The best book by Vonnegut I've read so far. Like so many of his books it goes on frequent tangents, but these only add to the simultaneously hilarious and devastatingly sad story-line. Skipping between one million years in the future, when humans have evolved into seal-like creatures, and 1986, this book raises the question of the merits of human brains. It's unique characters and odd story-telling make this a book that will make you laugh out loud and cry. Everyone should read this book
Kurt Vonnegut offers yet another look at humanity, and this time it is Darwinian.
Humanity is imploding. A small group of diverse individuals gathers on the west coast of Ecuador, east of the Galápagos Islands. Certain members of the group are marked for death. Only Vonnegut can tell you who will die, and when, and then build his story around the pending deaths.
The story takes place in 1986, one million years ago by count of the narrator, who is a ghost. As the Vonnegut cosmos would have it, the survivors of the small group are the survivors of humanity. The remnant finds refuge on an island of the Galápagos and from this remnant humanity evolves into aquatic creatures with flippers. The change is evolutionary rather than devolutionary because the aquatic brain is much smaller and immensely more peaceable than its ancient ancestor, the big "three-kilogram" brain of 1986, which always stirred up "evil schemes."
Vonnegut has said Galápagos is his best work. In saying this, he may have been speaking as the master of anthropology, who received his master's in 1971 from the University of Chicago for his novel Cat's Cradle. If that novel could produce the degree he sought to no avail when a graduate student at the university (1945-1947), then maybe Galápagos, a later novel, could produce a degree of insight that would launch research into how the size of the human brain is inversely proportional to good deportment. Apparently no such inspiration has taken root in academe, but given Vonnegut's incredible scope of the human condition, there is still much time for some student, somewhere, to find the link that makes this novel prescient.
If Kurt was thinking that Galápagos was his best novel because of its literary merits, then this offers cause for the reader to disagree. The story is consumed by a clever plot whereas his other works do not feature plot. Here Vonnegut's practical insight into the human condition is thin. The narrative quirkiness commonly found in his novels is constrained. The power of his humor, even his black humor, has been sapped by the rigidity of literary devices, such as the relentless jumping around in time. All this, however, may have been part of a grand design.
Vonnegut joked about, but must have been thinking seriously about, receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature. To this end, if Vonnegut, one of the more popular American writers of the 20th century, could add to his oeuvre a cleverly plotted story, hinged to Darwin no less, and if he could convince the world that his conventional novel—conventional for him—was his best work, he might have a shot at the Nobel Prize. Alas, the Swedes moved the target.
For those readers who are wondering if there is any vintage Vonnegut in the book, there is. It begins late on page 275 and runs through page 282. Here humanity is evaluated in a unique way. The narrator, still the ghost, has a conversation with his father, also a ghost, who stands in the open mouth of "the blue tunnel into the Afterlife" and beckons for his son to leave the Bahía de Darwin (Spanish for Darwin Bay), a stripped vessel wandering about the Pacific in search of the Galápagos. Their conversation, with a supplemental flashback into the life of the narrator, features Vonnegut's trademark insight into relations people have with each other and with the planet.
Vonnegut wants the reader to believe that, in the words of Anne Frank, "In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart." There is nothing in the book to support this theme, which appears on its own page up front. Never in the history of literature has an epigraph been so misleading.
Some readers may like, some readers may not like, how the butterfly effect serves as the book's engine. This happened, so that happened, and someone died.
Galápagos reads more like an exercise than a story. Anthropology students to the exception, plowing through this project would likely make most readers bored.
I enjoyed this book so much, loved how it was told through the perspective of ghost, the backstories to the survivors, and the time jumps forward and back in time.
Vonnegut is an author that I feel like you can burn out on if you read too much of his stuff in a short amount of time (I did in college). This is a later novel of his and while it's fine, it will be familiar and a little uninspired to anyone who has read a few of his books. At least Kilgore Trout is mentioned.
I enjoy the dark humour of Kurt Vonnegut and this novel did not disappoint me. I understand why women do not enjoy this author as much as men do and this novel will undoutedly offend some women as well.
Vonnegut is curiously predictive about the fate of humanity and considering that it was published in 1985 he was obviously considering what humans were doing to the planet and all its inhabitants, including themselves.
A million years from now we (humans) still laugh at farts. I love this book. Vonnegut has dropped in a familiar character or two from other works of his, as he often does. This cast is great and the story is epic. Worth reading if you've never read Vonnegut before and are curious.
Best. Book. Ever. Seriously. Narrated by a ghost, it tells the story of how humans evolved into amphibious mammals, via the A-bomb, near-extinction, and a tour of the Galapagos Islands.
daymakerdave thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over
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