Yup, we’ve got that one

And more than one million more. Become a member today and read free for two weeks.

Read free for two weeks

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 May 1, 1971
ISBN: 9780795311970
List price: $8.99
Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
Availability for Player Piano
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.
Clear rating

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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Read all reviews

Reviews

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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
One of his earlier books. a 50's dystopia. Quite prophetic in some ways
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
One of the best anti-technology books I know of; right up there with Frankenstein.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Load more
scribd