Has there been a film version?
There was a film version produced in 1972 starring Michael Sacks and was nominated for a Hugo award.
Who are the main characters?
Billy Pilgrim – a young man who becomes unstuck in time, causing him to randomly travel from one point in his life to another; he was also abducted by aliens and put in a Tralfamadore zoo
Valencia – Billy’s wife
Montana Wildhack – a soft porn star who is abducted along with Billy
Edgar Derby – a 44 year old man who serves in the military with Billy, he’s executed in Dresden
Paul Lazzaro – a tough man who swears to kill Billy one day
Kilgore Trout – a cheap sci fi novel writer
Kurt Vonnegut – the narrator
What’s it about?
This story is mainly the story of Billy Pilgrim, a young man who becomes unstuck in time while serving in World War II as an assistant chaplain. He is taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to a labor camp where he serves for a while before being transferred to Dresden. The story is also an elaborately crafted tale of the bombing of Dresden – which was more catastrophic in its toll of human lives than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. We are treated to Pilgrim’s life through Vonnegut’s eyes, who knew him in the war, but in a dynamic fashion which skips back and forth between every stage of living.
Why is this book a classic?
It is one of the most frequently banned American novels in existence; because of the profanity and sexual content.
Why should I read this book?
It’s Vonnegut at his most creative.
Why did this book make your list?
It was on one of those top 100 lists, for science fiction, I think. And I like Kurt Vonnegut’s writing most of the time.
Has it won any awards?
No, I don’t believe so. But feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
“Outside were Golgotha sounds of strong men digging holes for upright timbers in hard, hard ground.” – p 137
“And then Billy traveled in time to when he was sixteen years old, in the waiting room of a doctor. Billy had an infected thumb. There was only one other patient waiting – an old, old man. The old man was in agony because of gas. He farted tremendously, and then he belched. ‘Excuse me,’ he said to Billy. Then he did it again. ‘Oh God -‘ he said, ‘I knew it was going to be bad getting old.’ He shook his head. ‘I didn’t know it was going to be this bad.'” – p 189
This is a somewhat autobiographical novel (obviously not completely so) because Vonnegut was actually a POW in Dresden when it was bombed.
I enjoyed this story immensely, although I felt like it should be impacting me much more than it did. Maybe I was just looking at it the wrong way. I was very impressed with Vonnegut’s use of time travel in this novel, it struck me as similar to watching the movie “Memento” by skipping from chapter to chapter front and backwards at random. And without the mystery of it being so important. That was taken out by the fatalism presented by Billy being unstuck in time so that he would essentially never die but continously skip from one moment in time to another randomly and out of control. This book is an overwhelmingly creative story which subtly tells the tale of one of the worst bombings in the entirety of WWII.