I have been told for several years by several friends that I must read Kurt Vonnegut so last summer while wandering through a bookstore killing time before meeting someone — I had forgotten to bring a book, an unenviable situation to be in — I decided to pick up a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, a logical place to start.
The first chapter, which is really more of an introduction did not live up to the hype so I left it sitting on the shelf for nearly a year. Once I got past the first chapter, which is only like the last chapter — introductions and conclusions that bookendSlaughterhouse-Five— I began to see what they were talking about. From the second chapter onwards Vonnegut carries you away in his third person narrative. The writing is vivid and well tied together with certain themes coming up again and again, and often where you least expect them.
I was not expecting a book about the firebombing of Dresden to also contain time travel and alien planets but Vonnegut pulls it off nicely. The time travel pulls the narrative together. The events are not random, instead they tie into one another as you slowly learn more and more details. Non-linear narratives can often leave you confused or irritated but this does not happen with Vonnegut.
This book was about Vonnegut’s experiences in WWII and was a means of coming to terms with those. You get a feel for his attitudes towards the destruction and how numb war can make people. The main character Billy Pilgrim becomes progressively more detached from the world and the death in the war. This is also the account of Pilgrim’s life including events from when he was quite young, as a student, as a soldier and later on in life. Piece by piece, time travel by time travel you get a thorough picture of Billy Pilgrim’s life. So it goes.