Wed 3 Sep 2008
Kurt Vonnegut passed away a couple years ago. So it goes. I generally assume that anyone over the age of eighteen has read Slaughterhouse-Five, his magnum opus about the bombing of Dresden, aliens, and time travel; this probably isn’t a very good assumption, as the only reason I read it was because it was on Modern Library’s top 100 books of the 20th century. (In other words, my school didn’t assign it, unlike Jurassic Park and Brave New World. But I digress.) Anyway, he was definitely a powerhouse of literary science fiction, if such a thing is said to exist. This was his last novel, published in 1997.
In the introduction, Mr. Vonnegut explains that he had written a novel, henceforth referred to as Timequake One, with which he was not satisfied. Instead of scrapping it, he took bits of the plot, which center around Kilgore Trout, a science-fiction writer and sometimes Mr. Vonnegut’s alter ego, and combined it with philosophy and anecdotes from his life to create a semi-autobiographical ‘stew.’ The central premise is that the universe, in a fit of self-doubt, contracted — but just a bit — and made everyone re-live a ten-year period, from 1991 to 2001. Unfortunately, they couldn’t change anything in this ten-year period; at the end, however, when free will returns, they have a clambake. (more…)