A brilliantly absurd satirization of the Cold War arms race and a monument to the stupidity of human beings, it's hard to know whether to laugh out loud at how ridiculous people are in this story or cry upon the sudden realization that you know some of these people. Vonnegut has a voice and style of his own, in many ways similar to the absurdist style of Douglas Adams. The pair form a unique American-British duo whose sci-fi writing is crazily mad-libbed - full of puns, associations, absurdity, cynicism and wry humor. You really have to experience these books first-hand to know what you're getting into. If you're not familiar with Vonnegut's style, the back cover splash for many of his books sound droll and downright cheesy.
Consider: an everyman named John is trying to write a book about human reactions to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by interviewing the family of one of the fictitious co-creators of the bomb, which leads him on a voyage of discovery that ultimately lands him in the banana republic of San Lorenzo where he accepts the dictatorship of the island and converts to the island's absurd, whimsical and nihilistic religion before the end of the world caused by the final dangerous invention of the scientist in question - ice-nine. Sound like the plot to a B movie? Probably at first glance, but this is Kurt Vonnegut, so the lame sounding set-up is a convenient and quite humorous guise for a satirical analysis of the follies of science without compassion and forethought, its relationship to religion (and the falseness and absurdity therein), as well as the usual casually flippant observations about human behavior that leaves the reader feeling that he/she is a member of the most primitive and willfully stupid species to ever evolve on the planet Earth.
I loved it.
There are parts of the tale that are kind of disjointed, but I liked the overall structure - short topical chapters that kind of organically grow from one another in a sort of stream of consciousness development that feels like Vonnegut is totally just making stuff up as he goes along. By the resolution, you're convinced that this is anything but the case, of course, but like [b:Galápagos|9593|Galápagos|Kurt Vonnegut|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1355012643s/9593.jpg|517654] and [b:Slaughterhouse-Five|4981|Slaughterhouse-Five|Kurt Vonnegut|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337996187s/4981.jpg|1683562] reveal the complexity of Vonnegut's thought process. What always strikes me about Vonnegut (and Adams and Pahlaniuk for that matter) is how they find just the right context to portray ordinary aspects of the human condition in a new light that forever changes your outlook about society, the meaning of life and the way we treat one another. This is a classic.