My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”
So you thought Scientology was wacky? Then you obviously haven’t read ‘Cat’s Cradle’. Forget Hubbards’ many layered, ‘brownie point’ rank system to reach the exalted state of ‘Xenu’; you need
‘Bokononism’. It’s not only completely rubbish and written by a mad man, but also insanely fun to implement. OK, I know it’s not ‘real’, but I really enjoyed the little sing-song calypso psalms that pepper the story every now and then.
‘Cat’s Cradle’ is, when all’s said and done, dystopian fiction. It looks at the delicate balance of the ecosystem, and how one crazy idea in the head of a crazy and very capable person can in effect, completely destroy life as we know it. Written in the first person, the story involves a writer obsessed with the scientist Hoenikker, the supposed ‘father’ of the atomic bomb and his attempts at writing a thesis around the day the bomb went off. During his research he gets to meet Hoenikkers weird and defective offspring, not to mention his work colleagues who give him insight into the frightening genius of the man.
What is evident is that a) Hoenikker’s scientific intelligence was off the scale, but b) had severe emotional lacks which means that c) he approached his work with all the curiosity of a child, but none of the responsibility of an adult. This revelation sends huge shock waves through our researcher, especially when he realises that the last project the good doctor was working on, was ‘Ice 9’; a sliver of which has the capacity to turn every water particle into ice. Some killing machine right? And where did the idea come from? A random crazy general from the American War Department who is constantly complaining how the Marines are fed up of working in all that mud all the time.
But the doctor died before it was ever realised, so we can breathe a sigh of relief, right? Right? No, we can’t. The nightmare scenario begins to unfold, as our poor researcher boards an airplane for the island of San Lorenzo which consequently will also be the very place where this strangest of Armageddon’s take place.
Dystopian fiction is usually quite depressing and grey, but Vonnegut changes all that. ‘Cat’s Cradle’ is in essence about a very upsetting scenario which despite all the light-hearted humour, still seems like it COULD happen in reality. But it is the humour that saves it from being just another ‘Brave New World’. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but makes very accurate observations about society and the ludicrous things we use science for. Vonnegut doesn’t beat you over the head with his message about weapons of mass destruction, but leaves a margin of seriousness within all the silliness for you to chew on.
This is an intellectual novel that is very easy to get into that also resonates deeply with current issues of climate change, war and destruction. Read this. You won’t regret it.