Slaughterhouse-Five Slays, Kurt Vonnegut

I never pictured myself reading Slaughterhouse-Five until an important friend of mine recommended it to me, and I’m glad I gave the book a chance.

Who would have guessed I’d find myself well, loving, such a well loved book? I wish I had picked it up earlier.

Slaughterhouse-Five is an anti-war novel with science fiction elements, written by the late American author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The story follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, with a focus on the firebombing of Dresden in World War 2.

I think it’s near impossible to explain Slaughterhouse-Five, let alone review it properly without giving too much away, but I’ll try my best. Before that though, I do want to say I think it’s a must read.

So here goes. What is the book about?

It’s about life, and everything in-between. The beautiful and not-so beautiful moments that fill it, the lines separating sanity and insanity, love and hate, the war and its ever-lasting effects, and finally death. So it goes.

Also aliens. The space UFO kind.

Vonnegut uses science fiction elements to jumble Slaughterhouse-Five’s story structure, in a brilliant way. The book has you following the main character, Billy, in a nonlinear narrative. It jumps between different places, time periods and even planets. Ultimately, leaving the reader questioning the unreliable narrator.

Which I think is a really effective way to drive home the anti-war message, and the books underlying meaning. As we see the main characters mind unravel and “time travel”, as a way to cope with the war, we see how truly terrible the war is.

I think the books structure is also a reflection of the meaning and purpose of war itself. War has no clear direction, it leaves a devastating aftermath to both the world and people involved.

Slaughterhouse-Five is also known as The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. With war, soldiers go in as children, and come out as lost adults. Jumbled.

The book is an incredible experience, and I’ve never really read something quite like it before.

That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.

This was the quote that stood out to me most when I read the book, and will probably stay with me long after.

The beautiful, good moments will always exist. They have happened. They are like mosquitoes trapped in amber, stuck in time. Concentrate on them instead of the terrible times, and they’ll get you to the next good one.

I wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read Slaughterhouse-Five. The book is on the shorter side, but leaves plenty of food for thought. It provides an interesting perspective into World War 2, and might leave you with a brighter outlook on life.

By Camellia Hao Ren

Camellia Hao Ren is an Australian journalist and editor. When they aren't writing, they are usually playing games or reading.

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