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How on earth this book was not in the dooyoo catalogue before I suggested it is quite astounding. A seriously great book, by a seriously great author. Well I say serious, but that is one of the key dichotomies of this book and Vonnegut in general. Everything here is serious stuff, and yet none of it is taken seriously.
About the plot:
Vonnegut's protagonist in this book is a journalist searching for details of Felix Hoenikker, one of the creators of the atomic bomb. While researching the family he becomes aware of a substance created by Hoenikker known as 'ice-nine', a chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The trail of events then leads him to encounter the remaining family members and many other key characters, all the while leading to the somewhat inevitable and disastrous conclusion.
About the themes:
If you are previously aware of Vonnegut's work, then you will be familiar with the tone with which he writes, and his favourite targets for attention and ridicule. If not, this is as good a place as any to start. The style of Vonnegut's writing could certainly be described as black humour. It could also reasonably be described as ironic, bitter, funny, cynical and witty. Considering some of the content of the book, it could easily become a painfully pessimistic and drudging look at the futility of life. However, the style is so light and enjoyable, it is almost impossible not to enjoy the journey which takes a swipe at many major issues. There is a made-up religion which is so full of holes it is ridiculous, which even uses its own preposterousness as a selling point. There is also the major theme of the power of science, and more importantly, how the future of the planet can pivot so fundamentally on whose hands this power falls into. Politics, the cult of personality, and human weakness are also among the many themes that flow throughout the book. Considering this book only contains just over 200 pages, it is a testament to Vonnegut's writing prowess that he manages to cram all this in so smoothly and easily in such a short space.
I loved this book for its intelligence, and its ability to mock just about everything. The fact that by the end I was almost laughing and crying at the same time, makes Vonnegut a fairly unique and special author. I have very little doubt that this would make an excellent candidate for re-reading, partly because I am still pondering over certain ideas in the book now, which I would like to flesh out. The whole concept of what a cat's cradle is, and how it describes the book, is still eluding me slightly, but I like the fact that it does. Something to chew over.
Certainly one of Vonnegut's finest works. All life is here, with a little bit of death sprinkled over the top like hundreds and thousands. Everybody should read this book, and clearly I am not the only one who feels this way, as it features in the '1001 books you must read before you die' list.