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Vonnegut, Kurt

human billy world aliens

(US, 1922– )

Vonnegut's writing has been much influenced by science fiction. His work repeatedly attacks the way the human race is desecrating the planet. However, he refuses to create scapegoats and he uses an ironic humour which both allows the reader to pity the human condition and to acknowledge the absurd and the irrational. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) captures the flavour. The hero, Billy Pilgrim, like Vonnegut a survivor of the bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, is captured by aliens. From the aliens, who see all time as simultaneous, Billy learns that the secret of life is to live in the happy moments only. In Cat's Cradle (1963) Vonnegut contrasts the obsessively scientific attitude of Felix Hoenikker, one of the original creators of the atomic bomb, with the myth-making of Boronen, the creator of a religion which protects its adherents against the problem of too much reality by offering them a diet of unashamed lies. In Galapagos (1985) a bomber pilot fantasizing about sex inadvertently triggers nuclear holocaust. A group of survivors gathered on the Galapagos Islands has to set about survival with no technology apart from a computer that has only linguistics and a million quotations from the world's great literature in its memory.

Ray Bradbury, J. G. Ballard, Roger Zelazny. See UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  LM

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