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Galapagos: A Novel Paperback – Jan 12 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reissue edition (Jan. 12 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385333870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385333870
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From School Library Journal

YA Leon Trout, the ghost of a decapitated shipbuilder, narrates the humorous, ironic and sometimes carping decline of the human race, as seen through the eyes and minds of the survivors of a doomed cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Vonnegut's cast of unlikely Adams and Eves setting out in a Noah's ark includes Mary Hepburn, an American biology teacher and recent widow; Zenji Hiroguchi, a Japanese computer genius (who does not make it to the ship, although his language-translating and quotation-spouting computer does); his wife, Hisako, carrying radiated genes from the atomic bombs; James Wait, who has made a fortune marrying elderly women; and Captain Aolph von Kleist. Also included: six orphaned girls of the Kana-bono cannibal tribe, who will become the founding mothers of the fisherfolk after bacteria render all other women infertile. Serious fans of Vonnegut's wry and ribald prose will welcome this tale of the devolution of superbrained humans into gentle swimmers with small brains, but others may find this Darwinian survival tale too packed with ecological and sociological details that trap the story line in a series of literary devices, albeit very clever ones. Mary T. Gerrity, Queen Anne School, Upper Marlboro, Md.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For many Vonnegut fans, Galapagos will be a disappointment. The story is set ``one million years ago, back in 1986 A.D.'' and concerns the maiden voyage of the Bahia de Darwin to the Galapa gos Islands. The narrator is a ghost, and the main characters are those involved with the cruise. As the narrative devel ops, we learn that people have evolved from having ``big brains'' that always get them in trouble, to creatures with flippersbut they keep getting eaten by sharks. The narration jumps back and forth between past and future, so that there is no real sense of what life is like in the ``present'' of the story, and it is difficult to grasp what these new hu mans are really like. Vonnegut's usual stylistic devices just don't work here. Buy for demand. Susan Avallone, ``Library Journal''
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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THE THING WAS: One million years ago, back in 1986 A.D., Guayaquil was the chief seaport of the little South American democracy of Ecuador, whose capital was Quito, high in the Andes Mountains. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

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By A Customer on Jan. 27 2004
Format: Paperback
Having read some of the reviews to this Vonnegut novel, I am of the opinion that some of these reviewers are missing the point. Admittedly, I am but a tenth of the way through this book, but already I see the genius in it. Forget for a moment that there even is a plot (which is wholly interesting unto itself); rather, one should concentrate on Vonnegut's mastery of literary style. I love the tone he adopted for this work. Additionally, his running commentary is a highly satiric social commentary of the state of the human race: satire that hits its mark (and not all does). That said, this is one of the finest, funniest, and most interesting books I have ever read. If you have not read this book, I suggest you give it a try, and if you have and disagree with me, that's fine, but I urge you to give it another shot. Of course, as I said, I am still in the early stages of the book, so my opinion of it could change. But if the rest is anything like the beginning, this book will make me a believer of Mr. Vonnegut. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I, for one, am looking forward toward the rest. Pleasant reading!
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Galapagos is a very interesting book from the get go and it is compounded by the fact that it¡¦s written millions of years after it happened. It tells the tale of the people who began the next branch of the human evolutionary tree and how like the Galapagos creatures were stranded and diverged from the normal species developmental path. The novel contains many intriguing side stories which most of the time seems better than the actual story.
Vonnegut unfortunately added some pretty annoying literary devices which took away from the stories power. For example he added stars next to the name of people who are going to die soon. Those stars, similar to his so it goes in Slaughter House 5, seem to give away the story line and helps the story very little. This novel is certainly not his best, but because of all the wonderful and detailed side stories and characters it¡¦s a good read for any dedicated Vonnegut reader. I also recommend Cats Cradle, Time quake and Breakfast of Champions for other Vonnegut fans.
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Galapagos is probably my 2nd least favorite Vonnegut book, which is not to say that is a bad book. Kurt Vonnegut, however, has done much better. It's tough to tell exactly where Galapagos is going from the beginning of the book, and the majority of the story after that is a gradual process of building up to a climax that never appears. Galapagos works well as a caustic satire of civilization and all the supposedly beneficial products of our ridiculously large brains. But I couldn't help feeling that there should have been something more here. The characters themselves are interesting and Vonnegut's gleeful dissection of their destinies (death, for most) and the evolutionary consequences of them presents a picture of the personal aspects of Darwinism. The ending was extremely unsatisfying and it just left me utterly depressed. Vonnegut's future for the human race saddened me more than I had expected, even when I viewed the book as a satire. Make no mistake, this book is extremely pessimistic. Even from the detached viewpoint of the narrator, one can't help but sympathize with the characters, merely pawns in the evolutionary game. And very few of the characters have any redeeming qualities at all. Perhaps this was Vonnegut's aim with this book, but I couldn't help but a feel a sense of terrible loss, and I didn't at all find his new human race brave or admirable. Galapagos, I suppose, will mean vastly different things for different people. For me, it was a reminder that civilization does have many benefits, and that if it would perish, I would mourn it. For this realization at least, I have Vonnegut to thank.
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At one point in my life, I thought this was just a brilliant book. One of the best ever written. Now that I'm slightly older, I still like it, but I think it's a slightly more cynical, less brilliant novel than it once was...in my mind.
It's safe to say that all the essentiall Vonnegut trademarks are present: cynicism, satire, humor, intelligence. But each of those elements falls off from his best work. If I could, I would give this a 3.5, because it's a little better than a run of the mill 3 and not quite as good as a 4.
I like the metaphors of the 6 eventual mothers of mankind breaking the egg barrier by sheer luck. And that of the umbillical cord tethering the ship to the mainland. Yes, they are clever, but Vonnegut makes sure he hits you over the head with comment after comment on these, making sure the reader gets just how humankind's current life began and how similar it is to birth.
Also, you have to admire the Darwinian bashing done by the irony of natural selection having nothing to do with what we will become and having it happen on an island where Natural Selection was born. Again, all the Vonnegut elements are there. Pure Vonnegut. Excellent.
But it seems that Vonnegut gets too caught up in his own cleverness and dwells on it too much. Either that or he expects the reader to not get his ideas to begin with. The novel moves slowly, essentially spinning circles around the idea that our big brains are such a problem in our current stations. Well, current as you and I are in now. But the story so dwells on this, that we lose momentum. We lose focus. We wander around waiting for something more pertinent to happen. Unfortunately, it never really does.
This book has the fodder to be a brilliant novella. But spread over a full length book, it looses some of that.
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