Published by Dell Publishing Co. (NYC) on November 7th, 2003
Genres: Science Fiction
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world's great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.
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For my regular readers, I promise this is my last trip down memory lane for a while. I’ve had Slaughterhouse-Five by the late Kurt Vonnegut in my audio library for a while and I decided it was time to give it a listen. Vonnegut was a cult figure who made a name for himself during the ‘60’s. One of the books which made him an icon is Slaughterhouse-Five, a fictional story based on the real-life firebombing of Dresden, Germany during WW2. The message the author conveys is deadly serious, but it is presented in such a way that you will frequently find yourself smiling and you may even laugh out loud at the characters who are telling the story. Billy Pilgrim is an American soldier who survives the firebombing as a prisoner of war. The storyline revolves around Billy and it does indeed revolve because the author uses flashbacks, flashforwards, and even a bit of science fiction to tell his tale. If you are a person who likes a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an ending in that order, you may find this one hard to follow. Just as Billy becomes “unstuck in time” because of his war experiences, you may also become unstuck if you prefer a linear plot. In the words of the author, his books “are essentially mosaics made up of a whole bunch of tiny little chips…and each chip is a joke.” Slaughterhouse- Five is certainly no exception. Published in 1968, the book’s black humor and anti-war message resonated with a generation disillusioned by the Vietnam War. Because it has been analyzed to death over the years, I will stop there and leave you to your own research. Here is an article from Wikipedia which is a very good resource.
This was my first experience with James Franco as a narrator. In reading other reviews, I find mixed opinions of his handling of Vonnegut’s work. From my perspective, the off-hand, almost bored tone he uses emphasizes the novel’s dark humor and makes the author’s message even more disturbing.
If you’ve never read Slaughterhouse-Five, I think you will enjoy the audio version. At 5 hours and 13 minutes, it isn’t a huge time investment and then you can say you’ve experienced this classic. Because Vonnegut himself was a survivor of the Dresden firebombing, the book is considered somewhat autobiographical. One of the most notable literary devices is the author’s frequent use of the phrase “so it goes.” I won’t spoil it for you, but once you figure out when and why the author uses it, you will catch yourself listening for it.