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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
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Humorously debates the issue of an ultimate weapon.read more
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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
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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