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Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut
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Galápagos (1985)

by Kurt Vonnegut

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 79 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
Galapagos is a fun read, playful; for a book about the end of the world, it's certainly more humorous and light-hearted than most, except perhaps Good Omens. The narration is fun -- the narrator is pretty much a character, but also pretty much omniscient, so you get to know everything that's going, but with opinions into the bargain.

When I think about it, though, I can't find much substance in this. It's very repetitive, and if there's one single point that comes out of it strongly, it's that humans have big brains and we cause our own problems, and maybe it would be better if we evolved to have smaller brains and less able to cause trouble. Which... sure, fine, but ~250 pages of story all focused around that begins to lose its charm.

Still, that's what saves it -- the charm, and the fact that the narrative reveals facts haphazardly, so you have to hang on to almost the last page to piece together exactly what happened throughout the book. It is charming, like I said, and very readable, but... Shrug? ( )
  shanaqui | Nov 23, 2014 |
Excellent silly book. I like the way everything is pretty much right on the table from the beginning. ( )
  rockinghorsedreams | Nov 13, 2014 |
The copy I read had a really nice cover. That's about all I've got to say. Oh and I liked it a lot a lot. ( )
  behemothing | Oct 25, 2014 |
The Basics

A disembodied spirit "living" a million years in the future gives us the lowdown on exactly how evolution reached the point it did. Which is to say mankind took a sudden leap from having big brains to having small ones. And why having small ones is actually better.

My Thoughts

This is a hard one to talk about. This is the first Vonnegut I’ve read that didn’t knock my socks off. Did I hate it? No, not at all. But after reading five Vonnegut novels last year and being head-over-heels for each one, I’m bemused by the fact that I just thought this one was good. Not great. Good. Maybe even just… okay. I’ve over-analyzed like a mother trying to figure out why that is. Technically, it should have all the charm of his other books, but somehow I wasn’t feeling it here.

And that’s where reviewing becomes hard. Because I don’t think it has anything to do with aspects of the book that need to be picked apart, though I’ll probably try to anyway. I think in this case it’s me and my tastes and the semi-slump I’ve been in when it comes to reading this month. I felt like I plodded through this book, whereas Vonnegut has been a writer I devour every time. I’m reluctant to blame him with that.

I find myself wanting to compare this book to Breakfast of Champions. I’ve seen people accuse that book of being too flighty, all over the place, no direction. I felt like there was a distinct method to the madness in that book. By contrast, there were times when I felt I was seeking the method with Galapagos and finding only a lack of damns that Vonnegut gave when it came to story structure. That’s typical of him, but I think Galapagos proved to me it works better some times than others.

He’s clearly the type to not focus on the science in his science fiction, and that has never bothered me. Over-explaining isn’t always fun and can just bog things down. But there was a moment in this book that made me bristle. It’s not science-related really. It’s more just a symptom that connects with his need to skim over the science. This book is a story about an apocalypse, and it starts with everyone deciding money is now worthless. Maybe he meant the stock market crashed super hard, but the way he put it was to say people realized money is worthless, and it felt cheap to me. Social commentary, I get it. But it didn’t work for me. Then he goes on, over halfway through the book, to come up with more ways that humankind is going extinct, and it felt like he was shrugging and saying, “oh yeah, I forgot to put that in. Sorry. Here’s some BS that should cover it.” It made me unsure that he cared about what he was writing at all.

But were there things I liked? Of course! Vonnegut’s unique brand of philosophy is here in abundance. So is his trademark sense of humor. It’s full of universal truths and nods to old characters and amusing tidbits and everything I love about his writing. I just didn’t connect with it like I normally do.

Final Rating

3.5/5 ( )
  Nickidemus | Sep 18, 2014 |
Classic Vonnegut. Commentary on Vietnam, the human condition and how we'll eventually destroy ourselves. Satire. Awesome. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kurt Vonnegutprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marsh, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.

Anne Frank (1929-1945)
Dedication
In memory of Hillis L. Lowie (1903-1982)
First words
The thing was:
One million years ago, back in A.D. 1986, Guayaquil was the chief seaport of the little South American democracy of Ecuador, whose capital was Quito, high in the Andes Mountains.
Quotations
Mary had also taught that the human brain was the most admirable survival device yet produced by evolution. But now her own big brain was urging her to take the polyethylene garment bag from around a red evening dress in her closet in Guayaquil, and to wrap it around her head, thus depriving her cells of oxygen.
"I'll tell you what the human soul is, Mary," he whispered, his eyes closed. "Animals don't have one. It's the part of you that knows when your brain isn't working right. I always knew, Mary. There wasn't anything I could do about it, but I always knew."
As for the meaning of the courtship dance of the blue-footed boobies: The birds are huge molecules with bright blue feet and have no choice in the matter. By their very nature, they have to dance exactly like that.
Human beings used to be molecules which could do many, many different sorts of dances, or decline to dance at all - as they pleased. My mother could do the waltz, the tango, the rumba, the Charleston, the Lindy Hop, the jitterbug, the Watusi, and the twist. Father refused to do any dances, as was his privilege.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385333870, Paperback)

Galápagos takes the reader back one million years, to A.D. 1986. A simple vacation cruise suddenly becomes an evolutionary journey. Thanks to an apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave, new, and totally different human race. In this inimitable novel, America’s master satirist looks at our world and shows us all that is sadly, madly awry–and all that is worth saving.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:01 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A small group of apocalypse survivors stranded on the Galapagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave new human race. Vonnegut is a post-modern Mark Train. ... Galapagos is a madcap genealogical adventure.

» see all 4 descriptions

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