I really love Kurt Vonnegut, but I gotta say this is my least favourite thing he has ever written. Vonnegut’s plots are often bleak, his characters fatalistic, but never do they seem mean as with this book. I love his bitter satiric turns of fate in his other books, the people moved by forces far beyond their control or comprehension, and this book does have that. But there is something much nastier than usual in this title.
Winston Niles Rumfoord is a billionaire private astronaut who falls foul of a spacial phenomena which means he occurs in multiple places in multiple times and has a consciousness of all his past and future history. He, along with all mankind, are under the subtle influence of directions from Tralfamadore, an alien planet. So far so good. The horribleness comes with what occurs due to Rumfoord’s plans for Earth/the Tralfamadorian influence. Rumfoord arranges for his wife to be raped by Malachi Constant, while both of them are on their way to Mars to be programmed to serve in Rumfoord’s unwilling army. Both have their memories wiped, antenna planted in their skulls and are utterly dehumanised. Malachi is then controlled by his antenna into murdering his best friend whom he cannot even remember. Rumfoord then, after deliberately destroying his own army in a senseless waste, uses the knowledge of Malachi’s murder and his wife’s status as his ‘mate’, to vilify the pair of them and have them sent to exile on Titan. That’s just a lot of utter bloody meanness to get through. I found it an unpleasant journey.