Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut (1979)

The most embarrassing thing to me about this autobiography, surely, is its unbroken chain of proofs that I was never a serious man. I have been in a lot of trouble over the years, but that was all accidental. Never have I risked my life, or even my comfort, in the service of mankind. Shame […]

Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut Jnr (1976)

This is a really weird story, a madly disorientating story about twin freaks, a future dystopia, shrinking Chinese and communication with the afterlife. The main story (pp.15-170) is narrated by the two-metre tall man, christened Wilbur Rockefeller Swain but now known as Dr Wilbur Daffodil-II Swain. It is a morbid and depressing story. Swain is […]

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (1973)

Breakfast of Champions is longer than the average Vonnegut novel at 270 pages in an old Panther paperback edition I have. It’s experimental in several ways. Each paragraph is introduced with an arrow → making them seem more like disconnected apothegms than part of a consecutive prose text, and sometimes the paragraphs reduce to totally disconnected […]

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

This was Vonnegut’s sixth novel and his commercial and critical breakthrough, quickly becoming a classic of counter-culture literature, its anti-war message chiming perfectly with the widespread protests across America against the Vietnam War, and then given an extra boost when it was made into a hit movie in 1972. Both the anti-war message and Vonnegut’s […]

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1963)

This is an end-of-the-world apocalypse novel, made all the bleaker by the warm chatty style of everything which precedes the final doom. The plot – Ice-nine For 150 or so pages the narrator (named John, but on the first page he suggests we call him Jonah, in line with the usage indicating someone who brings […]

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut (1962)

‘People should be changed by world wars,’ I said, ‘else, what are world wars for?’ (p.86) Mother Night purports to be the memoirs of American Howard W. Campbell Jr., born 1912 (p.17) who goes to Germany in 1923, along with his family when his dad gets a job with the Berlin branch of General Electric (p.18) and […]

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (1959)

The following is a true story from the Nightmare Ages, falling roughly, give or take a few years, between the Second World War and the Third Great Depression. (p.7) Kurt realises the world is crazy Kurt Vonnegut Junior was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and was deployed to […]

Science fiction blog posts

A chronological list of reviews of science fiction novels, short stories or other sci fi-related material which I have reviewed. Late Victorian 1888 Looking Backward 2000 to 1887 by Edward Bellamy – Julian West wakes up in the year 2000 to discover a peaceful revolution has ushered in a society of state planning, equality and […]

The World In Winter by John Christopher (1962)

I told my son (21 and a science fiction fan) the title of this book and, even before I’d begun to summarise the plot, he said, ‘So it’s about a new ice age’ – which pretty much sums it up. But with a lot of unexpectedly strange and odd aspects. Like the same author’s Death of […]

The Death of Grass by John Christopher (1956)

‘Pity always was a luxury. It’s all right if the tragedy’s a comfortable distance away – if you can watch it from a seat in the cinema. It’s different when you find it on your doorstep – on every doorstep.’ (John Custance in The Death of Grass, page 145) This isn’t a particularly well-written novel, […]