In his book Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut once gave out letter grades to his own works. He handed out some Bs, Cs and Ds, but he also gave Mother Night , God Bless You Mr. Rosewater and Jailbird a grade of “A.” Of those, I’ve only read Mother Night , and absolutely loved it. So far so good.
To two other books, he awarded “A+”s: Slaughterhouse-Five , which is kind of a universally accepted no-brainer, and Cat’s Cradle , which I hadn’t read until this week. So the question I naturally kept asking myself was this: is Cat’s Cradle really as good as Slaughterhouse–Five? And is it really better than Mother Night ?
And even though it was nominated for a Hugo Award, the answer I kept coming back to is… not a chance. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, mind you, but I don’t think it really measures up. Now, it’s certainly as funny as either one of them, but I just got the impression it wasn’t really about anything.
He starts out strong, unraveling a mystery for the reader that is equal parts family history and geopolitical intrigue, and piecing together the fictional religion of Bokononism, which is wildly entertaining and has, I suppose, some decent satirical purposes. But from there we’re just kind of sucked through a vortex where everything happens so suddenly, and ends so quickly, that it almost left me with the impression Vonnegut was too bored to follow through and make it a book about something important. Either that, or he wasn’t sure how to end it, so he just cut it short in a “betcha-didn’t-see-that-coming” sort of a way.
Anyway, it’d be fine as a beach read. It packs a few punches, and it will definitely make you laugh. But if you’re looking for A-level Vonnegut, you might want to look elsewhere. Just my $0.02.