I have begun my endeavor to read a series of classic books, so that I can fully appreciate and understand the cultural growth and development the industry and art has undergone. I want to be weller read, to put it bluntly. So I bought the classic masterpiece entitled Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Let me first tell you the accolades that adorn this book’s jacket: it was ranked number 18 on the all-time most influential and best literary works of the last century. One of the best and most important books ever written. So clearly we’re not dealing with a lightweight here. And I also happened to luck into this one, as it just happens to be about time travel. I felt like reading this book would be like killing one bird with two stones! I was excited to curl up by my virtual fire with my new eBook Reader and delve into this imaginary world of time travel and literary prowess.
I should just go ahead and end the review there, because everything great I have to say about the book is just parroting what others have already said. But just like one can say the phrase “nice things about the IRS” no one can actually say nice things about the IRS. Yeah I said those great things about this book. But I was merely quoting. I don’t feel that way myself. And it’s a damn shame. I was so excited to participate in something so grand that so many millions of people have read! But here’s my little secret that I shall now share with you, dear reader: I think most people voted this book five stars because they’ve seen the ratings it already has. And they didn’t get it either. So as not to sound like a moron, or not seem intellectual, or – perhaps even more plausible – not to sound like they don’t ‘get it’, they jumped on the bandwagon. Clearly, ten hundred million people can’t be wrong! You didn’t think the book was a masterpiece? Well, aha! You just don’t get it.
Well, I’ve never considered myself a stupid guy. In fact, I’m quite happy with the way I’ve turned out intellectually. I’ve gotten myself out of some tough places with nothing more than thought and words. I never finished college, but somehow made it in this world, and worked my way up in an industry to come to this point in my life where I’m making pretty good money. I don’t want to brag, but I’m making five figures, guys. Yeah. Clearly, no lightweight myself! Seriously though. I guess I’m an idiot. Because I don’t get it. I won’t go kissing Vonnegut’s ass just because it’s not the cool thing to do. And listen, maybe he’s a great guy, who wrote some really good literature. Shrug. Well if he has, I’ve not read it. I have read Slaughterhouse-Five.
The time travel part of it has to do with how the lead character bounces around in different times of his life. While it sounds like a sound basis for a science-fiction book, it was actually quite pointless in this story. It really had no bearing on the intensity of the story. Perhaps he was just trying to get it listed as a science-fiction work and so he had to throw some time-travel in there. I don’t know. But it ended up being useless as a plot device. There was no reason for it to be in there, and the book would have survived just fine without it.
Secondly, the protagonist is abducted by aliens and taken to another planet, and put in a zoo where he is on display, naked, waltzing around in a living room mock-up. Wait. What? Why? Once again, it had no real bearing on the story, and the story itself could have survived just fine without it. This seemed like a real stretch here, like the publisher said, “Okay we got the time-travel bits in there, but it needs one more sci-fi element to make it complete. Aha! How about…” and so on.
The underlying story was supposed to be about the fire-bombing of Dresden during the second World War. So get to it, Mr. Vonnegut. That’s what I say. I was sorely disappointed, and found myself shaking my head in shame, once again sad and disgusted with collective humanity for pushing this one to the top, when it very clearly is just a big pile of shit. Go ahead and flame me with comments about how I just don’t get it, and how I’m not bright enough to understand the political stances it takes against war, or how it’s a cultural cornerstone because the lead is a weakling… Whatever. I’m betting ninety-percent of those who actually enjoyed this book are far less intelligent than they would have you believe. And I’m betting none of them could actually tell you what the hell was so important about it. And why it was so “great”. And what thematic elements really brought it to life on the page.
No, it’s likely they’re all just up-voting it so they can fit in with all the other elitist wanna-be intellectuals who buy their IQ with a MENSA membership. This was a waste of paper, and aside from some light humor was a complete waste of time. I really thought that having such a high rating would at least guarantee it to be in the top hundred books I’ve ever read. Or maybe in the top ten. Maybe just good. I was wrong. Sorry, guys. If I let you down and I have to join the dumb club, that’s okay. But I’ll take my dumb books with me. Leave this one for the smart guys.
Based on my world-famous rating system, I’ve rated this book as follows:
Storytelling: 1 star. Seriously, Kurt Vonnegut? You’re one of the best of all time? Then why did I have to go back and re-read the entire first chapter to get that it was you who was narrating? Most authors call that a “Foreword”. Compound noun. Fore, word. Ahead of, word. Comes at the beginning of the book. Allows you to introduce the story, and set the reader up for what he’s about to encounter. Chapter one is where you set the voice. If you set the voice as a narrative, then chapter two starts by changing it entirely, you’ve just kicked about 99% of your readers out of the story in the first three thousand words. The other one percent don’t matter: they’re the ones who will be saying it’s great just to fit in.
Another word on voice: once your voice is set and the story is moving, please don’t keep popping your head in to remind me I’m reading a book. When you say things like, “That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book,” it really makes me feel deserted. I’ve just been taken to another world, engaged in the story, believing I’m in this world with these characters and I’ve involved in the story. And then the author yanks back the curtain and says, “Oh, that dude in the red shirt there? That’s me! Just so you know. You enjoying the story?” Don’t ever talk to me. Let your characters do that.
Storyline: 2 stars. Here’s where I am being generous. I’m giving Mr. Vonnegut two stars because I feel the story could have been a good one, had it been told better. The story itself wasn’t terrible. I mean, okay, so not only does this skinny idiot time-travel constantly, he also gets transported to another planet. Of course he does. How sweet, little Jeremy. That’s a great story! Your whole second-grade class will just LOVE that! Yeah. Maybe it should be one-and-a-half stars. But no, seriously. Stephen King gets good story marks because he can take a shitty story and tell it really well! He makes you forget it was a terrible storyline to begin with! Shame on you, Mr. Vonnegut!
Writing: 3.5 stars. I had no real problem with Kurt Vonnegut’s grammar, or use of the English language. He seemed to have pretty good control of it. No real complaints here. Colloquialisms and cliches though, should be kept to a minimum. So it goes.
Sigh. With all that said, this was a pretty darn book. I left out the adjective in that sentence because I just don’t want to be mean and rub it in. Let’s just move on to the next book. Hopefully it’s not one of the “Best Literary Masterpieces of the Century”. For Benjamin’s sake, let me just read one written for the masses.