Kurt Vonnegut's black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America's attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as "a true artist" (The New York Times) with Cat's Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, "one of the best living American writers." Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.
YA Leon Trout, the ghost of a decapitated shipbuilder, narrates the humorous, ironic and sometimes carping decline of the human race, as seen through the eyes and minds of the survivors of a doomed cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Vonnegut's cast of unlikely Adams and Eves setting out in a Noah's ark includes Mary Hepburn, an American biology teacher and recent widow; Zenji Hiroguchi, a Japanese computer genius (who does not make it to the ship, although his language-translating and quotation-spouting computer does); his wife, Hisako, carrying radiated genes from the atomic bombs; James Wait, who has made a fortune marrying elderly women; and Captain Aolph von Kleist. Also included: six orphaned girls of the Kana-bono cannibal tribe, who will become the founding mothers of the fisherfolk after bacteria render all other women infertile. Serious fans of Vonnegut's wry and ribald prose will welcome this tale of the devolution of superbrained humans into gentle swimmers with small brains, but others may find this Darwinian survival tale too packed with ecological and sociological details that trap the story line in a series of literary devices, albeit very clever ones. Mary T. Gerrity, Queen Anne School, Upper Marlboro, Md.
For many Vonnegut fans, Galapagos will be a disappointment. The story is set ``one million years ago, back in 1986 A.D.'' and concerns the maiden voyage of the Bahia de Darwin to the Galapa gos Islands. The narrator is a ghost, and the main characters are those involved with the cruise. As the narrative devel ops, we learn that people have evolved from having ``big brains'' that always get them in trouble, to creatures with flippersbut they keep getting eaten by sharks. The narration jumps back and forth between past and future, so that there is no real sense of what life is like in the ``present'' of the story, and it is difficult to grasp what these new hu mans are really like. Vonnegut's usual stylistic devices just don't work here. Buy for demand. Susan Avallone, ``Library Journal''
"The best Vonnegut novel yet!"-John Irving
"Beautiful . . . provocative, arresting reading."-USA Today
"A madcap genealogical adventure . . . Vonnegut is a postmodern Mark Twain."-The New York Times Book Review
"A satire in the classic tradition . . . a dark vision, a heartfelt warning."-The Detroit Free Press
"Interesting, engaging, sad and yet very funny . . . Vonnegut is still in top form. If he has no prescription for alleviating the pain of the human condition, at least he is a first-rate diagnostician."-Susan Isaacs, Newsday
"Dark . . . original and funny."-People
"A triumph of style, originality and warped yet consistent logic . . . a condensation, an evolution of Vonnegut's entire career, including all the issues and questions he has pursued relentlessly for four decades."-The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Wild details, wry humor, outrageous characters . . . Galapagos is a comic lament, a sadly ironic vison."-St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A work of high comedy, sadness and imagination."-The Denver Post
"Wacky wit and irreverent imagination . . . and the full range of technical innovations have made [Vonnegut] America's preeminent experimental novelist."-The Minneapolis Star and Tribune