Review: Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

This is a short book with extremely short chapters.  My Kindle edition listed the book as 288 pages, and there were 127 chapters contained within those pages.  It was a fast-paced read, and it held my attention well.  I also really liked the metaphorical title, although I’m not going to explain it in this review so potential readers can discover it for themselves.  Once you know what the title represents, it adds more layers of interpretation to the book itself.

It’s difficult to explain what this story is about without spoiling anything, because the story slowly morphs into something different as it progresses, so I’ll just talk about how it starts.  Cat’s Cradle is written from the first-person perspective of a writer who calls himself Jonah.  Jonah has set himself the task of writing about the day the first atomic bomb was dropped.  He starts this task with a particular focus on Dr. Felix Hoenikker, the fictional father of the atom bomb, and Hoenikker’s three children.  Jonah’s interviews and the research he does for his book lead to the events that make up the story.

The book is pretty satirical, although I thought the satire was subtle.  On the other hand, those who follow my reviews closely know I’ve read quite a few Discworld books lately, so maybe any satire would seem subtle by comparison. :)  There was some humor in this book, but I thought it was mostly overshadowed by the pessimistic and bleak attitude toward human nature and humanity’s future.  I couldn’t say the attitude was unrealistic, and I could see where people might find this book depressing.

One large focus in the book is the idea of religion, what aspects of religion appeal to people, and its purpose in society.  This is demonstrated primarily through a fictional religion called Bokononism.  There’s also some focus on the idea of intellectualism and the potential foolishness of pursuing an intellectual idea for no purpose other than fascination with the idea itself, without stepping back to consider the bigger picture.  

This is the second book I’ve read by Vonnegut.  The first was Slaughterhouse-Five, which I read about a year ago.  I liked Cat’s Cradle a good bit better.  Although I think this book is typically classified as science fiction, it’s not heavily “science-fictiony”.  It would likely appeal to people who like their fiction to be more literary.