Sacramento Public Library



Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

Engaging Story: 4/5
Overall Writing Quality: 5/5
Character Development: 3/5

Slaughterhouse-Five was similar to Ruins by Orson Scott Card because of its themes of science-fiction and time travel. Kurt Vonnegut uses concepts with time that are difficult for us to understand. He invents a species of aliens called Tralfamadorians that perceive all time moments in time at once and can travel to any one of them at any time. However, Slaughterhouse-Five is first and foremost a war novel.

It tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier and later prisoner in World War 2. He faces terrible conditions in the German P.O.W camp and witnesses the bombing of Dresden. He is also kidnapped by Tralfamadorians and learns of their perception of time. He can then travel to any point in time in his life that he wants. This makes him realize that war and death aren’t so bad because he can just travel to other times of his life. A minor side effect of his new findings is that people think Billy is insane.

The story was not as intricate or entertaining as the plot of Ruins, but it was still enjoyable. The first-hand facts about World War 2 (Kurt Vonnegut was in the war) were interesting and horrifying. The Tralfamadorians were an interesting twist. Because of Billy Pilgrim’s time travel abilities, the story jumps around to different points in his life, including his death. This makes the story have little to no continuity, but it makes things interesting. The quality of writing in Slaughterhouse Five is superb. Vonnegut uses lots of dark humor. Every time he tells of someone dying, he writes, “so it goes.” He manages to find humor in the most horrid of things. Metaphors can also be found frequently. Vonnegut described a train car with prisoners in it as a single living organism. In went food and out came excrement and noise. Despite the great writing quality, the only character that Vonnegut developed was Billy Pilgrim. All other characters were more or less two-dimensional. He relied on telling rather than showing to describe their personalities. Billy’s personality was shaped by his experience with the Tralfamadorians.

I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five personally, but it might not be for everyone. It is certainly not a traditional novel, with a few main characters and their relationships to each other. If a regular novel is a landscape painting, this would be more like abstract art. Even so, think abstract art has some value and can be better than a boring landscape in some cases.

- Carl, 15
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