Cat's Cradle (1963) By: Kurt Vonnegut
John has decided to write a book about the day that the U.S. dropped nuclear warheads on Japan. He seeks to find out how the inventors of the bomb felt on that day, specifically Dr. Hoenikker. John learns from Felix, Hoenikker's son, that he was playing the child's game of cat's cradle on that day. John soon loses interest in writing his book, but not before hearing about a theory on a way to freeze over any terrain called Ice 9. Later he runs into the Hoenikker family again on the way to the paradise nation of San Lorenzo. Little does he know that he's on his way to end the world.
This novel is a satire of the US-Russian arms race though this novel is much more and much stranger than that. It does come off as funny when it is not disturbingly similar to certain things that have actually happened. The people of San Lorenzo's apathy to the selection of their leader, the narcissism of the leaders and scientists, not to mention the whole religion of Bokonon. With this novel I've run into the same trouble I had reviewing Vathek. In this it's not just the comedy, but parsing out if anything is even to be taken seriously.
John is a writer who is very impulsive. He is carried from place to place and meets some strange individuals on his quest for a story. He even lets himself be drawn to San Lorenzo by a pretty girl on the flyer. He's an everyman taken to his most absurd.
Vonnegut has always been a leading name in literature and this is very representative of his work.The descriptions are disturbing yet often funny.
In the End
The novel ends about how I should have expected it to. A fitting end to a strange story.
The entire novel is a reduction to absurdity. There are a number of things you can take from it or completely ignore. It is a fascinating book by one of science fiction's most challenging and controversial writers. I'm not sure this is where you should start with Vonnegut, but it certainly provides an interesting and worthwhile read. However, keep in mind that this is satire otherwise this is one of the most depressing novels ever written.