I’m finding it hard to say more than, I like this book a lot. It’s really well-written, and way easier to read than Judith Butler. But that would be really shortchanging the novel.
This brilliantly readable novel is centered around the experiences of protagonist Billy Pilgrim leading up to and during the bombing of Dresden during World War II. Using the frame story that the author himself was present and has been unsuccessfully trying to write about the tragic event for some time, Vonnegut then tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, who has become “unstuck in time.” This allows him to present a very fragmented (and yet very readable) story of Pilgrim’s life, through his marriage and old age as well as his experiences in a German prison camp the bombing of Dresden to his being kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, where he is put on display in a zoo with B-movie starlet Montana Wildhack. Pilgrim’s experience on Tralfamadore has a profound effect on him, as they explain their sense of time, which is quite different from Pilgrim’s. To the Tralfamadorians, all time has already happened, so the dead are never fully gone, and it’s better to dwell upon the good times rather than on tragedy.
This perspective provides an interesting undercurrent to the novel, as Billy Pilgrim is bounced from time to time, though seemingly without much say in the matter. This theme is emphasized by the refrain “And so it goes,” which one report claims appears 103 times over the course of the novel. However, what could be a terribly depressing book about humanity’s inability to avoid tragedy is saved by a strong sense of satire throughout the novel, as well as a sense of compassionate humor about humanity’s insistence on perpetuating trauma.