Book Review: Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut


I’d not read this Hugo winner before, but enjoyed it immensely. It’s anti-war in the most absurd sense, and does its work by juxtaposing the almost surreal horror of the events leading up to the fire bombing of Dresden in WW2 with the banal comings and goings of death.

For a book that makes a point of describing the horrors of war in stark, almost passive, journalistic prose shot through with wit, it’s oddly life-affirming. Billy Pilgrim’s “time travelling” is never fully confirmed as a real phenomenon; he is constantly dismissed as a crank by the majority of the people with whom he interacts. Furthermore, as rational readers, we’re certainly inclined to interpret his movement through time as the tragic and fragmented rememberings of a mind fractured by the things he saw (and smelled, and heard, and felt) during the war. But from this fragmentation Billy reaches a peace – or perhaps serenity would be a better word – with the world that pure rationality does not allow. If war is the theatre of the absurd in its realest sense, then a serene madness is the sanest approach, even when death finds us and those around us now, and at every moment in the past, the future, for now, having always been, and always being in the future. So it goes. 

Published by Dan Jones

I'm a science fiction writer and podcaster. My debut novel Man O’War was published in 2018 by Snowbooks, and I’ve had a few short stories published here and there. I also host Chronscast, the official podcast of SFF Chronicles, the world's largest science-fiction and fantasy community. Away from writing I work for the UK Space Agency on a programme of space robotics for advanced satellite and planetary exploration technologies. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

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