There’s this episode of Gilmore Girls, it might even be the first one, where Sookie sings “Rory and the Chilton and the Chilton and the Rory”. Somehow, I hear the title Cat’s cradle exactly as sung by Sookie. “And the cats and the cradle and the cradle and the cats”. I don’t know why. It has little to do with the book though. Let us review!
Kurt Vonnegut’s ”Cat’s Cradle” is an irreverent and highly entertaining fantasy about the playful irresponsibility of nuclear scientists, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range. ‘All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.’ Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding fathers of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he is the inventor of Ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker’s three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Will Felix Hoenikker’s death wish come true? Will his last, fatal gift to humankind bring about the end that, for all of us, is nigh? Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut’s cult tale of global apocalypse preys on our deepest fears of witnessing the end and, worse still, surviving it …
My first impression
This is gonna be fun! The book starts off with the writer/narrator contacting the children of the fictional creator of the atom bomb Dr. Hoenikker (who passed away). They are all peculiar. He contacts them because wants to write a factual account of Dr Hoenikker. I am curious to find out what will happen!
Cat’s cradle revolves around the narrator, traveling to an island in the Caribbean named San Lorenzo. He follows Dr. Hoenikker’s children there. On this island, the people secretly practice bokononism and speak some sort of English. Bokononism is created by a singer who roams the jungle and adds pages to the book very often. The president forbids bokononism and the people are scared of him. Is he really this strict dictator that he seems to be though?
The eldest son of Dr. Hoenikker, turned out be the right-hand man of the San Lorenzo president. He is getting married, this is why his brother Newt and his sister Angela visited him on this island. It turns out they are all carrying a secret.
The narrator learns that when the atom bomb dropped, the creator was playing with some strings making a cat’s cradle. So while all those people died, the creator was simply doing that. The day the Dr himself died, he was also playing, but with ice. He created the deadliest weapon of all: ice-nine. What will happen, now that the three children carrying this deadly weapon, are all together on an island?
Vonnegut wrote a fun satirical science fiction book. I appreciated the symbolism. His creation and writing of Bokononism is brilliant. I feel like the author aimed to symbolize that all religions are narratives. Whether you agree with or not, it’s clever writing.
The characters were well-written and easy to imagine. However, I feel like the story itself was more important than singled out characters. The concept of scientists inventing irresponsibly and all their consequences is a good base for a story. This combined with a made-up religion, tension of what will happen next and funny/strange characters makes it an interesting read!
Conclusion of a Cat’s cradle
It’s a fast, nice read. Kurt Vonnegut is a clever and witty writer. I like that he both pays attention to human’s scientific and human’s religious mind. I think I will the re-read book because I am sure I will discover more with every read.