Reading Vonnegut: 1950-1962 reminded me how much I enjoyed reading Kurt Vonnegut years ago. This volume of stories took me back to school with "Harrison Bergeron" (having read it for school twice) and The Sirens of Titan (having read it independently after reading "Harrison" the second time around for school). Both stories were - for me - even better now, having read them a few years on from the school experience. "Harrison Bergeron" is a story that - now - has made me appreciate my school years all the better and has, at the same time, me seeing the odd parallel or two as well in more recent years (but that could just be me). The Sirens of Titan is another one of those reads that is better reading (at least for this reader) the second time around. It is science fiction (there is a Martian invasion, a robot explorer, space travel, and chrono-synclastic infundibulum. The story also questions how much free will we have, whether or not there is a greater purpose to our existence, or if there is some "other" force that may or may not manipulate our actions.
The other stories in this collection were new reads for me with "EPICAC" (with its question on whether or not the machine at the story was a thinking and/or reasoning being), "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" (centered around a time when the aging process is halted so long as a certain medicine is taken), and "2BR02B" (set in a world were population is controlled in a couple of ways) being the most memorable.
The tale, upon seeing the table of contents, that I looked most forward to reading was Mother Night (especially knowing it had been adapted as a movie in the mid-1990s) - and the story delivered. It is a war story, yes, but it is also a morality tale. It is the story of a man who is a double-agent in the Nazi regime. There is a moral associated with Mother Night in which "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." It certainly holds true of the story's lead character.
I am an unabashed fan of Kurt Vonnegut's writing. It isn't always easy to read and I certainly like some stories and novels better than others. What I think has always drawn me back to his stories is that, whether they are satirical, humorous, or dark, they have always made me think and question. And they are always a good read!
Before winning international fame with Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut was a master of the drugstore paperback and the popular short story. This authoritative collection of his brilliant early work opens with Player Piano (1952), a Metropolis-like parable of breakneck technological innovation and its effect on those it robs of their livelihoods. The Sirens of Titan (1959), the interplanetary adventures of the world’s wealthiest and most despised man, is both a pulp-fiction space opera and a satire on the vanity of human striving. The confessions of a German-American double agent well placed among the Nazi elite, Mother Night (1962) is a cautionary tale with a famous moral: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Here too are six of Vonnegut’s best short stories, gems that display his matchless talent for hilarious invention and caustic social criticism. A companion volume, Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963–1973, collects Cat’s Cradle; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Slaughterhouse-Five; Breakfast of Champions; and three short stories, including “Welcometo the Monkey House.”