Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Laughter in the face of disaster

Cat's Cradle is a black cartoon, a grubby fantasia on the end of the world. Notice I have avoided the word "novel", which applies here only in the sense of a work of fictional prose longer than 120 pages. Vonnegut's invention of "ice-nine", a substance capable of freezing all the world's water in rapid contagion, makes the book in some sense a piece of science fiction; and like most sci-fi, it will disappoint any reader who insists on the evolving, three-dimensional characters of the realist novel. But unlike most sci-fi novels, it doesn't concern itself with the creation of a coherent world corroborated in all its details. This is an album of sketches, not of blueprints or portraits, and Vonnegut's poor, sad, banana-less republic of San Lorenzo, where much of the action is set, is every bit as much a caricature as his poor, sad, human beings.

No comments: