Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 13 Sep 2017
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut was a famous book. It was widely regarded as one of the best works of fiction of the 20th century, and many viewed it as the seminal anti-war work. In depth reviews, and even analyses, could readily be found across the web; that said, I would not attempt to embarrass myself by adding my amateur interpretation of such an important work of our life time. I would want to add, however, that it was a very fun book to read. Part science fiction, part historical fiction, and part philosophical contemplative, Slaughterhouse Five was not quite the sum of its parts. The main character Billy Pilgrim, who had been enlightened by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore who could see through not only space but time, was able to remove much of the emotion out of death. As I go through the pages, I wondered that, if death was meant to be (as the Tralfamadorian could see that death would always be there, however far down the future), why did it matter? The purposely over-used phrase of "so it goes" also meant much to me, as it quietly asked me to think about the difference (or the lack thereof?) between the death of a person and an anonymous statistic about death. I also enjoyed the frequent treks off of the main story line, such as the exploration of the idea what if Jesus was not the son of god, but rather, just an average joe?
I had reviewed the book in its audio book format, read by Ethan Hawke. I had enjoyed Hawke's on-screen performances very much, and he performed well as a book narrator as well. A treasured bonus in this audio book edition was a conversation with the author after the book concluded.
It would go without saying that Slaughterhouse Five would earn my overwhelming endorsement, however little that might be worth. Readers of WW2DB would certainly enjoy the references of the Battle of the Bulge and the firebombing of Dresden, but this thought provoking book was far from its peers. If you ask me, it would be ranked as a must-read.
Please also see WW2DB contributor Bryan Hiatt's review of Slaughterhouse Five.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945