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Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time. In World War II, Billy was captured by the Germans and sent to the prisoner of war camp in Dresden, Germany. In 1945, Dresden was firebombed by the Allies, killing over one hundred thousand civilians. Billy survives the frantic madness of the P.O.W camp and the panic of the bombing to return to the States and become an optometrist. But the events of the war have knocked something askew in Billy, and for the rest of his life he occasionally pops off to travel through time and space, from the mundane details of family life to his time in a zoo on the planet Tralfamador. The events of Billy’s unorthodox life are not nearly as neat and orderly as this summary of those events; the rapid-fire transfer of Billy from future to past to present would be disorienting for a reader in any the hands of any other author than the indomitable Kurt Vonnegut. But the disjointed vignettes and fragments of Billy’s memories mimic the way the human mind actually works. We can switch from daydream to memory to real life and back again; sometimes the transition is seamless and sometimes we’re jolted out of our thoughts rudely or with force. Based in part of Vonnegut’s own World War II experiences as a prisoner-of-war during the bombing of Dresden, Slaughterhouse-Five has become a classic of war literature as well as a staple of Vonnegut’s oeuvre. With its characteristic and flawless union of satire, humor, and science fiction, Slaughterhouse-Five presents a vivid portrait of this crazy world and the mixed-up life that goes with it.
posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:02PM
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