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on 16 August 2017
*Minor spoilers*

The quirky characters and dialogue are the stars of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, with the actual plot-line enjoyable but a a tad drawn out.

The story follows John Yossarian as he repeatedly tries to get out of missions as a member of the US Air Force in World War Two. There’s a sense of dark humour as the characters’ efforts to evade their duty is the primary focus, while deaths and injuries are just taken for granted and part of the norm from chapter to chapter. As more of Yossarian’s friends are stricken down or battle with sanity, the horrific ordeals of WW2 are described almost in a blasé fashion. This unique descriptive method actually serves as a breath of fresh air in a twisted way, and actually helps drill home the horrors of the story.

The dialogue too nearly made me laugh out loud on several occasions, with characters failing to understand each other and repeated statements bringing a surreal, often comical juxtaposition to the topic that’s actually being discussed. This meant that, although similar conversations do take place throughout the novel, there can usually be a refreshing take each time and characters become more memorable via their quirky speech patterns.

The book did tail off towards the end, as the repeated issue of the squadron being punished by having their required number of flight missions raised again and again did get a bit old. Again, it’s done in a knowing way that it’s exaggerated and over-the-top, but it did eventually get a bit stale.

If nothing else, I was pleased to finally learn the origin of the saying ‘catch-22’; being the paradox that an insane military man would be relieved of service, but anyone declaring themself as insane in a bid to get out of their duty would be rejected, as they are deemed sane enough to be looking out for their well-being.

It’s well worth a read, but could’ve done with being maybe 50-100 pages shorter. The characters will live long in the memory though, and it’s certainly a unique read.
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on 5 December 2017
A good book but a little repetitive - the author replays the same concept several times in slightly different scenarios/ideas. Its a forthright book and if you don't like strong language and explicit strong sexual themes then I'd avoid. Its also pretty blunt about the realities of war. That said its also very effective at highlighting the ridiculousness petty minded nature of most large organisations and the risk of group think.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 October 2017
The phrase "Catch-22" is part of the English language and a phrase most people know. So is the book from which it originates worth reading? I'd say definitely yes - but it's not an easy read. First of all, the style is very much of its time - there's little that is understated. Think of some TV drama from the same time, when people would often talk loudly and wave their arms round. And weariness with war was more topical than it is now, especially as many more people had relatives serving (perhaps via call-up or draft) than is the case in the present day.

So don't expect this to feel like a book written today. The effort is rewarding, though, with the anti-war message coming across very loud and very clear.
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on 26 September 2017
Tried to read this book once on a kindle dropped it after the first 100 pages. I decided to buy the paperback book and it definitely changed the experience. I found it much easier to track the different characters story lines and how it all fit in time, I had to reread some chapters occasionally to spot the brilliant subtleties he added.
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on 12 October 2017
This is surely one of the greatest books of all time; utterly anarchic. How much of it related to reality is a moot point although one can imagine that the American services were somewhat, shall we say, disorganised. A great read and one of the few books that produces uncontrolled laughter.
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on 5 January 2016
I first read this when I was 19 and now I'm getting on for 70 I'm about to read it for perhaps the six or seventh time. This is also perhaps the fifth copy I've owned, the rest being passed on to like-minded men (though rarely for some strange reason women) of a certain cynical bent. If I were to make a choice of the most important, funny and thought-provoking book I've ever read then this would probably be it. However, it never ceases to amaze me that Heller wrote nothing else worth reading (I've read all his stuff), but as he said himself, when challenged on this very subject 'Well, I wrote Catch 22, didn't I?'

No better answer either given or required.
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on 26 October 2014
It's not often that a book title enters the language and Catch-22 has that rare distinction. Set amongst American bomber crews in Italy during WW2 it captures the random nature of life an death in war as well as the frustrations of bureaucratic organisations. Madness is the only way out of flying duty but to declare yourself mad you clearly have to sane.

The central character Yossarian is, perhaps, one of the great anti-heroes, racked with self-doubt and desperate to escape a system that resolutely refuses to let go.

The book is laced with wry, dark and sometimes bitter, humour. It manages to combine attractive prose with the feeling of having been dashed off angrily using a crayon because the writer isn't allowed anything sharp.

There are lots of characters which makes it hard to keep track of who's who. In the final analysis though that doesn't really matter. Catch-22 is thought-provoking, funny and horrific in equal measure and deserves its place in the dictionary.
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on 29 December 2017
If you are not familiar with the "Catch 22" you aint lived. A long, complex, difficult, funny and amazing book. I read it once a year (since many years ago) to reboot the ridiculous in my mind!
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on 3 December 2017
Satire, wit, charm, happy and sad. This book takes you through a range of emotions as seen or told through anothers eyes.
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on 1 April 2012
Catch-22 is perhaps the most bizarre novel I've read. It's tangential, disjointed funny and sad. It's very much tongue-in-cheek for the vast majority of the time, but when it it's not, it's poignant. From some of the most insane dialogue to scenes of personal horror, the book ties together the literal madness of war and the gritty truth of it.

The idea of Catch-22 has become part of the general vernacular in most English speaking nations since the 1970s and most of us have used it to describe a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. The catch stems from the idea that as a combat pilot, you can only be grounded in perfect physical health if you're mad. If you ask to be grounded though, you must be sane because only mad men want to fly combat missions. Having asked to be grounded, how do you then prove you're mad? Do you go on parade naked? Do you attend a funeral sitting naked up a nearby tree? Do you have horrific nightmares at the thought of flying no more missions? You can try, but you won't succeed because of Catch-22.

When you read this novel, you'll quickly discover that such a catch can only exist because everyone is mad. From Private to General, there is not a sane man to be found. Even the psychiatrist is quite plainly mad. The result is some real laugh out loud moments as we follow Yossarian through his struggles to be sent home alive. But when we read of the horrors through which he has lived, we begin to understand.

There isn't too much dwelling on the facts of post-traumatic stress, and if you didn't know of such a thing, you would find it hard to spot in the novel - it is never discussed, never referred to and the resulting madness seems part of everyday life on base.

I found I came to like Yossarian and think him the most sane of all, especially in comparison to the likes of Hungry Joe, Colonel Korn and General Scheisskopf (you don't need to know much German to see what Heller did there!).

I found Catch-22 wasn't a novel I felt compelled to keep reading, largely because of its disjointed nature - it does hop around in time and space a lot - but when I did pick it up, I flew through it, often smiling to myself, often with an eyebrow raised. I smiled when I finished the book because ultimately I really enjoyed it. I now want to get my hands on the film and see just how true to the book it manages to stay.
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