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Cat's Cradle (Penguin Essentials) Paperback – 7 Apr 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241951607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241951606
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 1.4 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 361,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

One of the warmest, wisest, funniest voices to be found anywhere in fiction (Daily Telegraph)

The time to read Vonnegut is just when you begin to suspect that the world is not what it appears to be. He is not only entertaining, he is electrocuting. You read him with enormous pleasure because he makes your hair stand on end (New York Times)

Vonnegut has looked the world straight in the eye and never flinched (J. G. Ballard)

Book Description

One of America's greatest writers gives us his unique perspective on our fears of nuclear annihilation --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I think that this novel appears fragmented because there are a lot of different characters who when interviewed help to form a picture of the scientist Felix Hoenikker. In relation to the Bokonon religion and all the quotes and poems, it's almost like nonsense poetry, making little sense in places. In this sense it is very Modernist, to see the truth within the chaos.

It is an interesting start to the book where the narrator asks us to call him Jonah. Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh, to warn the people of the impending doom. As a prophet he had a certain authority and responsibility, but he was wilful and disobedient and went in the opposite direction. Is the narrator here to point out our own destructive tendencies and that if we don't reform, it will lead to our own destruction, certainly his book, The End of the World would suggest this. However the book makes it point with a large degree of humour. "When I was a younger man - two wives ago, 250,000 cigarettes ago, 3,000 quartz of booze ago .." The modern vices, common to all humanity, who make mistakes. He talks about humanity being divided into teams, a karas, who do God's will without ever knowing what they are doing. So much for the illusion of free will. "If you find your life tangled up with someone else's life for no very logical reason, that person may be a member of your karas." The most farcical example of this is Mrs Crosby, formerly Hoosier. She proceeds to tell the narrator that Hoosiers are in charge of everything, as if it is a prestigious name, akin to Kennedy or Rockefeller.

The narrators search is for Felix Hoenikker and all of the people he meets along the way tell him something about the man and his creation, Ice-9.
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Format: Paperback
This is the second book of Vonnegut I've read, the first one being Vonnegut's best know novel, "Slaughterhouse 5". If it was not for "Slaughterhouse 5" I would take "A cat's cradle" as a very imaginative, weird and funny book, but probably not one that keeps me thinking for some time once finished. The tone is just too light and the story too improbable to be taken otherwise. But this is highly deceptive and once you realise that Vonnegut's war experience in Dresden has been central to his vision of life, this book appears not just as light entertainment but as a more profound reflection on the meaning of life (pretty meaningless in the author's view I gather) and, incidentally, on the role of religion and the power science gives to some very irresponsible and unbalanced people (this book was written during the cold war and the possibility of the world being completely wiped out by nuclear war was then seen as very real).

The message may be too pessimistic to make the novel completely enjoyable but it makes for an interesting and very funny read until someone presses the wrong the button.
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Well, that was great fun.
I first read Cat's Cradle as a 16 year old in 1973. I loved it as much as anything I had read up to that point. I re-read it very recently and tried as hard as I could to avoid the rosy glow of nostalgia colouring my impressions.
I hope I succeeded; in any case I found myself shaking my head every few seconds in wonder at the humour, the ideas and the sheer intelligence on display. I think I probably got more out of the book almost 40 years on than I did at the age of 16, but the fact that a novel, essentially of ideas rather than storyline, left such an indelible impression on my adolescent mind is pretty remarkable. I think Vonnegut is held in even greater esteem today than during his lifetime and the predictions of him going the way of Mark Twain in terms of reputation don't seem too fanciful.
So, it was a great re-connection for me and a re-discovery of something dear; then the real fun began when I read the reviews here on Amazon.
Fighting the temptation to slip into `defensive fanboy' mode I still find the content of the negative reviews published here fascinating and provocative. There seem to be a few consistent criticisms;
* The novel and it's themes are `dated' and no longer relevant
* The characters are unbelievable or `unappealing'
* The plot is weak
* There is no central point to the novel
So, is the novel `dated'? Well, it was published in 1973, so by some standards it's bound to be dated - it is nearly 50 years old and our world today is different technologically, politically and environmentally. Given all of that I'm personally astonished at how well it has aged. Yes, we are no longer preoccupied by the Cold War, but with events in Iran how safe do we really feel from the threat of nuclear war?
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This novel turned me from being a Slaughterhouse 5 fan into a Vonnegut fan. It's a crystalline gem of irony and pessimistic fatalism but, unlike later works where he had become truly despondent, there is a lifeline of humanist optimism in the most magnificent part of the book — the invented religion of Bokononism.
Like a previous reviewer, I find criticisms that the book is dated or far-fetched to be odd. The book most certainly is not dated: the Cold War may be over, but man has not stopped his quest for the most efficient technological route to total annihilation. To me it's got a fairly universal theme (one similar to Dr Strangelove, which the book very much resembles in its savagely ironic tone): that technological destruction is ultimately wielded by individuals, and that individuals are far too often weak and idiotic to be entrusted with such power.
If you only read one Vonnegut book, make it this one. And then, if you have any sense, become a Bokononist too.
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