Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

At the risk of falling out of favor with the hip, college-kid crowd, I don’t think Vonnegut is all that great. He is a prime example of hype gone bad. People talk about Vonnegut like he is some kind of genius or god, or some kind of god-genius, or a god who is really smart. The combinations of ways that people talk about him are seemingly endless.

I have only read two of Vonnegut’s books, so how much can I really say? Well, I can say that I found both to be interesting, generally well-written, and perhaps most importantly, humorous. However, neither bowled me over, as I was led to believe they would by so many people.

Cat’s Cradle was recommended to me by a few people after I read A Man without a Country. In Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut tells the fictionalized story of Dr. Hoenikker, the scientist responsible for the atomic bomb. Really, it is the story of a man who is writing a book about this scientist. His search leads him to the island country of San Lorenzo, where Hoenikker’s children have gathered. While on the island the writer meets a beautiful woman and falls in love, discovers a new religion, and narrowly escapes being wiped out by one of Hoenikker’s virtually unknown creations. Ice-Nine, which was originally created so the Marines would no longer have to trudge through mud, is essentially a restructuring of water so that its melting point is 150 degrees Fahrenheit. By simply tossing a bit of Ice-Nine into some muddy slush, the Marines would soon have a hard, “frozen” surface to travel across. The only problem is how to stop the reaction once it has started. Needless to say, Ice-Nine kills people. But stupidly enough, only if they touch it to their lips. Vonnegut seemed to ignore the fact that human skin in quite porous. This really annoyed me.

Anyway…sure Vonnegut has a gift for satire, but that alone does not elevate someone to the status of a great writer. Cat’s Cradle was good. Just good. I think I will try Slaughterhouse 5 next.


Christopher said...

The tone of this review surprises me.

Carlton said...

Well it shouldn't. You are the one who picked the color scheme for the blog.

Nihil Novum said...

What in the world happened to the formatting in this post?

By the way, Slaughterhouse Five and Vonnegut's short stories are my favorite things I've read of his.

Christopher said...

Harrison Bergeron