Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Slaughterhouse Five

So let me start off by saying I liked it but I’m not sure I understood it.

The plot centres around Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes ‘unstuck in time’, is kidnapped by aliens and also witnesses the fire bombing of Dresden. We follow his life backwards and forwards in time – from his birth to his death and everything in between. He can do this himself and goes back to different places all the time. Sometimes the place where he has gone affects him forwards in time (he cries randomly in the future because he’s reliving some time back in winter in the war, and the wind is making his eyes water).

I should say that it doesn’t pass the test right off the bat. There are only 2 women in it basically and they are both a bit vapid, don’t do anything and are basically peripheral to the plot. They could both not exist and mostly everything would still tick over as usual.

So I liked it. I liked the craziness of it, flipping back and forth, ditching the normal terms of narrative. However, I’m not sure I got what the whole thing was about. I’m sure Dresden was an important part of it but it seemed like just a thing that happened. Maybe I missed something (I read it almost all in one shot and started having a migraine somewhere neart he end).

I kept on wondering if it was supposed to be true and that Billy did get kidnapped by aliens (he was brought back but it’s not as descriptive as when he was brought out) or if it was just post-traumatic stress. I mean, everything in the plot sets it up like it could be. At the end it definitely does seem like post-traumatic stress because the way he dies isn’t what happens in history – so it goes, as it says 106 times.

I did enjoy the irreverence of it. You can see why certain fundamentalists in the US would want to have it banned. The whole thing was brilliantly told. Still, I’m left a bit confused. Maybe it needs another read. 4/5 stars.

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