“Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut: a novel review

Taking a break from YA titles and doing a classic.

Look this is not a bad book. It’s good. It’s better than good. Maybe. But it’s over-rated.

I really like what this book was about but not enough to call it one of his best. I think another title of Vonnegut’s should be in the Modern Library’s top 100 Best English-language novels. Some great lines are in here, and I see the satire, but it wasn’t darkly funny enough to make me laugh out loud, nor do I understand the 5-star, glowing praise for what is mainly a metafiction of post-modern fatalism.

Maybe I’ve read too many other books which have since done it better or grabbed my attention harder. Maybe I grew out of my 20-year old self who would have enjoyed this more. I’m 26 now.

Meh.

Many have told me, before I read it, that it’s a book you either love or hate. I respectfully disagree. I understand and respect this book for what it is, so rather than jumping to a 2 or a 4 star like everyone I know, this gets a 3.

Yes, I did “get it.” That doesn’t mean I’m going to be pretentious and pretend I’m “super deep” and read Ulysses by Joyce for a bit of Sunday afternoon scholarly light reading. I just don’t like that crap. Doesn’t mean I’m not smart as shit and capable of reading big books or old books or complex books. Some stories, hey, I just don’t like. Simply put, believe it or not, things change over the decades, including how we read and what a given generation wants to read about or how. Imagine that. Some of you should pull your head out of your ass now. “Timeless” writing is relative. Oh, and an opinion most of the time. Rarely are people going to agree on the importance of the voice of, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. All kinds of people, educated and otherwise, love to have opinions about dated work like this. We just like to yack on and on about it. I don’t know why. Look at me. I’m doing it now!
Thematically, “Slaughterhouse-Five” is great work, it’s sharp — but for being such a short book, it was a slog at times. I really wish I could give the book 4+ stars like Vonnegut deserves, but this isn’t a review for Vonnegut’s body of work and his over-arching legacy/impact: it is but a review for Slaughterhouse-Five.
Only read this one after you read Welcome to the Monkey House (the short story collection), Cat’s Cradle: a novel, or “A Man Without A Country” (his memoir). These are great introductions/primers to him, I think. All of these are more steadily entertaining, not that SH-5 was completely dry. There are great moments here, clever ideas and sharp set-ups and narrative design; but I honestly fear how it will age.

Vonnegut will never die, but something else by him in the coming decades might replace “Slaughterhouse-Five” as the “quintessential” must-read by this author. Other stuff is just as funny or cynical or satrical or political. Just browse around on amazon.com for his stuff and you’ll get a good medley. Read some reviews, watch some youtube interviews, and wiki some info for yourself. There is a Vonnegut book for almost everyone (stereotypically and historically, mostly for dudes; I don’t know why, but I have a hard time finding girls who dig this guy).


I’m in the minority, I know. Still, SH-5 is only fifth place in my personal top five favorite by Vonnegut.

(R.I.P. : 1922-2007, age 84)

3/5

MH

more classic novels and Young Adult reviews coming soon.

Rating Scale:

  1. 1 hated it
  2. 2 very flawed
  3. 3 good
  4. 4 highly recommend
  5. 5 classic or personal fave
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3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

3 responses to ““Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut: a novel review

  1. This has always been on my ‘to read’ list. I normally read old classics rather than modern classics so I have been putting it off. Would you say it was worth reading? I’m unsure whether to try it or not!

    • i love classics too! when im not reading YA, i read stuff between 1880-1970 roughly, british, american, and russian.

      As for Vonnegut, I love him, but you may be better served by reading “Welcome to the Monkey House” first, a short story collection. Then I would probably read “Cat’s Cradle” and then “SlaughterHouse 5.” the tricky thing is that with Vonnegut, you have to give yourself over to him completely, understand that you’re going to read some weird sci-fi stuff that sometimes pops out of nowhere, roughly grasp what was going on in the world during the time of publication, and be prepared for made-up words. it’s good for some and bad for other readers, but his stuff is deeply post-modern and metafictional, blending his personal experiences with themes and world events. it’s important to be smart when reading him. LOL

      if you go with Vonnegut and fall down his rabbit hole, he’ll take you to a unique place that you sometimes have to read with patience but will make you think. overall, he’s worth it. he’s dark, questions religion and individuality of the 20th century, and is cynical. unfortunately, he is an author who you need to read several works by, because new connections and understandings can only be solidified by experiencing several peices. They all become better when a few are in your focus, if that makes sense. Van Gogh was good because of one painting.

      he is not for everyone, but he took some brilliant positions regarding humanity.

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