What a genius this man was to write a novel so short, so deceptively simple, so (frankly) bonkers and yet so very relevant not just for the age in which he wrote it but for now and many to come.
Based on Vonnegut’s own experiences being abducted both two alien races (one a bloodthirsty brood from another world who threaten to take over the entire planet, and the other from the planet Tralfamadore) this novel bends both narrative and time itself as you read it.
Of course, that last paragraph is unlikely to make any sense to you unless you have experienced the wonder that is Slaughterhouse Five. If you haven’t get out and read it. If you have, I’m sure you need no encouragement to read it again.
Why’s it relevant? Well it asks so many questions about who we are as a race of people. Sci-fi does that because it allows you to take your readers out of their race to look back in. But Vonnegut not only does this in space with the alien abduction stuff, he also does it in time.
He firstly stitches together autobiographical sections of his WW2 memories which are very interesting and (frankly) pretty horrifying. Woven through that (and the book does resemble a badly assembled quilt), he also gives Billy Pilgrim (Vonnegut in an abaya) the ability to travel in time (although he seemingly has no control over when and how) to periods of his own life.
Unlike his next novel Breakfast of Champions which I was either not ready to read or Vonnegut was not ready to write, Slaughterhouse is a novel I’ll happily keep on my shelf to read again and again. It’s a dark look at who we are as humans and, particularly in this day and age, we need as many mirrors held up to our ugly faces as we can get.