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Old 08-23-2011, 01:54 AM   #1
arcadata
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Bargain (Kindle) Kurt Vonnegut $3.99 books (Rosettabooks)

Some Kurt Vonnegut books for $3.99

Player Piano

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PLAYER PIANO (1952), Vonnegut's first novel, embeds and foreshadows themes which were to be parsed and dramatized for half a century to come. His future society - a marginal extrapolation, Vonnegut wrote, of the situation he observed as an employee of General Electric in which machines were replacing people increasingly and without any regard for their fate - is mechanistic and cruel, indifferent to human consequence, almost in a state of merriment as human wreckage accumulates. Paul Proteus, the novel's protagonist, is an engineer at Ilium Works and first observes with horror and then struggles to reverse the displacement of human labor by machines. Ilium Works and Paul's struggles are a deliberately cartoon version of labor's historic struggle in the first half of the twentieth century to give dignity and purpose to workers, a struggle that became increasingly ugly in the face of the implacability of technological overkill. The novel embodies all of Vonenegut's concerns and what he takes to be the great dilemma of the technologically overpowered century: the spiritual needs of the population in no way serve the economies of technology and post-technology. Vonnegut finds grotesque comedy through his cartoon version of society but the comedy only overlies tragedy and the novel becomes an appalling tragedy disguised in the trappings of goofiness, a device which Vonnegut used repeatedly. Not published - at Vonnegut's insistence - as science fiction, the novel was nonetheless recognized and praised by the science fiction community which understood it far better than a more general readership, a dilemma which Vonnegut resentfully faced throughout his career. Bernard Wolfe's dystopian LIMBO and PLAYER PIANO were published in the same year to roughly similar receptions; two "outsiders" had apotheosized technophobia as forcefully as any writer within the field. Throughout his career, Vonnegut was forced to struggle with his ambivalence about science fiction and his own equivocal relationship with its readers. A player piano, of course, is a mechanized device which simulates performance long after the actual performer is dead.
The Sirens of Titan

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This improvisational tour de force - THE SIRENS OF TITAN (1959), Vonnegut's second novel -was on the Hugo final ballot with Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers and lost in what Harlan Ellison has called a monumental injustice. A picaresque which almost cannot be synopsized, an interplanetary Candide (lacking perhaps Voltaire's utter bitterness),THE SIRENS OF TITAN follows Malachi Constant, a feckless but goodhearted millionaire, through the spaces of the solar system on his search for the meaning of existence. Constant is aided by another tycoon, Winston Rumfoord, who with the help of aliens has discovered the fundamental meaning of life (the retrieval of an alien artifact with an inscribed message of greetings). With the help of Salo, an alien robot and the overseeing alien race, the Tralmafordorians (who are also prominent in SLAUGTERHOUSE-FIVE), Constant attempts to find some cosmic sense and order in the face of universal malevolence. Constant and Rumfoord deal with the metaphysics of "chrono-synclastic infundibula", they deal with the interference of the Tralmafadorians; the novel is pervaded by a goofy, episodic charm which barely shields the readers (or the characters) from the sense of a large and indifferent universe. All of Vonnegut's themes and obsessions, further developed or recycled in later work are evident here in a novel slightly more hopeful than most of his canon. It is suggested that ultimately Constant learns only that it is impossible to learn, that fate (and the Tralmafodorians) are impenetrable. On the basis of this novel Vonnegut was wholly claimed by the science fiction community (as the Hugo nomination demonstrated) but he did not reciprocate, feeling from the outset that to be identified as a science fiction writer could only limit his audience and trivialize his themes. His recurring character, the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout (prominent in SLAUGHERHOUSE-FIVE) was for Vonnegut a worst case version of the writer he didn’t wish to become.
Breakfast of Champions

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BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS (1973) provides frantic, scattershot satire and a collage of Vonnegut's obsessions. His recurring cast of characters and American landscape was perhaps the most controversial of his canon; it was felt by many at the time to be a disappointing successor to SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, which had made Vonnegut's literary reputation. The core of the novel is Kilgore Trout, a familiar character very deliberately modeled on the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985), a fact which Vonnegut conceded frequently in interviews and which was based upon his own occasional relationship with Sturgeon. Here Kilgore Trout is an itinerant wandering from one science fiction convention to another; he intersects with the protagonist, Dwayne Hoover (one of Vonnegut's typically boosterish, lost and stupid mid-American characters) and their intersection is the excuse for the evocation of many others, familiar and unfamiliar, dredged from Vonnegut's gallery. The central issue is concerned with intersecting and apposite views of reality, and much of the narrative is filtered through Trout who is neither certifiably insane nor a visionary writer but can pass for either depending upon Dwayne Hoover's (and Vonnegut's) view of the situation. America, when this novel was published, was in the throes of Nixon, Watergate and the unraveling of our intervention in Vietnam; the nation was beginning to fragment ideologically and geographically and Vonnegut sought to cram all of this dysfunction (and a goofy, desperate kind of hope, the irrational comfort given to its fans by the genre of science fiction) into a sprawling narrative whose sense, if any, is situational, not conceptual. Reviews were polarized; the novel was celebrated for its bizarre aspects, became the basis of a Bruce Willis movie adaptation whose reviews were not nearly so polarized. (Most critics hated it.) This novel in its freewheeling and deliberately fragmented sequentiality may be the quintessential Vonnegut novel, not necessarily his best, but the work which most truly embodies the range of his talent, cartooned alienation and despair.
Cat's Cradle

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CAT’S CRADLE (1963) - Vonnegut's most ambitious novel, which put into the language terms like "wampeter", "kerass" and "granfalloon" as well as a structured religion, Boskonism - was submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for a Master's Degree in anthropology, and in its sprawling compass and almost uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) invention, may be Vonnegut's best novel. Written contemporaneously with the Cuban missile crisis and countenancing a version of a world in the grasp of magnified human stupidity, the novel is centered on Felix Hoenikker, a chemical scientist reminiscent of Robert Oppenheimer...except that Oppenheimer was destroyed by his conscience and Hoenikker, delighting in the disastrous chemicals he has invented, has no conscience at all. Hoenikker's "Ice 9" has the potential to convert all liquid to inert ice and thus destroy human existence; he is exiled to a remote island where Boskonism has enlisted all of its inhabitants and where religion and technology collaborate, with the help of a large cast of characters, to destroy civilization. Vonnegut's compassion and despair are expressed here through his grotesque elaboration of character and situation and also through his created religion which like Flannery O'Connor's "Church Without Christ" (in WISE BLOOD) acts to serve its adherents by removing them from individual responsibility. Vonnegut had always been taken seriously by science fiction readers and critics (a reception which indeed made him uncomfortable) but it was with CAT’S CRADLE that he began to be found and appreciated by a more general audience. His own ambivalence toward science, science fiction, religion and religious comfort comes through in every scene of this novel.
Slaughterhouse Five

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Adapted for a magnificent George Roy Hill film three years later (perhaps the only film adaptation of a masterpiece which exceeds its source), SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1969) is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW who has in the later stage of his life become "unstuck in time" and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously. Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut's usual large cast of continuing characters (notably here the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralmafadorians who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence). The "unstuck" nature of Pilgrim's experience may constitute an early novelistic use of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; then again Pilgrim's aliens may be as "real" as Dresden is real to him. Struggling to find some purpose, order or meaning to his existence and humanity's, Pilgrim meets the beauteous and mysterious Montana Wildhack (certainly the author's best character name), has a child with her and drifts on some supernal plane, finally, in which Kilgore Trout, the Tralmafadorians, Montana Wildhack and the ruins of Dresden do not merge but rather disperse through all planes of existence. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE was hugely successful, brought Vonnegut an enormous audience, was a finalist for the National Book Award and a bestseller. It remains four decades later as timeless and shattering a war fiction as CATCH-22 with which it stands as the two signal novels of their riotous and furious decade.

Last edited by arcadata; 08-23-2011 at 01:58 AM. Reason: added book descriptions
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:33 AM   #2
arcadata
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Okay, there's 14 Kurt Vonnegut books that are now $3.99 for the US Kindle-> Amazon link
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:29 AM   #3
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Vonnegut deal

By the end of the day it'll be 18 titles. Good spot.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:50 AM   #4
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Ginormous Intergalactic
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There goes my month of not having spent any money on books.

Thanks for the find!
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Old 08-26-2011, 04:08 AM   #5
arcadata
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Originally Posted by Naien View Post
By the end of the day it'll be 18 titles. Good spot.
well, it took some more days, but four additional books by Vonnegut are now also $3.99

Welcome to the Monkey House
Timequake
Deadeye Dick
Fates Worse Than Death
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Old 08-26-2011, 07:15 AM   #6
miguel1626
Great Old One
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Hey, I just saw these deals. Thanks a lot, I've already grabbed two!
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Old 08-26-2011, 01:46 PM   #7
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Chasing Butterflies
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I grabbed SlaughterHouse Five, after the censorship dustup. Thank you arcadata -- you are so awesome, as always!
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Old 09-13-2011, 04:43 AM   #8
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Bake 'Em Away Toys
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Cheap Vonnegut on Kindle

Edited out repeat information. Woops.

Last edited by replica145; 09-13-2011 at 08:23 AM.
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