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Vonnegut was in his early sixties and his career, still successful, drawing toward a kind of bitter summation when Galapagos (1985) was published. His early work with its unequivocal statement of absurdity and hopelessness was now almost four decades behind when he completed this meditation on Darwinism, fate and the essential irrelevance of the human condition.

Humanity has in the millions of years after inevitable holocaust and exile transmogrified into a race of not-quite-human seals on Darwin’s Galapagos Islands. Leon Trotsky Trout, the son of Vonnegut’s wretched familiar character Kilgore Trout, watches and broods over his no-longer-human descendants who have made natural selection a matter of debased survivalism.

Using a device common in his novels after Slaughterhouse-Five, the material is presented in the form of a transcript or memoir; Trout unhappily witnesses a sad outcome which may nonetheless represent the best of all human possibilities. Trout’s father Kilgore, in ghostly form, remains in communication, urging his son to cease observing and exit, but Leon will not take the opportunity, feeling linked to the pathetic, morphed shards of humanity who remain on the Islands. Whether the survival of the seals constitutes human survival, whether Kilgore and his son are imaginary fragments of evolutionary decay lurk as questions beneath a sequence of events which show Vonnegut trapped in the Age of Reagan.

Vonnegut is trying to see through (rather than to shape) his material; the theme of the novel represents a kind of apotheosis and never has Vonnegut’s ambiguous despair been more clearly revealed or more clearly made the engine of his narrative.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut’s audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut’s work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut’s work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut’s reputation (like Mark Twain’s) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.

ABOUT THE SERIES

Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut’s World War II POW experience) and Cat’s Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut’s work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut’s work as well as newcomers.

Topics: Island, Ecuador, Speculative Fiction, Black Humor, Adventurous, Dark, Funny, Futuristic, Evolution, Apocalypse, Dystopia, Animals, Ghosts, Humanism, Postmodern, and 20th Century

Published: RosettaBooks on Jan 21, 1984
ISBN: 9780795318986
List price: $8.99
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This is a peppy science fiction book of sorts by Vonnegut. His narrator, a ghost, discusses the history, antecedents, trials and travails of the last seven humans to escape dying on earth, as they travel to the Galapagos Islands. As the ghost has been forced to live one million years into the 'future', he tells the tale at the end of this time, with the knowledge of the outcome of the 'end of the world' that wasn't, one million years before.Using a metaphor of humans having much bigger brains than the 1 million year later inhabitants, Vonnegut provides a social critique of everything from alcohol to lying to many other human behaviors causing misery and pain in our contemporary world. The book is a fast read, and while fantastical, doesn't go overboard.read more
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Like the best science fiction it has so many interesting ideas explored and tantalised through a compelling story line. I wonder about Vonnegut's mental state while writing this, it is just so black and dark, did he try to take the black view of humanity to such an extreme to show it's folly or it's fact? I'm not sure which. Just so right to see the birthplace of evolutionary theory as the deathplace of humanity by that very action.read more
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KV at his best. All the world infertile, a fictional island in the Galapagos one million years in the past (1986 of course), and the ghost of the son of Kilgore Trout.read more
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Reviews

This is a peppy science fiction book of sorts by Vonnegut. His narrator, a ghost, discusses the history, antecedents, trials and travails of the last seven humans to escape dying on earth, as they travel to the Galapagos Islands. As the ghost has been forced to live one million years into the 'future', he tells the tale at the end of this time, with the knowledge of the outcome of the 'end of the world' that wasn't, one million years before.Using a metaphor of humans having much bigger brains than the 1 million year later inhabitants, Vonnegut provides a social critique of everything from alcohol to lying to many other human behaviors causing misery and pain in our contemporary world. The book is a fast read, and while fantastical, doesn't go overboard.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Like the best science fiction it has so many interesting ideas explored and tantalised through a compelling story line. I wonder about Vonnegut's mental state while writing this, it is just so black and dark, did he try to take the black view of humanity to such an extreme to show it's folly or it's fact? I'm not sure which. Just so right to see the birthplace of evolutionary theory as the deathplace of humanity by that very action.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
KV at his best. All the world infertile, a fictional island in the Galapagos one million years in the past (1986 of course), and the ghost of the son of Kilgore Trout.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In this wondrously funny and enlightening book Vonnegut gives a simple explanation for all the troubles of humanity: our brains are too big to be practical. The solution? Evolve smaller, more "streamline" brains. Read this book; it is one of the best books of one of the best authors that this overcrowded, sick, dying planet has to offer. I would also like to note that although Vonnegut does have a sense of dark humor and his satirical novels often poke fun at the direction of humanity, he also gives us a hopeful message for the future of human kind, although these messages are often delivered in a backhanded, disguised manner.Simply wonderful, thought-provoking, and inspiring.
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This was a fun read. Vonnegut's creativity surprises me over and over again.Galapagos feels more in the vein of Cat's Cradle (sci-fi-y) than Breakfast of Champions, for example, though the usual Midland City suspects definitely make cameos.
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I suppose that I should start by saying that this is among the saddest reviews that I have ever written. Throughout my high school and college years, Kurt Vonnegut was one of my literary heroes. I voraciously consumed everything he wrote and spent countless hours discussing his clever wordplay and the intricacies of his ideas (or at least my perceptions of those ideas) with all of my friends who were similarly smitten. However, like most love affairs from that time in one’s life, the ardor soon cooled and I had stopped reading the author’s work altogether before he published Galapagos. Indeed, it was only when I was on the verge of my own trip to the Galapagos Islands some 25 years later that I decided to read the novel. Whether driven by nostalgia for the past or a simple attempt to pair my passions for travel and literature, it was a decision that did not end as well as I had hoped.I suspect that Vonnegut intended this to be work of meta-fiction: a straightforward science fiction story wrapped inside of an Important Message about the foibles of human nature. However, Galapagos fails badly in both respects. The plot involves a ghost from a million years in the future—the son of Kilgore Trout, for fans of the author—who observes the ill-fated outcome of a much-ballyhooed “Nature Cruise of the Century” from the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands where Charles Darwin first began his ruminations on what would become the theory of Natural Selection. This is truly thin stuff that is simply uninteresting and, worse, poorly conceived. In fact, the only purpose the narrative seems to serve is to promote the author’s main argument that the “big brains” humans possessed in the late-20th century were the source of all of the world’s problems and that mankind could not survive until it evolved into a simpler life form. However, such a tired argument holds little substance, which does not stop the author from repeating it scores of times throughout the book.I wish that I had read this novel when it was first published in 1985 for two reasons. First, reading it more than a quarter-century later, the book felt hopelessly dated with its integral references to celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Johnny Carson whose stars have long since faded. Of course, as Jane Austen and Gustave Flaubert have proven, it is possible to write stories that still seem fresh today despite the words on the page being centuries old; unfortunately, Vonnegut’s work does not stand the test of time in that way. Second, I really wonder if I would have found Galapagos to be compelling—or even liked it at all—if I had read it back when it may have seemed new and insightful. Sadly, given its simplistic, heavy-handed message and repetitive use of foreshadowing, I suspect that the answer to that question is “no”. Reading this novel, then, was ultimately just a reminder that the ship of fiction that Vonnegut guided sailed away for me a long time ago.
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