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Slaughterhouse 5, or The Children's Crusade - A Duty-dance with Death Paperback – 21 Mar 1991

4.4 out of 5 stars 418 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (21 Mar. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099800209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099800200
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (418 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

It took Vonnegut more than 20 years to put his Dresden experiences into words. He explained, "there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again." Slaughterhouse Five is a powerful novel incorporating a number of genres. Only those who have fought in wars can say whether it represents the experience well. However, what the novel does do is invite the reader to look at the absurdity of war. Human versus human, hedonist politicians pressing buttons and ordering millions to their deaths all for ideologies many cannot even comprehend. Flicking between the US, 1940's Germany and Tralfamadore, Vonnegut's semi- autobiographical protagonist Billy Pilgrim finds himself very lost. One minute he is being viewed as a specimen in a Tralfamadorian Zoo, the next he is wandering a post-apocalyptic city looking for corpses. Slaughterhouse Five-Or The Children's Crusade A Duty-Dance with Death is a remarkable blend of black humour, irony, the truth and the absurd. The author regards his work a "failure", millions of readers do not. Released the same time bombs were falling on South East Asia, this title caused controversy and awakening. Essential reading for all. So it goes. --Jon Smith

Review

"Marvellous...the writing is pungent, the antics uproarious, the wit as sharp as a hypodermic needle" (Daily Telegraph)

"A work of keen literary artistry" (Joseph Heller)

"The individuality of Vonnegut's style is a curious yet perfect match for the pain of the emotional content. A humane, human book that always remains a work of art rather than biography, no matter how apparent the author's presence" (Kate Atkinson)

"A laughing prophet of doom" (New York Times)

"Unique" (Doris Lessing)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Slaughterhouse Five is a book that defies a clear and coherent summary, it is hard to pin it on any one thing. On one level it is a book about the fire bombing of Dresden during the climax of the second world war - which the author witnessed first hand during his military service - but on a much larger level it is a twisted science fiction/psychological cross breed about time travel, aliens, philosophy, war, perspective, life and of course death. So it goes. The book easily scores a 5 out of 5 for it's unique writing style, story and approach: it is very readable, and though it's short, it leaves a long lasting impression. I would also say it's a book you could read twice - which is always a good thing - as there is a lot of depth scattered throughout its pages for the readers who like to highlight, take notes and dwell on the book's themes and messages.

Kurt Vonnegut employs a very economical writing style, and relies heavily on symbolism, colours and motifs, but delivers them with short and direct sentences. The author has popularised the saying `So it goes' through Slaughterhouse Five's layers upon layers of (well executed) repetition; these three words hold a certain power in the context of the story, and will no doubt conjure in the reader's mind a fascinating philosophy that underlines the whole book.

The story centers around a time traveling man called Billy Pilgrim who served in the Second World War, witnessed the fire bombing at Dresden, and was abducted by aliens who helped him to understand his time traveling experiences. He also ends up at some point in the novel as a POW in a slaughterhouse - numbered 5, obviously.
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The most impressive thing about Slaughterhouse 5 is that Vonnegut's distinctive laconic, sarcastic, and humorous tone of voice is never at the expense of the pathos that emerges from the terrible events he is describing. Rather it reorientates the normal uses of pity, which is to engender, rage, revenge, or to give it its rightful name - patriotism. Rather his wry commentary turns this use on its head by showing that the causes of pitiful human suffering are actually this ridiculous folly of patriotism itself. His character Billy Pilgrim is taken to the alien planet of Tralfamadore. The Tralfamadorians teach Billy to see human life in this way, and to see human suffering as the result of unalterable folly. "So it goes" is his catchphrase which sums up this "Tralfamadorian" point of view. When ever Billy reports something has died he adds "So it goes."

Late last month (July 2011) a Missouri school banned the book form their library following a Missouri professor's complaint about its content. In a column for the local paper, Wesley Scroggins wrote that Slaughterhouse 5 "contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame. The 'f word' is plastered on almost every other page. The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ."

Should you be worried about whether any of this is true, might I reassure you and say that none of this is true. The "F word" appears sparingly, maybe less than 7 of its 177 pages. The "naked men and women" is not true either, its one naked man, Billy Pilgrim and one semi-naked woman in a zoo on Tralfamadore. Neither are described salaciously, nor is there any erotic content in the book.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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.
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