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Slaughterhouse-Five is a true masterpiece of literature. Based loosely of Vonnegut's own experiences of being held as a prisoner of war and witnessing the Dresden firebombing the novella is witty, funny, satirical and at many points ridiculous, but this truly is to be expected of the late Mr Vonnegut.
The tale follows Billy Pilgrim, an optometrist, prisoner of war, Dresden witness, father, husband and time traveller. But this is not a ridiculous sci-fi novel with some ludicrous machine, but rather Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. Paragraph to paragraph Billy travels decades, visiting moments throughout his life, including his abduction by the Tralfamadorians, never knowing when or where he will be, and never seeming to care. Billy himself is one of the most charming characters ever created; taking everything life throws at him with the acceptance of a man who knows it will happen and really doesn't mind. But Billy is not the only truly spectacular character, the narrator himself is a key character, a recurring them in Vonnegut's work, who implicates himself in the narrative at various points, "Somebody behind him in the boxcar said, 'Oz.' That was I. That was me. The only other city I'd ever seen was Indianapolis, Indiana." This intrusive style of narration gives the piece an interesting style, contrasting the unyielding acceptance of the main protagonist with the almost philosophical and often opinionated voice of the narrator.
Despite the ludicrous sounding plotline the narrative is engaging and easy to follow, written in Vonnegut's patented informal style. In many ways this novella is a mid-point between two of the authors other leading works, combining the interesting and witty storyline of 'Cats Cradle' and the intrusive opinionated narrator of 'Breakfast of Champions'. This combination leaves us with a genuinely great piece of literature, with an inviting and interesting storyline, and a witty and unique style.
Overall everything we need to know about this novella is abundantly clear from the full title, 'Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death, by Kurt Vonnegut, a Fourth-Generation German-American Now Living in Easy Circumstances on Cape Cod [and Smoking Too Much], Who, as an American Infantry Scout Hors de Combat, as a Prisoner of War, Witnessed the Fire Bombing of Dresden, Germany, 'The Florence of the Elbe,' a Long Time Ago, and Survived to Tell the Tale. This Is a Novel Somewhat in the Telegraphic Schizophrenic Manner of Tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, Where the Flying Saucers Come From. Peace.'