Saturday, 15 April 2017

"Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut

Year of Publication:  1963
Length:  206 pages
Genre:  Satire

An American journalist, John, is working on a book about what prominent Americans were doing on the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  He is particularly keen to find out about the late Dr. Felix Hoenikker, one of the "fathers" of the atomic bomb, and finds himself fascinated by Hoenikker's three eccentric children.  His investigations lead him to the Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, where the strange new religion of Bokononism is covertly practiced.  John becomes involved in the political machinations of the island, and learns of Dr. Hoenikker's last legacy to humanity, a substance called "ice-nine" which can freeze the entire planet within a few days.

One of prolific American novelist Kurt Vonnegut's best known works, Vonnegut rated this and Slaughterhouse 5 as his personal favourites among his own works, this is a clever, funny and frightening little book.  Almost every page is packed with jokes and quotable lines.  It is also a frighteningly believable look at how the world could end.  The book takes swipes at religion, politics, patriotism, science and the foibles of human nature.  However the tone is ultimately compassionate and warm, rather than unrelentingly despairing.  It's the voice of a disappointed father who loves his children despite their many, many flaws.  Read it and you'll find yourself laughing even as your blood chills faster than a glassful of ice-nine.


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