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Player Piano: A Novel Paperback – Jan 12 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (Jan. 12 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780385333788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385333788
  • ASIN: 0385333781
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #103,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“A funny, savage appraisal of a totally automated American society of the future.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“An exuberant, crackling style . . . Vonnegut is a black humorist, fantasist and satirist, a man disposed to deep and comic reflection on the human dilemma.”—Life

“His black logic . . . gives us something to laugh about and much to fear.”—The New York Times Book Review

From the Publisher

Vonnegut's spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a fan of Vonnegut's writing, I was extremely disappointed with this book. It has a good story premise but it doesn't really go anywhere. The basics of this story: Vonnegut depicts America as a land run by machines. All the humans must have a doctorate in order to be considered qualified for any jobs because machines have been built that efficiently replace lower workers. There is very little mention of children, but the few that are brought up merely point out the struggles of trying to pass tests for degrees and then fighting 500 others for the one job opening available. The protagonist, Dr. Paul Proteus, gets fed up with his machine dominated environment but doesn't have the will to commit himself to opposition until he is forced into it. There is a second story line with a diplomat from another country touring America as his host tries to convince him of the need to replace humans with machines in his own country. The host fails in his mission as things fall apart in the end.
Basically, I thought there were too many strings left hanging in this book. Vonnegut would start off on a tangent, with such extreme description, but then there was no real resolution. Like, what happened to the farm? I was especially disappointed in the ending, expecting more out of Dr. Proteus than was given. So many things were left unexplained that I felt like I was wasting my time reading this book. I would become interested in one aspect only to find myself filled with more questions left unanswered.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A lot of people, even Vonnegut fans, probably haven't heard of this book, for whatever reasons. Vonnegut really doesn't discuss it that much, mostly because he dislikes the label of science-fiction, which this book, along with The Sirens of Titan and even Slaughterhouse-Five, clearly is.

Still, this book is a must for Vonnegut fans or even those interested in old science-fiction in the style of Orwell or Huxley. Those looking for Vonnegut's classic deadpan black humorist style won't find it here. The beginnings of it are here, however and Vonnegut's tale of Paul Proteus' rebellion against the oppressive government is still as entertaining and fascinating as it was years ago. Read with the aforementioned 1984 and Brave New World, this book provides a slight contrast by using a different tone and more humor, but the message is still the same, that technology will ruin us all and bring about our ultimate downfall.

Fortunately this book has been reissued so that fans can see how Vonnegut started out, and fortunately, unlike most writers' first novels, Vonnegut's initial effort is just as readable as his later works
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Format: Paperback
I started reading this book with an open mind, but by the end, I could not wait to put it down. It drags its feet through the beginning, however the middle is a bit more interesting. Whatever the middle does is crushed by the sour ending. It seemed this book could have made its point in a 5 page essay without being very repitive.
Previous to reading Player Piano, I had read 1984 by George Orwell. Player Piano seemed to be struggling to be 1984, but didn't come to the same level. 1984 was a fast-paced book with a spectacular ending that made it's point by being subtle. Player Piano pretty much hits you over the head with its point from page one.
If you are interested in this kind of thing, buy 1984 and forget this one.
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Format: Paperback
Player Piano is the story of an unlikely uprising against an over-industrialized society, which proved to be too successful and reminds the reader to "be careful what you wish for." Doctor Paul Proteus, manager of the Ilium Works plant responsible for the industrial output and energy production of Ilium, New York and the surrounding area, sought to escape his predestined vocational life. One of the people he encounters in this quest summarized nicely the disenchantment Proteus and his cohorts felt with technology, and the trail of obsolete men left behind in its wake.
"The machines are to practically everybody what the white men were to the Indians. People are finding that, because of the way the machines are changing the world, more and more of their old values don't apply any more. People have no choice but to become second-rate machines themselves, or wards of the machines."
Proteus' rebellion against his industrialized world starts quietly enough, with the acquisition of a farm and the conscious sabotage of a promotion he deserved. However, he eventually crosses paths with radicals who saw fit to not only stem the tides of mass-production, but to destroy all of the machines in the process.
Interesting enough story-line, right? Yes, but the story's potential is better than its execution. Many great ideas are left unpolished. Besides Dr. Proteus, there are no sympathetic characters in this tale, which made it difficult to root for the revolution's failure or success. Plus, things spiraled so badly out of control that you don't even know if success was achieved by anyone's measure. This book was one giant crescendo, and the actual revolution occurs in about five pages at the end, hastily described and leaving way too much to the imagination.
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