Top positive review
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An amazing collection of short stories
on 30 November 2002
Having never read Vonnegut before, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. The title led me to expect some degree of science fiction. What I found was a collection of rich, wonderfully written stories about a wide assortment of subjects. Vonnegut is a great writer, pure and simple. Many of the stories dealt with the future and the state of society, and Vonnegut struck me as having a somewhat cynical yet witty view of the subject. I found the themes of his stories to be somewhat akin to my own fears of life as we will some day know it, in a world where the government attempts to create utopia on earth. Two of the more memorable stories found in these pages are "Harrison Bergeron" and "Welcome to the Monkey House." In the first story, we find the type of society that I fear the most, a socialist republic where all people are required to be equal; those who possess intelligence and pose the danger of actually thinking are controlled by implants which forcefully disallow any thought from entering their minds. In the latter, we find a Malthusian world of overpopulation where everyone takes pills to numb the lower halves of their bodies and people are encouraged to come to Federal Ethical Suicide Parlors and voluntarily remove themselves from the crowded world. Other stories deal with massive overpopulation troubles.
On the other hand, we find more simplistic stories in which Vonnegut conveys individuals in a deep, touching light, striking great chords of sympathy in this reader's mind. A woman who is obsessed with redecorating the houses of her neighbors yet cannot afford to buy decent furniture for her own house; a young woman who comes to a strange town, captivates everyone with her beauty, is criticized and publicly humiliated by a young man for being the kind of girl he could never win the heart of, and is richly shown to be an innocent, lonely soul; a teen who acts horribly because he has never had a real family but is saved from a life of crime by a teacher who makes the grand effort to save the boy--these are some of the many subjects dealt with by the author. There is even a heartfelt story about a young Russian and young American who are killed in space but who inspire understanding and détente between the two superpowers by bringing home the point that they were both young men with families who loved them and who had no desire for anything but peace--written during the height of the Cold War, that story really stood out to me.
All of the stories are not eminently satisfying to me, but the lion's share of them are; a couple of stories seemed to have been written for no other reason but to make the author some money, which is okay (especially since Vonnegut introduces the stories by saying he wrote them in order to finance his novel-writing endeavors). I may have been less than satisfied by a couple of stories, but even the worst of the lot was written wonderfully and obviously with much care, and I daresay that few writers could do better on their best day than Vonnegut does on his worst. Sometimes, as one ages, one fears that he will eventually have read all of the best books in the world, but then one discovers an author such as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and it is one of the best and most exciting things that can happen to that person.