'll admit is likely because I let any sort of greater point fly over my head. Much of the beginning of the book talks about research for a book the narrator wound up not writing, and much of the information gathered, with the exception of Ice-Nine and the introduction of the three siblings, winds up not having much bearing on the actual plot. It is entertaining though, the scientist was probably my favorite character due to his complete disregard of other people.read more
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I know it is supposed to be a good book, but I found it off-puttingly anti-intellectual and couldn't like it.In the almost exact words used by one of the characters, the whole book seems aimed at getting us to admit that scientists are heartless, conscienceless, narrow boobies, indifferent to the fate of the rest of the human race, or maybe not really members of the human race at all.read more
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Another great book by Vonnegut. I would recommend this book to anyone. A timeless classic.read more
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Not nearly as good as I remember. Definitely a child of it's time. I first read this in the mid-seventies, and it seemed quite a revelation to a young, impressionable teenage boy. The 50-year old is not quite so impressed. Fun to re-read and re-live, but I don't think I'd recommend to friends or family. I guess you can never go home, as they say.read more
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For a very long time I found this book really really difficult to get into. The first half just seems like a huge mash of ideas, a chain of loosely connected anecdotes that I struggled through. The second half was much easier to follow, or maybe i just became accustomed to the writing style and I was soon really enjoying the book. It deals with some interesting themes: science, history, religion, ethics, culture, politics, population control. When I finished it, I flicked back to the beginning and found it much more meaningful (and enjoyable) the second time."Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, 'it might have been'" - pg174read more
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Reviews

This book is probably my favorite of Vonnegut and seems to best capture his style. It is more in line with the rest of his writings than Slaughterhouse Five.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Humorously debates the issue of an ultimate weapon.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I've read a few Vonnegut books before, but this is the place to start to get a sense of his worldview. Dark humor at its best.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
So when did the modern novel take the wierd turn? Well, by "modern" I'm really thinking post-1950. You have Graeme Greene and George Orwell pumping out social commentary in a realist vein. Then along comes this absurdist tendency. Obviously I need to read some more...As for Cat's Cradle - yes, some clever stuff, some amusing stuff, even some profound stuff. I liked the narrator's initial reaction to seeing Mona's photo ("peace and plenty!") contrasted with the dippy-profound abstraction he finally pairs up with.But, overall, its hard to take such thinkly applied charicature seriously. It was an enjoyable and worthwhile read, but nothing on the profound and multi-layered experience of how novels can be written.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In Slaughter House Five Vonnegut took on war, sex and revenge. Here he takes on religion, not to attack it, but turn it inside so it might start to make sense again. PS the Grateful Dead publishing company for their music is called Ice Nine.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is almost a prequel to Stephen King's The Stand set in a Woody Allen-esque banana republic. Reminiscent of Gallapagos, a small band of unlikely characters is described in their paths toward each other, their isolation from 'humanity' and how they face and resolve earth-ending situations. While pleasantly there's no real mention of aliens, the book does have a solid science fiction component. It's not a commentary on combat like Slaughterhouse Five, but it does carry the common theme that the further away from war we are the less we have to face its reality; a chief character is a thinly veiled Einstein who happens to be-perhaps unlike Einstein-unfazed by his creation. An aspect of lewdness adds realism but little else, and some threads seem to end nowhere. A well-written, somewhat immature science fiction satire commenting on nuclear war and general human dynamics.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I bought this at an airport bookstore on a whim and enjoyed it immensely. Well written, slightly goofy, LOL a couple of times. This is how criticism can be really effective. Much better than hate speech.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A propelling narrative with odd characters. Vonnegut is convinced that we will destroy ourselves.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A light, easy to flip through book. The style is not particularly rich, but entertaining. The ideas are less so. I do not share the pessimism and fatalism expressed by the author.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This really wasn't my cup of tea, but I recognize it for what it is, an excellent apocalyptic novel, written with massive amounts of satire, dark humor, and cynicism. The protagonist, John, begins work writing a book about the first A-bomb, and gets mixed up with the inventor's children. Surprisingly enough, the creator of the bomb, who had already died, is ultimately responsible for the end of human life. Vonnegut creates an absurd fantasy world, full of lies, a parody of religion, propaganda, a new language, novel sexual practices, a midget, and John as president. Vonnegut's bleak and pessimistic view of science, mankind, and religion comes across loud and clear. The book was probably more applicable to previous times (Cold War, nuclear proliferation), but parallels can still be drawn in today's society.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I think I need to read this book again, this one was hard to get through at times.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Greatest thing since sliced bread - really! Helped me get thru my adolescence only moderately scathed. Vonnegut's magic, I believe: whether pages and pages or just a single sentence is devoted to a character, each one is treated as equally important. There are no "minor characters" in Vonnegut, and I think he therefore teaches us that there are no minor characters in life.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a great introduction to Vonnegut.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Classic Vonnegut. Rueful, cynical gallows humour combined with a strangely touching innocence and optimism.'Optimism' might seem a strange word to describe a novel in which all higher life forms on the Earth are destroyed. (This is no great spoiler: it's a rare Vonnegut novel that doesn't at least toy with something like this notion.) But the catastrophe, while indeed ultimately the fault of human scientific hubris and moral inadequacy, has as immediate cause an unfortunate accident. Vonnegut's world is peopled by the foolish, the arrogant and the incompetent, but nowhere is there evil to be found. His cynicism is aimed at our abilities, not our intentions.It's also woven through with his dry humour and his unique voice. Illustrating pretty much all of this at once: "The whore, who said her name was Sandra, offered me delights unobtainable outside of Place Pigalle and Port Said. I said I wasn't really interested, and she was bright enough to say that she wasn't really interested either. As things turned out, we had both underestimated our apathies, but not by much."Perfection.Cat's Cradle has one other great feature to recommend it: Bokononism, a religion of lies and love. The wisdom of Bokonon is very much Vonnegut's own, but expressed in Zen-like paradoxical aphorisms and cute 'Calypso's. I'll close with one which hit home, given that I'm currently working on a PhD more-or-less on the philosophy of language:Tiger got to hunt,Bird got to fly;Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?'Tiger got to sleep,Bird got to land;Man got to tell himself he understand.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Not sure exactly what this book was supposed to be about, but it was an enjoyable read; a weird, but interesting story.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
My favorite book in high school. It had a profound and lasting effect on my thoughts on religion, and it's still my favorite Vonnegut.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book is a great example of Vonnegut’s work. Vonnegut shows why he is the master of satire in this book about a writer who tries to write a book about the atom bomb. This writer ends up experiencing the end of the world and reflects on modern man. Kurt Vonnegut creates a world where government is run by whoever feels like it and a religion is created by a man who writes calypso songs. The insanity is rampant, but it helps the reader to appreciate the insanity of reality. It is chaotic, and can be slow in some places where the emphasis is on the characters. It analyzes the human aspect of tragedy and teaches you to reflect on your own actions as well as those of humanity in general. Overall though, if you can understand the underlying meaning it is a great literary work.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was the first Vonnegut I read. It's still my favorite. Bokonon and everything that comes with him will lift a young reader miles above who they had been.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Vonnegut best work. Briliant mix of science fiction, humor, religion and philosophy. And the hebrew translation rocks too.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I love this book. It's everything great about Kurt Vonnegut--desperate and funny.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really liked this book.I record this impression for whatever it may be worth. "Write it all down," Bokonon tells us. He is really telling us, of course, how futile it is to write or read book reviews. "Without accurate records and ratings of everything you ever read, how can men and women be expected to tell good books from the bad ones?" he asks ironically. So, again: I really liked this book.You, non-Bokononist readers, consider this a recommendation.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Cat's Cradle is a sort of satire on religion, in the face of the apocalypse. The narrator travels to a small tropical island where all of the inhabitants practice the forbidden religion of Bokononism - a cross between secular humanism and a cheerful nihilism. Vonnegut writes a deceptively simple and witty story, that ends up packing a punch with regard to religion and philosophy
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A totally absurd book. I enjoyed every page!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Such a wonderful book, a must-read. The infinitely-quotable Bokonon and the countless other fascinating little ideas this novel presents make it probably my strongest recommendation of all the books in my library.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Third book for the readathon.

I don't know what went wrong with reading Vonnegut before, but I liked Cat's Cradle a lot more than The Sirens of Titan. The short chapters helped -- I'm guessing some people find it too fragmented, but I found that that helped draw me on. The tone of it helps, too: dry and ironic.

There's something about the background characters, like Bokonon and Hoenikker, that's pretty compelling, too. The idea of ice-nine, and the fake religion that makes so much sense... I remember liking the ideas behind The Sirens of Titan, so maybe it isn't so surprising that I enjoyed Cat's Cradle.

As with several other books I've read recently (notably, Poul Anderson's books), I was encouraged to read this by the references to it in Jo Walton's Among Others. Busy, busy, busy...
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I know this one came first, but having read Galapagos first, I kind of felt like Cat's Cradle was just a rehash, and I could sort of see where it was going. This also had a lot of the same themes and made a lot of the same points as a lot of his other books, and I think I'm just burned out on Vonnegut. I probably would have enjoyed this immensely had I read this before Galapagos, Breakfast of Champions, and Timequake.In theory, I think I actually liked Cat's Cradle better than Galapagos, but the latter is way out of left field and more to my taste. I definitely prefer the linear plot in Cat's Cradle, though.Cat's Cradle also had its share of ridiculous content, to be sure. Bokonism, a made-up religion, is used throughout to illustrate several points. An apocalypse comes at the end of the novel in one of the silliest scenarios I've ever seen, but if the technology existed, it would certainly be a plausible scenario. The characters also have their share of eccentricities, but this time around they were a bit too abrasive for my tastes.I also just felt restless the entire time I was reading it, which I'll admit is likely because I let any sort of greater point fly over my head. Much of the beginning of the book talks about research for a book the narrator wound up not writing, and much of the information gathered, with the exception of Ice-Nine and the introduction of the three siblings, winds up not having much bearing on the actual plot. It is entertaining though, the scientist was probably my favorite character due to his complete disregard of other people.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I know it is supposed to be a good book, but I found it off-puttingly anti-intellectual and couldn't like it.In the almost exact words used by one of the characters, the whole book seems aimed at getting us to admit that scientists are heartless, conscienceless, narrow boobies, indifferent to the fate of the rest of the human race, or maybe not really members of the human race at all.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Another great book by Vonnegut. I would recommend this book to anyone. A timeless classic.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Not nearly as good as I remember. Definitely a child of it's time. I first read this in the mid-seventies, and it seemed quite a revelation to a young, impressionable teenage boy. The 50-year old is not quite so impressed. Fun to re-read and re-live, but I don't think I'd recommend to friends or family. I guess you can never go home, as they say.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
For a very long time I found this book really really difficult to get into. The first half just seems like a huge mash of ideas, a chain of loosely connected anecdotes that I struggled through. The second half was much easier to follow, or maybe i just became accustomed to the writing style and I was soon really enjoying the book. It deals with some interesting themes: science, history, religion, ethics, culture, politics, population control. When I finished it, I flicked back to the beginning and found it much more meaningful (and enjoyable) the second time."Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, 'it might have been'" - pg174
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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