I've always been familiar with Vonnegut's name but not particularly versed in his material. I'd seen the movie based on his novel Mother Night, but outside of knowing a few titles, seeing his cameo in Back to School, and of course his connection with the University of Iowa, that was the extent of my familiarity. However, recently I'd encountered an intriguing, simple and playful, yet deep quote from Cat's Cradle. I felt it was time I gave Vonnegut a read and I was not disappointed.
The voice with which the book is authored is often playful, lighthearted, and downright fun, but the story itself bare quite biting criticism of many of society's driving forces - government and religion to name a few. Vonnegut eases into his opinions backhandedly and with an essentially neutral protagonist who is merely a victim of happenstance, landing readers on yet another drawback of such institutions before you know it.
The story of the book, my personal litmus test, starts with a very average seeming Joe. He's a writer and I suspect not-so-dissimilar to Vonnegut himself, conducting research for a novel. Along the way he encounters other seemingly unimportant characters, though by the end the narrator and almost every character along the way end up playing a role in what is essentially the end of the world. A master class is "raising the stakes" if every there was one. Undoubtedly Vonnegut's criticisms would not have been so palatable without the playful and surprising vehicle of this intriguing plot.
My only woe with Cat Cradle is that I didn't read it sooner.