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Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Miguel Rodriguez

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Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, is the story of one man’s attempt to learn about the late, fictional, creator of the atomic bomb, Felix Hoenikker. With this premise, a story of science, religion, and world destruction unfolds.

Vonnegut drew heavily from his experience in the General Electric company to inspire the characters of the novel. Felix Hoenikker, a childlike and apathetic researcher is based on Nobel Prize winning Irving Langmuir. Despite his physical absence, Hoenikker’s presence is felt throughout the whole novel. The shadow of the atom bomb and rising threat of his final forgotten experiment creates drama as our narrator grows to entangle himself deeper in Hoenikker’s legacy.

Philosophy, religion, and science play major roles in the book. Bokonism is a religion created by Kurt Vonnegut and is often used to bring up the issue of free will. Mutual destruction, disease, and famine to a Bokonist is the inevitable pain one must tolerate. It is this acceptance that allows followers of Bokonism to enjoy their lives and find solace knowing that they could not have done anything to prevent their demise.

Despite these heavy themes and consistently gloomy atmosphere, Vonnegut allows his dark sense of humor to shine through. The conciseness of prose shown here highlights the best of Vonnegut’s writing capabilities. Often we hear, “brevity is the soul of wit”, and Vonnegut encompasses this perfectly. Even by the end of the book, when the characters have accepted their final fates and the climax has subsided, you may feel a trickle of laughter leave the corners of your mouth.

Unparalleled in its humor and nearly surreal in its tone, this special blend of theology and science can only be conjured by Vonnegut. A staple in science fiction and widely considered a classic of the modern age, everyone must read Cat’s Cradle.

“‘Everything must have a purpose?’ asked God.

‘Certainly,’ said man.

‘Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,’ said God.

And He went away.”

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Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut