like a lot of people, I discovered Kurt Vonnegut my 17th year, and then was enthralled to discover this eccentric, zany writer inhabiting a totally private universe--and if this happened to be in the 90s rather than the 60s, which first marked Vonnegut's breakout in the decade of love and flowers and VW campers, nevertheless there was something unusual, special, and totallly different about this author. it was like nothing else out there, and that's a plus of course.
from Player Piano (5/5) to Slaughterhouse Five (4/5) to Breakfast of Champions (4/5) to Cat's Cradle (4/5) to the amazing [b:Mother Night|9592|Mother Night|Kurt Vonnegut|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344621657s/9592.jpg|1222244] (5/5), of which at least a solid critical mass believes Vonnegut's best, one went from strength to strength, never failing to finish a work even if it appeared to contains flaws. Vonnegut's trademark deadpan chapter closes; his ability to suddenly switch the mood of the prose with a one-sentence zinger--perhaps this, in addition to his surrealism/near-surrealism, post-christian new-vocabulary, boundaries-transgressing prose went a long way to explain his popular appeal.
then I read [b:Timequake|9594|Timequake|Kurt Vonnegut|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330430823s/9594.jpg|6835609].
well finally I had leverage to believe a little bit in vonnegut's limitations as a writer, a book that was purely bad, and if Champions and Slaughterhouse shone a little less brightly for the existence of poor work by the author, certainly nobody could deny the mass appeal and literary accomplishment of KV's output.
fast-forward to 2013. some individuals call their 'magic three,' Player Piano, Cat's Cradle, Mother Night; others find this part of the three inescapable Vonnegut masterpieces. a little (~not that much) digging around the GR statistics shows actually things are pretty idiosyncratic--as much as KV's prose maybe. the masses have spoken: Slaughterhouse Five is the runaway popular hit (half a million ratings
on Goodreads alone), but at an average rating of 4.18, Cat's Cradle is the choice for quality. to some degree are people supporting S5 on the same grounds that they read Hersey's "Hiroshima"? (i.e., post-world war 2 sympathy for the defeated?) Could a thesis be written on the slight 'edgy' and 'tough guy' preference for Night over the (ever so slightly) girls' choice Galapagos? possibly, but of course this is a book rating site and not M.A. in Comp Lit construction hour. we'll just have to keep things a little undeveloped for now, if the idea of a huge vonnegut flame war on the internet isn't too salivating...
anyway, to return to the author, I think it's fair to say that his impact and strength are undoubtable, but at times vonnegut is sort of that clever kid at math camp whose parents are adherents of some completely unique 18th century religion or followers of some very attenuated and mostly harmless variant of Marxist-Trotskyism ; that is, Vonnegut's eccentricity and slightly new agey 60s guruism is all very well and good, but of course galapagos is also a reflection of rising Japanese cultural influence in the 80s, a sort of rehash of the Vonnegut narrator but transposed to Vietnam, and a crowdpleaser in its own way, certainly not the disaster of Timequake, but not personally my favourite by any stretch of the imagination. 3/5 and a recommendation that all who might consider reading this book take a good look at the reviews, which are better than normal all things considered.