read by: Tony Roberts
pub. Harper Audio, 7hrs. 10 min.
So this is the first audiobook I’m going to review. For all intents and purposes, I will treat it, as I will all future audiobooks, as if it were a paper book, focusing on the content of the story rather than the quality of the reading. However, as this is an integral part of any audiobook, I feel like I have to at least mention it somewhere. To this end, at the end of the review, I will make brief mention of whether or not I thought the audio added to or subtracted from the story.
As to the book, this one is on my all time top five list without any doubt. I have read it more times than I can remember, and it just keeps getting better and better as I find new things each and every time I read it.
Written in 1963, this is Vonnegut’s tale of the absurdity of even debating the validity or value of science vs. religion, truth versus lies, and various other of man’s huge questions. Within its pages, Vonnegut invents an entirely new religion, conjures a scientific invention that could destroy the world, and looks deeply at the connections both real and imaginary between people in general.
Set on the fictional Carribean island of San Lorenzo, it tells the story of the narrator’s rise from freelance journalist to president-select of this tiny country like no other and yet precisely like all others. Often dismissed as a humorous bit of whimsy, this book is anything but. While it can be hilarious, it is also deeply profound. In fact, I think that it has been an essential cog in the development of the way I think, and ultimately who I am. And I don’t say that lightly. This book is awesome.
As an example I offer the following quote. On the day of remembrance for the “Hundred Martyrs to Democracy”, or lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya in the local dialect, a national holiday memorializing the deaths of 100 young volunteers who died after volunteering to fight in WWII for the Americans, the American Ambassador, Horlick Milton, makes the following speach:
“‘We are gathered here friends,’ he said, ‘to honour lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya, children dead, all dead, all murdered in war. It is customary on days like this to call such lost children men. I am unable to call them men for this simple reason: that in the same war in which lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya died, my own son died.
My soul insists that I mourn not a man but a child.
I do not say that children at war do not die like men, if they have to die. To their everlasting honour and our everlasting shame, they do die like men, thus making possible the manly jubilation of patriotic holidays.
But they are murdered children all the same.
And I propose to you that if we are to pay our sincere respects to the hundred lost children of San Lorenzo, that we might best spend the day despising what killed them; which is to say, the stupidity and viciousness of all mankind.
Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
I do not mean to be ungrateful for the fine, martial show we are about to see – and a thrilling show it really will be…..
And hooray say I for thrilling shows.
But if today is really in honour of a hundred children murdered in war is today a day for a thrilling show?
The answer is yes, on one condition: that we, the celebrants, are working consciously and tirelessly to reduce the stupidity and viciousness of ourselves and of all mankind.
What else can I say. The man gets it.
If you haven’t read this one, do. If you have, read it again. It’s that good.
Now as to the audio version, unfortunately, the reader was not very good. Add to that the fact that I love this book, and I was truly disappointed with the audio version. His character voices were terrible, especially the women, and his reading was generally flat to me. However, the story is so strong, that it was able to shine even through these shortcomings. I would definitely recommend reading this one, though. Especially the first time.