Player Piano

imageAuthor: Kurt Vonnegut

Publisher: Dell Publishing (1952)

From Wikipedia:

“The novel follows Doctor Paul Proteus, an engineer at the Ilium Works. The novel takes place in an America of the future where machines run everything and do everything, making people almost afterthoughts. Specialization is the norm, and all of the wealthy upper-class people have doctorate level degrees, with eight years of schooling for everyone; consequently it creates a society of well-educated thinkers and not doers. Paul seems to be on his way up the ladder of success in this techno-utopia – a perfect wife, a fast-track position at Ilium Works and a shot at a major promotion. But he is plagued with doubts about what modern life has become. Through a strange series of events, Dr. Proteus joins a revolutionary organization called the Ghost Shirt Society and even becomes its leader, at least in name. These Ghost Shirts, their name taken from the Native American Ghost Dance, succeed in destroying much of Ilium’s mechanized infrastructure. Yet, they realize the lack of hope in their mission, and at the end it becomes clear that their goal was to give man hope instead of revolutionize society.”

Player Piano is the first book I’ve read by the renowned Kurt Vonnegut and I really wish it wasn’t. This story took me five months to read and the book is a mere 296 pages for frak’s sake. The ebbing and flowing of the narrative didn’t work; it made the story too boring at times to care. The relevant social commentary about man versus the machine, was effective however, the exposition was slow-moving and dull. I’ve read my share of dystopic stories including social commentary that manage to make the story entertaining; Vonnegut fails in this respect in this small book that’s packed with potent material. It’s unfortunate this was my first Vonnegut novel; I hear better things about his other works. I hope I’m not disappointed again.

Would I suggest this book? Most people who have noticed me reading a Vonnegut novel have not read this one particular story. If you are a Vonnegut fan, you won’t miss it. As your first Vonnegut book, pass.


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