In an amusing story about an author creating a story involving an author who creates lots of stories, Vonnegut hits on so many pertinent topics. He does it in a way that strips the themes bare, like the way an alien might see things if dropped for the first time on this planet. He lays out the problems of the world, and America in particular, without the shitty justifications that people often use to be able to allow these problems to persist and fester.
The issue touched on in this book:
Overpopulation - This was addressed a few times. The fact that it was addressed at all really stood out to me, because the only other book that I can remember reading that handles this topic is Freedom, by Franzen. I think it should be confronted more often, actually.
Environmental Issues - Heavy manufacturing, dumping of wastes into streams, etc.
War - The breeding of human killing machines.
Greed and the hoarding of wealth.
Censorship - Even as far as pornography. People have differing views on what is "obscene".
Gluttony - And the throwing away of food, while so many starve of hunger.
Irresponsible Media - Sensationalism and propagation of misinformation.
Healthcare - "One of the most expensive things a person could do was get sick."
Religion - The plethora of them, and some of the silly ideas associated with them. (I like how he characterized God as not being a conservationist, since he would be the one responsible for the volcanoes, tornadoes, and tidal waves.)
Much of the book also deals with the philosophical argument of determinism vs. free will.
After reading this book, I thought to myself, "You know, this guy sounds like a humanist and a freethinker and a skeptic, and maybe even an atheist." So I decided to read up on him on Wikipedia, and I found out that he had referred to himself at various times as a humanist and a freethinker and a skeptic and even an atheist. He even won Humanist of the Year in 1992 and went on to serve as honorary president of the American Humanist Association. No wonder I like the guy so much.
I noted and highlighted this book very often, and it's tough to choose which quotes I liked best, but runner-up would have to be, "Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery."
And the winner would have to be what was written on Kilgore Trout's tombstone:
"We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane."