Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Aug 21, 2012

Player Piano was Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, and it's a far cry from his later work, which made lavish use of humor -- including broad humor -- and unconventional narrative, including the crude drawings Vonnegut did himself for Breakfast of Champions.

The target of Vonnegut's displeasure -- and, thankfully for us, he was always displeased about something -- in Player Piano is the corporate/technological power structure, or what Eisenhower referred to as the "military-industrial complex." For the most part, the novel is very straightforward, compared with KV's other works. The style is more lyrical and, arguably, more literary (I'm not denigrating his later works when I write that).

In fact, reading this novel, it's kind of hard to believe it was written by the same writer who penned Cat's Cradle and Slapstick. As several commentators have pointed out, Player Piano has as much, perhaps even more, in common with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World or George Orwell's 1984 than it does with some of Vonnegut's other novels.

If you like this book, don't miss "Deer in the Works," a brilliant short story of Vonnegut's that appeared in his collection Welcome to the Monkey House, but was written and published in the same time frame as Player Piano, with which it shares several themes.

Written by John Mark E.