Go Back   Palimpsest > Reviews > Book Reviews

kurt vonnegut

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 21st May 2004, 9:13   #1
rick green
could do better
rick green's Avatar
Join Date: 4 Sep 2003
Location: houston, tx, usa
Posts: 1,494
Default Kurt Vonnegut: Galapagos

Don’t judge a book by its cover, so goes the conventional wisdom. Okay, then how should one judge a book? Maybe by the number of times it makes you laugh out loud? Seems as good a criterion as any. Going by that standard alone, I’d have to say that Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos is the very best book I’ve read in recent memory.
It’s the story of a small band of people in Guayaquil, Ecuador who safeguard the genes of Homo sapiens against total extinction. In a word, it’s the story of a later-day Noah’s ark.

Many events which would have repercussions a million years later were taking place in a small space on the planet in a very short time.
The details of these strange events and the gist of the million subsequent years are fraught with irony. That the only human survivors of global holocaust should be passengers on the “Nature Cruise of the Century” and that the man who becomes the new Adam, sire of a new and (sort of) ideal race, should be named Adolf are two examples of many. Readers of Vonnegut’s other books with smile at cameos by old stand-bys Kilgore Trout & Duane Hoover. And readers new to Vonnegut will appreciate his deadpan (and dead-on) satiric humor.

Why so many of us a million years ago purposely knocked out major chunks of our brains with alcohol from time to time remains an interesting mystery. It may be that we were trying to give evolution a shove in the right direction—in the direction of smaller brains.
Anyway, this is an enjoyable, quick read. If you’re looking for a good laugh and a little something to put your troubles in perspective, Galapagos might be just the thing.

Quoth Mandarax:

Nobody leads a life of quiet desperation nowadays. The mass of men was quietly desperate a million years ago because the infernal computers inside their skulls were incapable of restraint or idleness…
Kurt Vonnegut (1922- )
now watch me work
rick green is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st May 2004, 13:17   #2
John Self
suffers from smallness of vision
John Self's Avatar
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939

I read Galapagos (or Galápagos if we're being really arsey - and why wouldn't we be?) a couple of years ago, after I had decided I liked Vonnegut (on the strength of Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions and Timequake) but before I had read many of his best works like Player Piano, The Sirens of Titan and Mother Night. I was disappointed by it because it seemed very stuck and plotless - a strange criticism from me, I know - but then I realised that was I really reacting to was how the back cover blurb compared with the book itself. The cover told us that one million years in the future, when humans have long since become superfluous because of the machines and inventions that their big brains helped them to create - and as a result humans have evolved into small furry creatures with tiny brains.

So you might think that this is the starting point for the book. But it is not - and as you can see from Rick's quotes, most of the book is involved with what happened 'one million years ago' (ie in 1986) and there is not really any furtherance of plot beyond what the back cover tells us.

So really I was reacting against a stupid blurb-writer, but it did ruin the book for me because my expectations were so different. I will have to revisit it, with the benefit of Rick's comments and also Little Mart's in The War Against Cliché, when he calls it Vonnegut's best book since Slaughterhouse-Five ("which is not saying much, particularly when you look at the books he wrote before Slaughterhouse-Five"). Which reminds me I must re-read Slaughterhouse-Five too: never did like it much.
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Kurt Vonnegut John Self Book Reviews 71 11th Apr 2012 10:40
Vonnegut on Iraq, Bush and Mel Gibson John Self Politics & Society 7 1st Feb 2006 17:54
Kurt Vonnegut reviews Joseph Heller's Something Happened John Self Book Reviews 0 12th May 2004 14:40
Vonnegut recommendations ? b3rtymark General Chat 2 8th Sep 2003 11:07

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 16:06.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.