Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

A light-hearted tale about the end of the world.

Perhaps I should read the introduction before I write about the book. But I’m here now, so, lessee. I guess it’s hard to figure how scary it was to be threatened with the complete destruction of the entire world for those glorious couple of decades while the Cold War was at its height. Nothing these days really comes close. Climate change? Yes, scary, but over a time period that prevents anyone from being properly frightened. Terrorism? Well, I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but no terrorist has so far found a way to destroy an entire continent in the course of a few hours.

And that’s when this book was written, of course – when half the world’s population (random number I made up with no reference to facts) could have been killed pretty much instantly if a couple of guys with buttons had decided the other guys were kicking off. So there’s a bit of pessimism about the whole “wither humanity” question. But it is still optimistic about how to live in the face of people doing bad things to people. Of course, the answer is Bokononism, a religion explicitly based on lies: everyone is brought up on lies – “where’s the cat? where’s the cradle?”. It tells you to listen for your fate, identify what you’re supposed to be doing, and go and do it. It despises petty-minded patriotism. Its followers seem happy enough.

But then everyone ends up dead anyway. They always do; everyone does.

Notwithstanding that, there are some pretty funny jokes, and the characters are amusing in themselves. It rattles along, too. I suspect that there’s more to it than that, but I feel separated from the times; it seems like a different world.

See also:

Starship Troopers – for some reason this feels similar to me.

Slaughterhouse 5 – if only because it’s the only other Vonnegut I’ve read so far


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