Friday, July 17, 2009

Vonnegut Rises Again

35. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

This is unlike any Vonnegut novel I've read before, and has restored my former appreciation for him. It was one of his earliest, which probably accounts for the more conventional organization. No disjointed timelines or too abrupt transitions here. Narration only skips between two small casts of characters.

It's hard not to like the discontented Dr. Paul Proteus, an engineer and manager, who watches machines he invented replace men as workers. Of all Vonnegut's dystopias, perhaps this one is most plausible. The world is inevitably quirky, but the characters have the absolute ring of truth about their behavior. I was interested in the economic system of this world, an automated socialism. The images of cities of people with nothing to do, provided for as the machines think best, is haunting.

Even more gloriously realistic is the subsequent revolution. The novel works toward it obviously, so I don't think I'm spoiling anything there. I've read enough Vonnegut that I can predict him, but this time, the characters impressed me, and so did the language. I definitely recommend Player Piano, especially as an introduction to Vonnegut, but if you just never got around to it, it's still a thoughtful read.

No comments: