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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassion shines through satire
Ignore the sneering review, this is a modern classic. In the hands of another author, this might have become a pot-boiling melodrama, but in the compassionate - some would almost say dispassionate tones and measured language of Vonnegut it becomes a deadly weapon - a deadpan satire with teeth, explaining the firebombing of Dresden in terms to bring shame to those who...
Published on 5 Mar 2004 by Andy Millward

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More absurd and strange than expected.
This is one of those books that need to be read with an already basic understanding of the author's background. First off, Kurt Vonnegut really was present at the controversial bombing of Dresden (Germany) by Allied Forces in 1945, killing thousands of civilians and Prisoners of War. Slaughterhouse 5 was the building in which Vonnegut and his colleagues sheltered from the...
Published on 18 April 2012 by H. Whitehead


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More absurd and strange than expected., 18 April 2012
By 
H. Whitehead (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is one of those books that need to be read with an already basic understanding of the author's background. First off, Kurt Vonnegut really was present at the controversial bombing of Dresden (Germany) by Allied Forces in 1945, killing thousands of civilians and Prisoners of War. Slaughterhouse 5 was the building in which Vonnegut and his colleagues sheltered from the bombing. Knowing this somehow puts a different slant on the whole story.

The first and last chapters explain all this, but in a narrative way that fits perfectly into the story - that the author was actually there, the slow progress of actually writing the book and how it was given its subtitle. Upon visiting an old friend of his from the War, the friend's wife remarked how such a book should not be written as all men Vonnegut's age had just been child soldiers, fighting in a war that was not their own. Hence, 'the children's crusade.' That's one of the major themes of Slaughterhouse 5 - that the 'men' drafted in to fight for both sides of World War Two towards the end were either too young, too old or too injured.

This is doubly true in Billy Pilgrim's case. He's definitely young, but to me at least, he seems a little... off. Mentally ill perhaps. He has an odd gait, doesn't understand basic concepts and generally needs somebody to push him along from behind. That might just be my interpretation, but that's the idea I took from it. The point is, he shouldn't have been there, along with thousands of other people unsuited for conscription.

So, the aliens -and no, I'm not joking. The timeline flits about constantly, in a Time Traveller's Wife kind of way, and it does get a little confusing at times. The concept is that Billy was abducted by aliens (the Tralfamadorians) and exhibited in a zoo on their home planet. Eventually he starts to see time as they do - as if every moment of the past, present and future is happening all the time. Time doesn't progress; it doesn't need to if you can see every second of every day at once.

While I did enjoy Slaughterhouse 5, I didn't seem to really connect to it. Maybe it was because it was more absurd than I expected, or perhaps I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. Either way, it is worth a read. Just keep in mind that Kurt Vonnegut's statistics and viewpoints aren't all strictly correct - apparently the Nazis exaggerated the death toll as part of their propaganda schemes. The author states it was around 130,000, but recent investigations show it was actually more around 25,000. Not that that's not bad enough, mind you.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassion shines through satire, 5 Mar 2004
By 
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Ignore the sneering review, this is a modern classic. In the hands of another author, this might have become a pot-boiling melodrama, but in the compassionate - some would almost say dispassionate tones and measured language of Vonnegut it becomes a deadly weapon - a deadpan satire with teeth, explaining the firebombing of Dresden in terms to bring shame to those who perpetrated this war crime - the victors, in this case.
Vonnegut also employs a simple science fiction technique to great effect - allowing Billy Pilgrim to travel up and down his life at will rather than living it sequentially is far more satisfying than flashbacks and flashforwards.
I find it an incredibly moving book, one of very few worthy of their accolades.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unstuck in excellence, 28 Jan 2004
By 
Without a doubt one of the most original, thought-provoking, captivating and post-modern texts I have ever read. Moving, touching, human, informative and endearing, I recommend this to anyone who can read, or has the slightest interest in something... extra...
It's short (only 157 pages) and it's only taken me two afternoons to finish it, but it'll never truly be finished, and there's no way in hell I'm going to let it rot on a shelf somewhere- I'll be reading it again within a week or two.
Possible contender for a new favourite author here...
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Curious, philosophical, wide reaching great book, 1 Oct 2007
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
The first chapter in this book is in the first person which gives context to the rest of the book. I always forget how rare, but enjoyable, it is to read first person until you come across it, generally in autobiographies. This gave a fascinating start which engaged my curiosity from the beginning.
I loved the swapping backwards and forwards in time. It was initially unsettling but once I accepted that was normal then it was a very relaxing technique. The use of the fourth dimension led to a interesting conclusion that when a body dies it doesn't matter as there are still times when it was alive and they can be revisited at any time.
Billy has memories from the future which is a great concept and I loved his complete acceptance of what will be happening at some time and also accepting his inability to change it.
I'm not quite sure how the author managed to acheive it, but the suspense was retained all through the novel even though, through Billy, the reader has already seen the end of the story.
There is a thin line between the philosophical genius of Billy and his lunatic tendancies which increase as the time progressed towards his death.
This is the first Kurt Vonnegut book I have read and I will read more.
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60 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absurdities, 5 Jun 2006
By 
M. Moran - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Taught now in English classes as a post-modern sketch of the absurdity of war, this novel uses a collage of techniques and genres--science fiction, episodic storytelling, Absurdism, memoir--to get its point across.

It's point can still be missed, however. War is fought by children, Vonnegut explains, caught up in something that they often do not understand. Therein lay the absurdity. Vonnegut's own personal history, captured and held in Dresden during the bombing, allowed him firsthand to witness the devastation war can bring. Ideologies are transient, he realizes. And the destruction of one of the most beautiful European cities and the deaths of 24,000 human beings had a profound effect on him. What is the point? Examine the purpose of life. What is it?

The story demands the reader to ask questions of him/herself.

Also, the impact this book has had on literature can't be ignored. In an earlier review, the stylistic similarities to Adams and Irving, both who followed Vonnegut and so were obviously influenced, was mentioned. That's important. You can trace a number of modern satirists to Vonnegut--Palahniuk being my own personal favorite.

Whether you agree with Vonnegut's stance on war as absurd or not, Slaughterhouse-Five is worth a careful reading.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slaughterhouse5stars, 10 July 2002
By A Customer
This book is so entertaining I read it twice more after finishing. Comparisons with Catch 22 are germane as both are 2nd World War satirical anti-war books, though I found Slaughterhouse 5 punchier and funnier than Heller's work (which is fantastic as well). The misfortunes that befall the hapless pacific Billy Pilgrim (he doesn't do anything- things just happen to him) operate as a neat parody of the horror and injustices of war. And the sci-fi element brought to my mind the cameo appearance of aliens in Monty Python's The Life Of Brian. Brutal, clever humour. But of course it delivers a thought-provoking message about human nature too. You could also try Cat's Cradle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut shows us all how to come unstuck in time, 22 July 1997
By A Customer
I read Slaughterhouse Five last week, a 16th birthday present
from my parents. With it's amazing and disjointed journey
through one man's simple life, Vonnegut illustrates how
messy yet tied together all our lives are. Instead of a simple
flashback that most anyone could use to give a character's backround,
Vonnegut brings the readers along with Billy Pilgrim and we all come
unstuck, now able to explore with limitless hind and foresight a full
but not entirely perfect life. Anyone who reads this novel will interprete
something different. The Tralfamadorian outlook on life and death affected me the
most, while my friend appreciated more the historic backround
of the once beautiful then ruined Dresden. Vonnegut helps us understand the futility of war and the sad, but not tragic side of death. WWII was truly a Children's Crusade. So it goes.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it again, 5 July 2004
By 
Dennis Littrell (SoCal/NorCal/Maui) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I know this novel fairly well having read it several times (once aloud to my students). It is about all time being always present if only we knew, or could realize it, or had a sense about time in the same way we have senses for light and sound.

It is also about the Allied fire bombings of Dresden which killed about 25,000 people. (And so it goes.) Kurt Vonnegut begins as though writing a memoir and advises us that "All of this happened, more or less..." Of course it did not, and yet, as with all real fiction, it is psychologically true. His protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, an unlikely hero, somewhat in the manner of unlikely heroes to come like Forest Gump and the hero of Jerzy Kosinski's Being There, transcends time and space as he bumbles along. This is a comédie noire--a "black comedy"--not to be confused with "film noir," a cinematic genre in which the bad guys may win or at least they are made sympathetic. In comédie noire the events are horrific but the style is light-hearted. What the genres have in common is a non-heroic protagonist.

This is also a totally original work written in a most relaxing style that fuses the elements of science fiction with realism. It is easy to read (which is one of the reasons it can be found on the high school curriculum in our public schools). It is sharply satirical, lampooning not only our moral superiority, our egocentricity, but our limited understanding of time and space. And of course it is anti-war novel in the tradition of All Quiet on the Western Front and Johnny Got His Gun.

Vonnegut's view of time in this novel is like the stratification of an upcropping of rock: time past and time present are there for us to see, but also there is time future. Billy Pilgrim learns from the Tralfamadorians (who kidnapped him in 1967) that we are actually timeless beings who experience what we call the past, present and future again and again. And so Billy goes back to the war and forward to his marriage, and to Tralfamadore again and again. He learns that the Tralfamadorians see the stars not as bright spots of light but as "rarefied, luminous spaghetti" and human beings as "great millepedes with babies' legs at one end and old people's legs at the other." So time is not a river, nor is it a snake with its tail in its mouth. It is omnipresent, yet some things occur before and some after, and but always they occur again.

And so it goes.

What I admire most about this most admirable novel is how easily and naturally Vonnegut controls the narrative and how effortlessly seems its construction. It is almost as if Vonnegut sat down one day and let his thoughts wander and when he was through, here is this novel.

In a sense, Vonnegut invented a new novelistic genre, combining fantasy with realism, touched by fictionalized memoir, penned in a comedic mode as horror is overtaken by a kind of fatalistic yet humorous view of life. Note here the appearance of Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut's alter-ego, the science fiction writer who is said to have invented Tralfamadore.

Bottom line: read this without preconceptions and read it without regard to the usual constraints. Just let it flow and accept it for what it is, a juxtaposition of several genres, a tale of fiction, that--as fiction should--transcends time and space.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Novels and other Fictions"
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A short masterpiece, 15 Jun 2001
By 
Penguin Egg (London, England) - See all my reviews
Slaughterhouse 5 is every bit as good as it's reputation suggests. It is witty, observant, humane, and clever. Vonnegut writes in a deceptively simple prose, but which must have been difficult to have pulled off: namely, the way the story flits from the present to the past and to the future, very often in a single page, but manages to do it without disturbing the effortless flow of the narrative. No mean trick for a writer. A favourite book of mine. I can also recommend some of his earlier books: The Sirens of Titan; Piano Player; Mother Night, and Player Piano. His later books are not so hot; but Slaughterhouse 5 is his masterpiece. Like Heller's Catch 22, with which it has something in common, it is fun to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It grew on me., 6 Aug 2009
Another of my book club's suggestions and not my normal thing.

At first I didn't like this, i thought the lead character was a little bit strange and i didn't identify with him at first. The writing style could also be quite annoying with the narrative skipping from present day, to his time in the zoo, to WW2 and the continual "So it goes." after every death.

It wasn't until my friend Caroline pointed out the metaphor that it suddenly all made sense for me! Rather than a straight forward story it was of a mans descent into madness and how he dealt with what he had seen. Suddenly It all became clear and I loved the other metaphors and characters representations.

Definatly one to make you think and quite enjoyable even if it leaves you thinking "Huh?"
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Slaughterhouse-Five: Or the Children's Crusade, a Duty-Dance with Death
Slaughterhouse-Five: Or the Children's Crusade, a Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt, Jr. Vonnegut (Paperback - 17 Jun 2009)
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