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Welcome to the Monkey House: Stories
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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
on August 31, 2003
Like most writers who got their start before or shortly after WWII, Kurt Vonnegut began his writing career as a short story writer. Consequently, this collection includes some of his very earliest work, as well as several truly classic short stories that rank among the best of the second half of the 20th century. As one would expect from a collection housing many stories from a writer in his infancy, the collection is not consistently stellar: some pieces are unquestionably wonderful; others are of lesser quality, and at least one -- Where I Live -- is pointless. Vonnegut himself is quick to point out that this is not his best work: in the introduction he states that the stories were written to finance the writing of his novels. Indeed, as with many beginning writers, they constituted his very livelihood; writing them was often a matter of necessity, and not always necessarily the calling of artistic craft. Don't expect the Vonnegut that you're familar with from the novels. Several of these stories hit a moral note, as Vonnegut inevitably does, while others are attempts to strike an emotional chord. Vonnegut, at his short-story-writing best, was a master of what some of the greatest practitioners of the art -- Edgar Allen Poe, among others -- have cited as the key element of any short story: evoking one specific feeling, emotion, or tone. Vonnegut achieves this in many of the stories contained herein, and uses far less humor in doing so than we are accustomed to from him. Some of the best stories include the title story, which lays out a highly provocative and imaginative future scenario; Harrison Bergeron, a truly classic story that really strikes a moral chord; Tommorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a bleak, darkly funny satirical piece; All The King's Horses, a highly suspenseful and dramatic rendering; Unready To Wear, a thoughtful slice of science fiction; Report On The Barnhouse Effect, Vonnegut's first published story and a science fiction classic; and The Manned Missles, an emotional shocker. Many of these stories are science fiction, a genre under which a lot of Vonnegut's early work fell. Science fiction, at that time, was not even considered a real literary genre, and many literary elitists disparage Vonnegut for having mined it. The author himself has also distanced himself from the field in intervening years, due to the bad press it got him, which has caused a rift between Vonnegut and the science fiction community. Let it be said by me, then, a long-time reader of science fiction, that Vonnegut wrote very well in the genre, and that most of his best short stories were, indeed, SF. Though he never purveyed the so-called "hard" science fiction, full of complex technicalities, that made writers such as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov famous, Vonnegut was continually full of great ideas that were well-suited the genre. I wish he had written more SF stories. Overall, quite a good collection of short fiction, certainly far superior to the more recent Bagombo Snuff Box -- do not avoid reading this book if you weren't a big fan of that one -- though it does not rank among the best of Vonnegut's work. I recommend it highly to fans of the author or enthusiasts of the short story art form.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon October 10, 2013
This book is a collection of 25 short stories. They are simple but you can if you want read great depth in them. These stories would make good starters for a reading group or circle. They are professional but not extraordinary or unique.

"The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every way."

I bought this book for one story in particular "Harrison Bergeron"; I bought the movie with Sean Astin and thought even if the story was fleshed out to be more like "This Perfect Day". So I thought it would be time to read the story. Unfortunately the short story can not hold a candle to the movie. It never really gets off the ground and comes to a curt conclusion never resolving the conflict.

Harrison Bergeron
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on October 2, 2003
I have been reading Mother Night today, and so I got up to review Welcome to the Monkey House, a book I read no less than five years ago. Dimly, I recall this as my least favorite Vonnegut book. I understand today that this is because Vonnegut is a master of short stories, but the longer they become the more they can be appreciated. He never leaves his genre. You can pick up a chapter of any book he's written and it tells a story, beginning to end. What is particular to Vonnegut is how he attaches one segment to the next, and all segments into a book. Welcome to the Monkey House (and likely in other collections, such as Bagombo Snuff Box, which I have not read) is a book that brings together Vonnegut stories with no intended connection. They are interesting, but they aren't fantastic. It just isn't as fun.
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This book is a collection of 25 short stories. They are simple but you can if you want read great depth in them. These stories would make good starters for a reading group or circle. They are professional but not extraordinary or unique.

"The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every way."

I bought this book for one story in particular "Harrison Bergeron"; I bought the movie with Sean Astin and thought even if the story was fleshed out to be more like "This Perfect Day". So I thought it would be time to read the story. Unfortunately the short story can not hold a candle to the movie. It never really gets off the ground and comes to a curt conclusion never resolving the conflict.

Harrison Bergeron
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on August 25, 1999
But I have to say Vonnegut would cringe if I, like another reviewer on this page, wrote that I feel like I'm watching TV when I read his stories. The way Vonnegut feels about TV, this is not a compliment. Speaking of TV, read Vonnegut's "Euphio Effect" in this collection. It's a nice satire, I feel, on TV's addictive quality. Second only to Harrison Bergeron.
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on July 11, 1998
This book was just fun. I couldn't stop reading it. I can't say that I came out of it with any new outlooks on life, but I definitely came out of it feeling good that I read this book.
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