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Player Piano (1952), Vonnegut’s first novel, embeds and foreshadows themes which are to be parsed and dramatized by academians for centuries to come. His future society--a marginal extrapolation, Vonnegut wrote, of the situation he observed as an employee of General Electric in which machines were replacing people increasingly and without any regard for their fate--is mechanistic and cruel, indifferent to human consequence, almost in a state of merriment as human wreckage accumulates. Paul Proteus, the novel’s protagonist, is an engineer at Ilium Works and first observes with horror and then struggles to reverse the displacement of human labor by machines.

Ilium Works and Paul’s struggles are a deliberately cartoon version of labor’s historic and escalating struggle to give dignity and purpose to workers. The novel embodies all of Vonenegut’s concerns and what he takes to be the great dilemma of the technologically overpowered century: the spiritual needs of the population in no way serve the economies of technology and post-technology. Vonnegut overlies this grotesque comedy over tragedy, disguising his novel in the trappings of goofiness.

Not published--at Vonnegut’s insistence--as science fiction, the novel was nonetheless recognized and praised by the science fiction community which understood it far better than a more general readership, a dilemma which Vonnegut resentfully faced throughout his career. Bernard Wolfe’s dystopian Limbo and Player Pianowere published in the same year to roughly similar receptions; two “outsiders” had apotheosized technophobia as forcefully as any writer within the field. Throughout his career, Vonnegut was forced to struggle with his ambivalence about science fiction and his own equivocal relationship with its readers.

Topics: Futuristic, Dystopia, 20th Century, Postmodern, Black Humor, Debut, United States of America, Dark, Revolution, Funny, American Author, Robots, Capitalism, Humanism, and Speculative Fiction

Published: RosettaBooks on
ISBN: 9780795311970
List price: $8.99
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2.5/5

Trovo che Vonnegutt abbia scritto dei romanzi fantastici, questo suo primo lavoro, però, non raggiunge le vette toccate da Cat's Cradle etc..
L'idea: in una America del dopo guerra la società è retta dagli ingegneri che, ideando macchine di ogni genere, hanno reso facile la vita dell'uomo medio. Talmente facile che l'uomo medio non fa nulla, ci pensano le macchine. Vonnegut affronta l'aspetto sociologico di questo possibile futuro seguendo diverse figure: quella ricorrente di Paul, ingegnere senza attaccamento per il proprio lavoro, e altre, alcune sovversive, altre conservative.
L'idea è buona, però rispetto a altri romanzi dello scrittore la narrazione è sotto tono: manca l'enfatizzazione delle assurdità umane.

---
I think that Vonnegut wrote amazing novels, however this one is not good as Cat's Cradle etc..
The idea is that in a post-war America society is ruled by engineers who, creating every kind of machines, allowed an easy life to the whole population. In fact people do nothing at all since the machines provide to every need. Vonnegut analyses the sociologic point of view of this setting following various characters: Paul, an engineer who does not love his work anymore, and others, some subversive, some conservative.
The idea is good, but the narration could be much better: it lacks the emphasis on human absurd behavior.
more
Player Piano was Vonnegut's first novel, and while many of the themes that populate his work are present here the execution is lacking. Actually, less "lacking" and more "nonexistent." Probably the greatest problem with the work is that it is dystopian fiction, but the dystopia presented is not so much terrifying or brutal as boring and soul-sucking, populated with characters that are superficial and uninteresting. Well, it is hard to write an interesting plot about such an uninteresting society. Even in his greatest works, Vonnegut was never spectacular with characterization, relying instead on fantastical places and plot points. Lacking the fantastical, Player Piano just spins its wheels in place for pages and pages, with little action and nothing but the bland ruminations of Dr. Paul Proteus to attempt to entertain us. There are some amusing aside chapters about the tour of one Shah of Bratpuhr through the dystopian United States, but they don't have much to do with anything and end up repeating themselves before long. In the last 60 or so pages, Vonnegut attempts to pull together something resembling a plot, but it is far too late and everything comes together far too fast to seem plausible, and even then it ends not with bang but a whimper. I can only recommend Player Piano to the Vonnegut fan who must read everything. Everyone else should probably stay away.more
Perhaps a bit longer than it really needed to be, and a little less biting than the majority of his work, but I enjoyed it regardless.more
In this, Vonnegut's first novel, Dr. Paul Proteus lives in a futuristic dystopia in which everything is automated so that humans no longer have to work or even think except for the engineers and managers who have become the second highest class of society second only to the machines themselves. Meanwhile, a group of revolutionaries are trying to bring down this system in order to bring back pride and human dignity to those who have been replaced by machines. Despite having been written sixty years ago, I found this book to be very timely in an era in which many Americans have lost jobs to either machines or foreign workers. In many ways, Vonnegut's book is a very prescient look at our world today. This prescience extends beyond the loss of meaningful work for many Americans. Vonnegut also foresees many of the advancements that have been made in the tools we use in our everyday lives. For example, the non-engineering/managing class has been made content in the novel through having 40 inch TVs in every room, and their lives have been made easier through having "radar ranges," which are basically microwave ovens. In the novel, these things are provided for the populace in order to keep them content in the new role that machines play in society. It brings to mind how many Americans today are more interested in American Idol than in current events. Despite being his first novel, this book also does not lack any of Vonnegut's trademark wit and satire. There are parts that are laugh out loud funny, and Vonnegut is such a good story teller that I found that I could not put the book down for want of finding out what would happen next. This is typical of a Vonnegut novel for me, and it seems that he possessed this trait way back in 1952. While this novel may not be as famous as later novels such as "Slaughterhouse Five" or "Cat's Cradle," I found this novel to be every bit as engaging as those two.more
A very compelling read. Both sides of this conflict between "man" and "machine" are granted time represented in prose, situation, and character. I know many people consider this novel to be about dystopia resulting from the rise of machines (and that may have been the intent) but I think it is much more complicated than that. This book gives someone a lot to ponder beyond the advertised conflict; the mark of a good piece of fiction.more
This is a very unique story about a very crazy man. I miss himmore
I recently embarked on a quest to read or re-read all of Kurt Vonnegut's fiction, in roughly chronological order.I hit the wall with the second novel. PLAYER PIANO features some interesting 1984-ish concepts and explores questions of personal freedoms. But its pace is just too damned glacial. Vonnegut doesn't know when to stop.But I did. Onto the next novel.more
This might be my favorite Vonnegut novel, although it loses something for the author's masculine posturing and the negative caricatures of female characters throughout the book.more
I love Kurt Vonnegut but Player Piano, his first novel, just did not grab me. It's the old story of "machines and technology are evil and we would all be happier if we gave it all up and lived in rustic log cabins in the woods" and I have to say, no writer has ever sold me on that, not even Vonnegut. It's also a very slow novel, Vonnegut paints a detailed portrait of his dystopian future (although frankly it doesn't seem all that bad to me) but not much actually, really, happens.Anyways, the gist of Player Piano is that, in this future/alternate timeline only the really clever and educated people have jobs (programming and running machines, mostly) and the poor people who used to work in factories are "reduced" to being in the army, which is boring because there aren't any wars going on (how tragic!) or doing maintenance/construction work, which for some reason is a million times more horrible than working in a factory. Everyone gets a house and has all sorts of nifty robotic gadgets to help them with the chores, but this is really a bad thing because it is slowly corroding their souls, or something. I mean, what do women need free time for? Housework gives them a reason for being alive! (That, at least, appears to be the underlying message of Chapter 17.) The protagonist, Doctor Paul Proteus, a young man with a brilliant career following in his father's footsteps, begins to have doubts about their way of life. His friend, Finnerty is a non-conformer who takes things further than Paul is willing to and is much more interesting to read about. Finnerty also manages to make the only really valid argument against their society - that they have become prisoners to it and are incapable of acting out. He urges Paul to really shake things up, but Paul is only wants to buy a rundown farm with no electricity. "You shouldn't let fear of jail keep you from doing what you believe in.""Well, it doesn't." Paul reflected that the big trouble, really, was finding something to believe in. (p. 143)Anyways, I still love Kurt Vonnegut, but not this particular book. If this is your first Vonnegut book, do yourself a favor and pick up Slaughterhouse-Five instead.more
I love Vonnegut, but this one was pretty dated. Didn't hold up as well as most of his other stuff.more
I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan and have read a few of his works, Slaughter-House Five and The Sirens of Titan, and loved them. He is able to create stories that are, interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking. His style of writing rivals that of the best which only makes his works that much better. When given the opportunity to read a free choice novel in my English class and I found out one of the options was another book by Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano, it was an easy decision. In Player Piano the main character Paul Proteus is stuck in the middle of a society divided into the rich and well educated and the poor and undereducated. Paul runs a factory in Ilium, New York and he reflects upon the factory and its transition to a modernized and industrialized assembly line that does not require the work of humans because all the machines can run themselves. While reflecting he begins to see the flaws of what society is becoming and joins a group called the Ghost Shirt Society which is an organization that fights against the society to try and reverse what the society is becoming. Vonnegut, much like Huxley, analyzes the impact industrialization on society through his satirical work Player Piano. He portrays his opinion on how if society does not take action quickly all hope will be lost and humans will no longer play a role in society whatsoever. Player Piano is a dystopia however through the society’s actions the reader can see what can be done to prevent it from happening. While I did enjoy reading Player Piano it is not my favorite Vonnegut novel. I was not as impressed with his writing in this one, I feel that it was lacking, however this is one of the first novels Vonnegut wrote so it was interesting to see how he evolved as a writer having read The Sirens of Titan and Slaughter-House Five. I would recommend Player Piano but with a warning to not be expecting too much. Don’t get me wrong it is a good book but, in my opinion, not the best of Vonnegut’s works.more
This was my first Kurt Vonnegut book (other than Man Without a Country) and I was as happy with the book as I thought I would be. His witting style was very easy for me to read. I literally couldn't put this one down. I like the idea of technology causing problems. Even as technology friendly as I am I can see that someday there could be a meltdown and technology will be at the center of it.Mr. Vonnegut's look into the future, from the past, was very interesting. More so to see what his idea of technology in the future would be like, and to compare it to what really exists today.Being that this was my first Kurt Vonnegut book I am looking forward to reading even more.more
The most realistic vision of the future i've read so far.more
Vonnegut's first novel: the introduction to his brilliance as a thinker, writer and comedian. Player Piano is set in a futuristic America where the world is run by machines and social status/jobs are decided by computer-IQ tests. Main character and protagonist Paul Proteus is a genius whose intelligence has brought him to become a wealthy, upper class citizen of society. Proteus grew increasingly dissatisfied with what the world had become - a machine and industrialized center where human action was no longer needed. This life left him feeling unhappy and painfully useless, longing for a more complex lifestyle. Proteus's best friend Finnerty had similar feelings about society and became the radical rebel leader of the "Ghost Shirt Society," an organization who's goal was for humans to re-gain control of this now machine-run world. Because of Finnerty's finagling, Paul found himself the new leader of this Ghost Shirt Society (once again, he was the most intelligent individual involved). The Ghost Shirt Society rebels, attempting to take over the machines that run mankind. They ultimately fail, even having acted upon their beliefs. The leaders of the Ghost Shirt Society realize it is impossible to take over what the world has already become, and finally subject themselves to the authorities of society. Player Piano is a story of a "techno-utopia" where machines have ultimately replaced the human mind. Vonnegut wrote satirically about a world consumed with technology, everyone in a way predestined to their lives and jobs- every bit of intellect being gauged by an IQ test. It is clear that Vonnegut's view of utopia is the opposite of what this futuristic society represents. He used Paul as the protagonist, attempting to re-create the actual dystopian environment he was living in. Like Huxley, Vonnegut writes to warn the reader that technology, machines, and consumerism are taking over. He satirizes the society, but the daunting elements of reality are what open the eyes of the reader. I rated this novel a 3.5/5. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it, though, because I did. I couldn't give it more stars because there are novels that I've become more wrapped up in than this one. I drew a lot of parallels between Huxley's Brave New World and Player Piano, which I read at the same time. This may have been a factor in my partial-dissatisfaction. However, having read three utopian novels in the past few months, I've really grown able to pick out the utopian and dystopian aspects of the story, and I've learned how to realize what message the author is advocating/teaching. Having read other books of his, Vonnegut truly is a brilliant writer. I recommend this book to someone who will enjoy a futuristic, satirical book that opens your eyes to what the world actually may be becoming... scary!more
You could see Vonnegut's genius in his first novel.On a blog I read, the Devil Vet's been thinking about hope and hopelessness in dystopian fiction. I think Player Piano is good example of how hope plays into dystopian narratives. The Ghost Shirt Society of the book rises in rebellion against the soul-numbing mechanized society even though they know they will fail. Why? Simply to show that it can be done. That there can be light at the end of that tunnel, if power is wrested from the managers and engineers who hold it in that society. "Hope in hopelessness" indeed.But then, that's one of Vonnegut's favorite themes (literally from the beginning, as we see) to kick around. You might have the whole world against you, you might know from the beginning that stretching your wings will just result in being shot out of the sky, but the exercise of whatever freedom you can snatch is worth the fall.Of course, he didn't rely simply on ideas. The man could spin a yarn. The whole section of the book where Proteus has to go on an annual weekend team-spirit-building retreat had me chuckling through my anger. I hate that kind of workaday pep rally crap, and that particular scenario sounds like my idea of four days of hell. And the chapter in which Proteus buys a small, old school farm - thinking that will calm his need to get out of the "we are all cogs" system - and his wife takes it completely the wrong way sort of broke my heart. Though, I have to admit, I felt some for the wife - it's not like he spent any time communicating his feelings or situation to her.The running thread of the Shah of Bratpuhr touring the US, with his guide in more and more dire straits, was a nice touch. Sometimes that kind of show-and-tell subplot can feel tacked on or unnecessary, but Vonnegut's storytelling allowed it to weave in and out of the major action.final thought: No surprise, I agree with him. If you take away a person's chance to do for themselves, you take away a major reason to get out of bed every morning. I'm not saying we all have to work hard or die. I'm just saying, yeah, we all need that feeling of dignity that honest work can provide, whether for decent wages or just for our own benefit.more
Through the perils and necessities of war, America has become a thoroughly automated, thoroughly class-divided society: the high-IQ, PhD carrying managers and engineers run the production lines (that is, they supervise the machinery) while the average citizen (low IQed) lives comfortably in his or her prepackaged, government subsidized home. While you might scoff at the idea of your entire life being determined solely on the result of a few test scores (and subject to the rigidity of machine logic), don't fret: everyone gets a television. The American dream.Paul Proteus, the illustrious manager of the Ilium works and son of a national hero of wartime industry, loses touch with the spirit of the age. He is disillusioned with the idea that machines make life better: that the increasingly mechanized/automated aspects of human life increase the quality thereof. Though he has never known life without machines, he instinctively feels mankind (though, decidedly not womankind, as the novel lacks any strong female character) has lost part of its essence, its definitiveness.The picture of an entirely automated existence where every citizen's lifestyle is maintained (read: checked) through a complex infrastructure of machinery originally appealed to me. As a blogger/ gmail/ greader/ google doc/ twitter/ facebook/ digsby/ ff3/ google desktop/ obsessively-GTD user, I understandably was drawn to Vonnegut's post-bellum world. But so much potential was lost on me after the first 100 pages. The story develops slowly and only begins to draw momentum toward the final chapters. Although a slow-paced narrative could easily be overcome through complex characterization or philosophical musing, Vonnegut (characteristic of his later style) attempts neither. The figure of Paul, unlike the stably stoic Billy Pilgrim, shimmers hazily just on the edge of the narrative, haphazardly jumping into the spotlight from time to time to assert... well, nothing consistent. At best, he's a Prufrock, and a mildly-placid one at that.Glancing over the reviews of the work on LibraryThing, many readers think this early work permits glimpses of a future style characteristic of Vonnegut. Indeed. I would go further to say that Player Piano tries to hard to be not-Vonnegut. This resistance to that later style results in a thinly spread novel that tries in spite of its creator to pull back upon itself.more
One of his earlier books. a 50's dystopia. Quite prophetic in some waysmore
One of Vonnegut's early works. You can see where he is heading, and you can see how good a writer he really will turn out to be, but you can also he that he ain't there yet.more
This is my favorite Vonnegut book. I think it was his first? The book is about a world in which most of the labor done in the world is done by machines. (think factory machines, not computers) There are class divisions between those who are smart and control the machines, and those who are out of work, because there is no work to do. Then, all hell breaks loose. MWA HA HA.more
Not quite vintage Vonnegut but a great novel nonetheless. As an earlier work you can see that his genious hasn't quite fully come together but is nearly there. In our modern age it is a little dated, with computers using punch cards and vacuum tubes, but the message is not lostmore
Vonnegut's first novel. Doesn't have the brilliance of his later work, but this is still a great, though-provoking satire about extreme bureaucracies.more
Vonnegut's first novel is my personal favorite. Delicious satire of machine dominated, practical America, over-education, the lust for titles, false hopes, failed rebellion and living up to your family's expectations. This former "underground" classic has become more relevant with the advent of cell phone drivers and the internet obsessed.more
One of the best anti-technology books I know of; right up there with Frankenstein.more
Read all 25 reviews

Reviews

2.5/5

Trovo che Vonnegutt abbia scritto dei romanzi fantastici, questo suo primo lavoro, però, non raggiunge le vette toccate da Cat's Cradle etc..
L'idea: in una America del dopo guerra la società è retta dagli ingegneri che, ideando macchine di ogni genere, hanno reso facile la vita dell'uomo medio. Talmente facile che l'uomo medio non fa nulla, ci pensano le macchine. Vonnegut affronta l'aspetto sociologico di questo possibile futuro seguendo diverse figure: quella ricorrente di Paul, ingegnere senza attaccamento per il proprio lavoro, e altre, alcune sovversive, altre conservative.
L'idea è buona, però rispetto a altri romanzi dello scrittore la narrazione è sotto tono: manca l'enfatizzazione delle assurdità umane.

---
I think that Vonnegut wrote amazing novels, however this one is not good as Cat's Cradle etc..
The idea is that in a post-war America society is ruled by engineers who, creating every kind of machines, allowed an easy life to the whole population. In fact people do nothing at all since the machines provide to every need. Vonnegut analyses the sociologic point of view of this setting following various characters: Paul, an engineer who does not love his work anymore, and others, some subversive, some conservative.
The idea is good, but the narration could be much better: it lacks the emphasis on human absurd behavior.
more
Player Piano was Vonnegut's first novel, and while many of the themes that populate his work are present here the execution is lacking. Actually, less "lacking" and more "nonexistent." Probably the greatest problem with the work is that it is dystopian fiction, but the dystopia presented is not so much terrifying or brutal as boring and soul-sucking, populated with characters that are superficial and uninteresting. Well, it is hard to write an interesting plot about such an uninteresting society. Even in his greatest works, Vonnegut was never spectacular with characterization, relying instead on fantastical places and plot points. Lacking the fantastical, Player Piano just spins its wheels in place for pages and pages, with little action and nothing but the bland ruminations of Dr. Paul Proteus to attempt to entertain us. There are some amusing aside chapters about the tour of one Shah of Bratpuhr through the dystopian United States, but they don't have much to do with anything and end up repeating themselves before long. In the last 60 or so pages, Vonnegut attempts to pull together something resembling a plot, but it is far too late and everything comes together far too fast to seem plausible, and even then it ends not with bang but a whimper. I can only recommend Player Piano to the Vonnegut fan who must read everything. Everyone else should probably stay away.more
Perhaps a bit longer than it really needed to be, and a little less biting than the majority of his work, but I enjoyed it regardless.more
In this, Vonnegut's first novel, Dr. Paul Proteus lives in a futuristic dystopia in which everything is automated so that humans no longer have to work or even think except for the engineers and managers who have become the second highest class of society second only to the machines themselves. Meanwhile, a group of revolutionaries are trying to bring down this system in order to bring back pride and human dignity to those who have been replaced by machines. Despite having been written sixty years ago, I found this book to be very timely in an era in which many Americans have lost jobs to either machines or foreign workers. In many ways, Vonnegut's book is a very prescient look at our world today. This prescience extends beyond the loss of meaningful work for many Americans. Vonnegut also foresees many of the advancements that have been made in the tools we use in our everyday lives. For example, the non-engineering/managing class has been made content in the novel through having 40 inch TVs in every room, and their lives have been made easier through having "radar ranges," which are basically microwave ovens. In the novel, these things are provided for the populace in order to keep them content in the new role that machines play in society. It brings to mind how many Americans today are more interested in American Idol than in current events. Despite being his first novel, this book also does not lack any of Vonnegut's trademark wit and satire. There are parts that are laugh out loud funny, and Vonnegut is such a good story teller that I found that I could not put the book down for want of finding out what would happen next. This is typical of a Vonnegut novel for me, and it seems that he possessed this trait way back in 1952. While this novel may not be as famous as later novels such as "Slaughterhouse Five" or "Cat's Cradle," I found this novel to be every bit as engaging as those two.more
A very compelling read. Both sides of this conflict between "man" and "machine" are granted time represented in prose, situation, and character. I know many people consider this novel to be about dystopia resulting from the rise of machines (and that may have been the intent) but I think it is much more complicated than that. This book gives someone a lot to ponder beyond the advertised conflict; the mark of a good piece of fiction.more
This is a very unique story about a very crazy man. I miss himmore
I recently embarked on a quest to read or re-read all of Kurt Vonnegut's fiction, in roughly chronological order.I hit the wall with the second novel. PLAYER PIANO features some interesting 1984-ish concepts and explores questions of personal freedoms. But its pace is just too damned glacial. Vonnegut doesn't know when to stop.But I did. Onto the next novel.more
This might be my favorite Vonnegut novel, although it loses something for the author's masculine posturing and the negative caricatures of female characters throughout the book.more
I love Kurt Vonnegut but Player Piano, his first novel, just did not grab me. It's the old story of "machines and technology are evil and we would all be happier if we gave it all up and lived in rustic log cabins in the woods" and I have to say, no writer has ever sold me on that, not even Vonnegut. It's also a very slow novel, Vonnegut paints a detailed portrait of his dystopian future (although frankly it doesn't seem all that bad to me) but not much actually, really, happens.Anyways, the gist of Player Piano is that, in this future/alternate timeline only the really clever and educated people have jobs (programming and running machines, mostly) and the poor people who used to work in factories are "reduced" to being in the army, which is boring because there aren't any wars going on (how tragic!) or doing maintenance/construction work, which for some reason is a million times more horrible than working in a factory. Everyone gets a house and has all sorts of nifty robotic gadgets to help them with the chores, but this is really a bad thing because it is slowly corroding their souls, or something. I mean, what do women need free time for? Housework gives them a reason for being alive! (That, at least, appears to be the underlying message of Chapter 17.) The protagonist, Doctor Paul Proteus, a young man with a brilliant career following in his father's footsteps, begins to have doubts about their way of life. His friend, Finnerty is a non-conformer who takes things further than Paul is willing to and is much more interesting to read about. Finnerty also manages to make the only really valid argument against their society - that they have become prisoners to it and are incapable of acting out. He urges Paul to really shake things up, but Paul is only wants to buy a rundown farm with no electricity. "You shouldn't let fear of jail keep you from doing what you believe in.""Well, it doesn't." Paul reflected that the big trouble, really, was finding something to believe in. (p. 143)Anyways, I still love Kurt Vonnegut, but not this particular book. If this is your first Vonnegut book, do yourself a favor and pick up Slaughterhouse-Five instead.more
I love Vonnegut, but this one was pretty dated. Didn't hold up as well as most of his other stuff.more
I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan and have read a few of his works, Slaughter-House Five and The Sirens of Titan, and loved them. He is able to create stories that are, interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking. His style of writing rivals that of the best which only makes his works that much better. When given the opportunity to read a free choice novel in my English class and I found out one of the options was another book by Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano, it was an easy decision. In Player Piano the main character Paul Proteus is stuck in the middle of a society divided into the rich and well educated and the poor and undereducated. Paul runs a factory in Ilium, New York and he reflects upon the factory and its transition to a modernized and industrialized assembly line that does not require the work of humans because all the machines can run themselves. While reflecting he begins to see the flaws of what society is becoming and joins a group called the Ghost Shirt Society which is an organization that fights against the society to try and reverse what the society is becoming. Vonnegut, much like Huxley, analyzes the impact industrialization on society through his satirical work Player Piano. He portrays his opinion on how if society does not take action quickly all hope will be lost and humans will no longer play a role in society whatsoever. Player Piano is a dystopia however through the society’s actions the reader can see what can be done to prevent it from happening. While I did enjoy reading Player Piano it is not my favorite Vonnegut novel. I was not as impressed with his writing in this one, I feel that it was lacking, however this is one of the first novels Vonnegut wrote so it was interesting to see how he evolved as a writer having read The Sirens of Titan and Slaughter-House Five. I would recommend Player Piano but with a warning to not be expecting too much. Don’t get me wrong it is a good book but, in my opinion, not the best of Vonnegut’s works.more
This was my first Kurt Vonnegut book (other than Man Without a Country) and I was as happy with the book as I thought I would be. His witting style was very easy for me to read. I literally couldn't put this one down. I like the idea of technology causing problems. Even as technology friendly as I am I can see that someday there could be a meltdown and technology will be at the center of it.Mr. Vonnegut's look into the future, from the past, was very interesting. More so to see what his idea of technology in the future would be like, and to compare it to what really exists today.Being that this was my first Kurt Vonnegut book I am looking forward to reading even more.more
The most realistic vision of the future i've read so far.more
Vonnegut's first novel: the introduction to his brilliance as a thinker, writer and comedian. Player Piano is set in a futuristic America where the world is run by machines and social status/jobs are decided by computer-IQ tests. Main character and protagonist Paul Proteus is a genius whose intelligence has brought him to become a wealthy, upper class citizen of society. Proteus grew increasingly dissatisfied with what the world had become - a machine and industrialized center where human action was no longer needed. This life left him feeling unhappy and painfully useless, longing for a more complex lifestyle. Proteus's best friend Finnerty had similar feelings about society and became the radical rebel leader of the "Ghost Shirt Society," an organization who's goal was for humans to re-gain control of this now machine-run world. Because of Finnerty's finagling, Paul found himself the new leader of this Ghost Shirt Society (once again, he was the most intelligent individual involved). The Ghost Shirt Society rebels, attempting to take over the machines that run mankind. They ultimately fail, even having acted upon their beliefs. The leaders of the Ghost Shirt Society realize it is impossible to take over what the world has already become, and finally subject themselves to the authorities of society. Player Piano is a story of a "techno-utopia" where machines have ultimately replaced the human mind. Vonnegut wrote satirically about a world consumed with technology, everyone in a way predestined to their lives and jobs- every bit of intellect being gauged by an IQ test. It is clear that Vonnegut's view of utopia is the opposite of what this futuristic society represents. He used Paul as the protagonist, attempting to re-create the actual dystopian environment he was living in. Like Huxley, Vonnegut writes to warn the reader that technology, machines, and consumerism are taking over. He satirizes the society, but the daunting elements of reality are what open the eyes of the reader. I rated this novel a 3.5/5. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it, though, because I did. I couldn't give it more stars because there are novels that I've become more wrapped up in than this one. I drew a lot of parallels between Huxley's Brave New World and Player Piano, which I read at the same time. This may have been a factor in my partial-dissatisfaction. However, having read three utopian novels in the past few months, I've really grown able to pick out the utopian and dystopian aspects of the story, and I've learned how to realize what message the author is advocating/teaching. Having read other books of his, Vonnegut truly is a brilliant writer. I recommend this book to someone who will enjoy a futuristic, satirical book that opens your eyes to what the world actually may be becoming... scary!more
You could see Vonnegut's genius in his first novel.On a blog I read, the Devil Vet's been thinking about hope and hopelessness in dystopian fiction. I think Player Piano is good example of how hope plays into dystopian narratives. The Ghost Shirt Society of the book rises in rebellion against the soul-numbing mechanized society even though they know they will fail. Why? Simply to show that it can be done. That there can be light at the end of that tunnel, if power is wrested from the managers and engineers who hold it in that society. "Hope in hopelessness" indeed.But then, that's one of Vonnegut's favorite themes (literally from the beginning, as we see) to kick around. You might have the whole world against you, you might know from the beginning that stretching your wings will just result in being shot out of the sky, but the exercise of whatever freedom you can snatch is worth the fall.Of course, he didn't rely simply on ideas. The man could spin a yarn. The whole section of the book where Proteus has to go on an annual weekend team-spirit-building retreat had me chuckling through my anger. I hate that kind of workaday pep rally crap, and that particular scenario sounds like my idea of four days of hell. And the chapter in which Proteus buys a small, old school farm - thinking that will calm his need to get out of the "we are all cogs" system - and his wife takes it completely the wrong way sort of broke my heart. Though, I have to admit, I felt some for the wife - it's not like he spent any time communicating his feelings or situation to her.The running thread of the Shah of Bratpuhr touring the US, with his guide in more and more dire straits, was a nice touch. Sometimes that kind of show-and-tell subplot can feel tacked on or unnecessary, but Vonnegut's storytelling allowed it to weave in and out of the major action.final thought: No surprise, I agree with him. If you take away a person's chance to do for themselves, you take away a major reason to get out of bed every morning. I'm not saying we all have to work hard or die. I'm just saying, yeah, we all need that feeling of dignity that honest work can provide, whether for decent wages or just for our own benefit.more
Through the perils and necessities of war, America has become a thoroughly automated, thoroughly class-divided society: the high-IQ, PhD carrying managers and engineers run the production lines (that is, they supervise the machinery) while the average citizen (low IQed) lives comfortably in his or her prepackaged, government subsidized home. While you might scoff at the idea of your entire life being determined solely on the result of a few test scores (and subject to the rigidity of machine logic), don't fret: everyone gets a television. The American dream.Paul Proteus, the illustrious manager of the Ilium works and son of a national hero of wartime industry, loses touch with the spirit of the age. He is disillusioned with the idea that machines make life better: that the increasingly mechanized/automated aspects of human life increase the quality thereof. Though he has never known life without machines, he instinctively feels mankind (though, decidedly not womankind, as the novel lacks any strong female character) has lost part of its essence, its definitiveness.The picture of an entirely automated existence where every citizen's lifestyle is maintained (read: checked) through a complex infrastructure of machinery originally appealed to me. As a blogger/ gmail/ greader/ google doc/ twitter/ facebook/ digsby/ ff3/ google desktop/ obsessively-GTD user, I understandably was drawn to Vonnegut's post-bellum world. But so much potential was lost on me after the first 100 pages. The story develops slowly and only begins to draw momentum toward the final chapters. Although a slow-paced narrative could easily be overcome through complex characterization or philosophical musing, Vonnegut (characteristic of his later style) attempts neither. The figure of Paul, unlike the stably stoic Billy Pilgrim, shimmers hazily just on the edge of the narrative, haphazardly jumping into the spotlight from time to time to assert... well, nothing consistent. At best, he's a Prufrock, and a mildly-placid one at that.Glancing over the reviews of the work on LibraryThing, many readers think this early work permits glimpses of a future style characteristic of Vonnegut. Indeed. I would go further to say that Player Piano tries to hard to be not-Vonnegut. This resistance to that later style results in a thinly spread novel that tries in spite of its creator to pull back upon itself.more
One of his earlier books. a 50's dystopia. Quite prophetic in some waysmore
One of Vonnegut's early works. You can see where he is heading, and you can see how good a writer he really will turn out to be, but you can also he that he ain't there yet.more
This is my favorite Vonnegut book. I think it was his first? The book is about a world in which most of the labor done in the world is done by machines. (think factory machines, not computers) There are class divisions between those who are smart and control the machines, and those who are out of work, because there is no work to do. Then, all hell breaks loose. MWA HA HA.more
Not quite vintage Vonnegut but a great novel nonetheless. As an earlier work you can see that his genious hasn't quite fully come together but is nearly there. In our modern age it is a little dated, with computers using punch cards and vacuum tubes, but the message is not lostmore
Vonnegut's first novel. Doesn't have the brilliance of his later work, but this is still a great, though-provoking satire about extreme bureaucracies.more
Vonnegut's first novel is my personal favorite. Delicious satire of machine dominated, practical America, over-education, the lust for titles, false hopes, failed rebellion and living up to your family's expectations. This former "underground" classic has become more relevant with the advent of cell phone drivers and the internet obsessed.more
One of the best anti-technology books I know of; right up there with Frankenstein.more
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