Galapagos. Not my favorite of Kurt Vonnegut’s works. Not my least favorite either though...that honor goes to his most critically acclaimed piece, Slaughterhouse Five.
It's not all bad. The best thing about Galapagos is how the story is told. If I can say anything about Vonnegut it’s that his writing style makes everything he creates very interesting. This book is no exception. The story is told from the perspective of a ghost, which is pretty brilliant because it allows for the narrator to be all-knowing. Vonnegut can introduce scenes and characters from an omniscient perspective while still keeping the story personal, like in first person perspective. In fact, it is told in first person omniscient, or should I say “first ghost omniscient?” (Haha - I just chuckled to myself with that one…)
Vonnegut gets real clever with his timelines too. It’s a part of what makes the book loosely sci-fi. That and the fact that in the book there is a worldwide pandemic that makes women infertile. But that is besides the point. The ghost is telling the story one million years in the future, which makes for interesting commentary. As asides, the narrator mocks the humans of the past...which are really the humans of today. Our “big brains” are referenced as being cause for our inevitable demise...and the comments are constant throughout the story.
Another thing I must give Vonnegut credit for is his story’s premise: the entire world has gone bankrupt. Galapagos was published in 1986, when the US economy was flourishing. At first I thought that Vonnegut might be a prophet, accurately foretelling the state of the world economies in the financial crisis of 2008...but then I did a little research. In 1982, just four years before this book was published, Mexico filed for bankruptcy. It was the beginning of the Latin American debt crisis. Countries have been going broke for centuries, apparently, but as a modern reader, and a child of the 80’s, I still give Vonnegut a whole lot of credit, even if the idea isn't as original as I thought.
Galapagos takes place at a little, luxury hotel, on the make believe island of Santa Rosalia in the Galapagos Islands. We learn that the hotel’s guests are there for “The Nature Cruise of the Century” but that there are only five of them. The rest have cancelled their trip, due to the sudden economic downfall of the world’s economy. Country after country is going bankrupt.
We also learn which characters are going to die first. The narrator tells us and then reminds us by inserting an asterisk after the character’s name each time he/she is mentioned. The story follows the people in the hotel, on the island, and on the boat that was scheduled for the cruise.
All of those earlier compliments aside, at the end of the day, the book just didn’t grab me. I can appreciate it from a literary perspective, as a study, but I didn’t find the story entertaining. There are a lot of different philosophies on writing....I personally write to entertain, so that’s what I like to read. I also am such a fan of the author, that I really want to read everything he’s written. Being a good writer goes a long way.
I also didn't like the ending. It felt rushed. He spent so much time building everything up, setting the tone and the style in the beginning, and then all of the sudden the book was over. The overall timing of the book was off.
So, yeah, if you want to be like me and read everything Vonnegut has written just because it was written by Vonnegut, then yes, by all means, read Galapagos. I mean, you have to.