It was easy to give this one 5-stars. Although the book itself was short, and the prose was as well, I felt this book had a lot packed into it, and would probably even benefit from a re-read at some point, to give the themes a second soak:
- The absurdity of war (with the firebombing of Dresden during WWII as the focal point). - "(The book)..is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like "Poo-tee-weet?""
- Determinism vs. Free-Will.
- The inevitability of war. - "You know what I say to people when I hear they're writing anti-war books?" - "No, what do you say, Harrison Starr?' - "I say, 'Why don't you write an anti-glacier book instead?'" - "What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers."
- The inevitability of death - "And even wars didn't keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death." See also, "So it goes."
- A playful take on religion's role in death, war, and massacre.
- Our desire to still be "human" (like Lot's wife looking back on Sodom and Gomorrah), even in the face of predetermination.
Before reading this book, I read a number of reviews, as this was to be my first Vonnegut read. I almost passed on it because some people characterized it as having to do with time travel. I'm glad I didn't, as the time travel was more about the mental breakage of a man due to war and injury, and was a device used to allow the non-linear telling of this story. Very well done, in my opinion.
Actually, the entire thing was well done. Period.