Top positive review
A Brilliant Satire on a Society Gone Amok
on February 29, 2016
Anyone who reads Vonnegut regularly must know that black or gallows humor is his specialty. Nothing sacred or off-limits in this novel. As satires goes, Vonnegut can deliver some very wicked blows against the cultural bastions of society when it comes to exposing their moral shortcomings: wealth, romance, theater and justice. While America may appear to be one of those places that thrives on the certainty of hard work, trust, honesty, and vision, for Vonnegut nothing will stand the test of time. Historically, the power of guns, drugs and, ultimately, the neutron bomb to destroy civilization are the evil forces at work on dismantling the American Dream. By the end, fortunes, dreams and marriages will be laid waste by the big game changer: the increasing need to feel secure in a very insecure and hostile world. The Waltzes may try to jettison the baggage of their past like melting down their oversized gun collection but that won't help if their young son has already inadvertently killed a neighbor while playing with one of the guns. They may want to disavow their Nazi connections but there will always be that tawdry reminder - one of Hitler's better watercolors - popping up every so often to haunt them. The society Vonnegut depicts here - big city America - with its many opportunities to succeed, has no safeguards against failure. Violence will dog Rudy's life as he tries to make sense of the changing fortunes of his family and his newfound reputation as a young killer. An inherited painting, memories of a gun collection, former Nazi ties, in-laws becoming hopelessly addicted to drugs, and a plan for nuclear annihilation of an entire American town are all part of an ominous legacy that gets darker by the moment. Everything in this wild tale hangs around like a dirty shirt to remind us that we are all part of a killing society, especially as we try to eradicate our past and start over again. There is only one hope when it comes to charting one's future in a culture that offers little in the way of determining what comes next either from a violent past or a menacing future. Just hope there isn't anyone to pass it on to. A conscious decision in this book to bail on this present world, like fleeing to the mythical land of Shangri-la - in a musical based on someone else's experiences - will meet with personal disappointment and public indifference. In the end, reputations, normally the essence of any legitimate society, are largely imagined, easily discarded and, eventually, destroyed because humans, in Vonnegut's estimation, can't control the things that go into making them. If they don't shoot people, they blow them up, or discard them in favor of drugs to dull the pain of inadequacy.. The only reason why Rudy survives in all this mayhem is that Vonnegut creates an end-of-time, neutered individual who will not be contributing to perpetuating this farce into the next generation.