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Kurt Vonnegut

(1922- )
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis and studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat’s Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).


The Sirens of Titan: An early Vonnegut classic about the randomness of life

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan is a tough book to review. And it’s not really SF at all though it adopts the trappings of the genre. The thing about Kurt Vonnegut’s books is that they are so deceptively simple. The prose is spare, humorous, ironic, and to the point. And yet the story is very ambitious, as it seeks to provide answers to some very basic questions. Why do we exist? What is the universe for? Do we have any free will to determine our lives? Should we have chicken or fish for dinner?

The story focuses on Malachi Constant, the richest man in America; Winston Niles Rumfoord, an older wealthy man who travels throughout the solar system with his dog Kazak, manifesting in various locations in space and time; Unk and Boaz, two buddies in the Martian Army preparing to invade the ... Read More

Edge: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

Kurt Vonnegut was a POW in Dresden during World War II. He only survived the allies’ bombing of Dresden because the Germans housed the American prisoners in a meat-locker in a building they called Slaughterhouse-Five. For years afterward, Vonnegut attempted to write a book about his experiences, and in 1969 he eventually produced Slaughterhouse-Five, a fictional biography of one of his fellow soldiers who he calls Billy Pilgrim. In the first chapter of Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut explains that his nov... Read More

Edge: Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos

Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

Kilgore Trout, who appears in many of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, is a science fiction writer whose ideas and stories are interesting even though his plots and characters are dreadful. My favorite Kilgore Trout story is summarized in Breakfast of Champions. Here, Trout writes about extra-terrestrials that come to earth to prevent nuclear holocaust. Unfortunately, they rely on tap dancing and farts to communicate, so the confused humans immediately kill their furiously farting and tap dancing visitors. This depressing depiction of... Read More

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Collection: The Big Trip Up Yonder, 2BR02B

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Collection: The Big Trip Up Yonder, 2BR02B

Brilliance Audio is now producing some science fiction story collections on audio, and recently they sent me a few of them to review. The first one that caught my eye was this one by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. It contains two related stories: “The Big Trip Up Yonder” narrated by Emmett Casey and “2BR02B” narrated by Kevin Killavey. I recognized both as stories that were produced on audio by Jincin Recordings and have been available at for a couple of years. In case you didn’t know (and in case you’re interested), Brilliance Audio has a relationship with Audible and often produces CD versions of Audible titles a couple of years after the original release. In fact, it occasionally happens that Brilliance Audio sends me a review copy of a book I’ve already read at Audible.

These two Vonnegut stories happen to be on my wishlist at Audible, so I was happy to receive and ... Read More

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories edited by John Joseph Adams

Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut The Windup Girl Read More

Brave New Worlds: Second edition of an excellent anthology of dystopian fiction

Brave New Worlds (second edition) edited by John Joseph Adams

This anthology of dystopian fiction, edited by John Joseph Adams, contains stories from some of the greatest names in fantasy and science fiction, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow and Kim Stanley Robinson. The first edition was reviewed by Stefan Raets and earned a five-star rating. I picked up the second edition to see what the new volume added.

What I found was that the entire first edition was intact. Three stories were added, along with a study guide featurin... Read More