Classics Book Review: Cat’s Cradle


In a temporary break from the cover art extravaganza of the week, I’m taking a few moments out for a book review, to shift my literary mind back into neutral. And who better to sate that appetite than the eternally wonderful Kurt Vonnegut?

While I think any of Vonnegut’s works would be hard-pressed to surpass Slaughterhouse-Five’s mastery in my mind—a bias I maintain, likely at least in part because it was my first exposure to the insight and wonder that was Vonnegut’s mind—Cat’s Cradle continues his tradition of blending wry, at times absurdist humor with sharp, flexible insight into the real world. Easy and interesting to indulge in, it is populated with personality and serves, at its core, to be the very best of social commentary. It’s philosophic, satirical, and plods along exceptionally written lines of truth, lies, and that ever so upbeat topic—mankind’s own self-destruction!

Er, upbeat. Yes. Well. Anyway…The story centers around the first person narration of a would-be reporter, seeking to learn more about the Hoenikker family, whose patriarch was the father of the atomic bomb. His journey carries him from small-town America and tales of midget love (no, really) to the peculiar shores of the island republic of San Lorenzo, where love, religion, and a surprise career advancement await.

But summarizing the plot of Vonnegut novel hardly stands to do his work real justice. Without losing a beat or slowing down (it really is a quick read, mind you), it pricks, at every step along the way, at the (often absurd) building blocks of society that hold us all together, and the dependencies we weave—as well as the fact that lies, told over and over, often become our truth. With irony, humor, and a sense of terror that rings down through the ages, this delicate and intricate exploration of mankind’s foibles picks not merely at the absurdity of existence, but the very substance of belief. Even the abrupt ending, while jarring, is foreshadowed well—and seems all too appropriate for the snappy style of the book’s tale.

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