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Armageddon in Retrospect

Armageddon in Retrospect - Kurt Vonnegut War is a funny thing. That's what Vonnegut would have us believe. He is right. He also realizes that there is nothing funny about war. It's a conflicting juxtaposition and yet it is true.

Armageddon in Retrospect sat in the to-be-read pile for a good long while. I haven't read much Vonnegut since school, when probably about 9 out of 10 Vonnegut readers read his work, but I do enjoy reading him. Nonetheless, I dreaded this. The title alone told me it would be dreary and the title, for the most part, didn't lie. That's not to say Vonnegut doesn't bring the funny. He almost always does, however, most of the stories compiled herein are about war, often about his experiences in Dresden. The bombing of Dresden in WWII was tragic. As much as Vonnegut tries to spin some bitter-sweet humor off of this topic, the bitterness always remains in the sour undercurrent.

Starting with an interesting intro from his son, there's a speech, a letter from young Vonnegut to his family and about a dozen short stories. About half of those stories are about a captured prisoner or a people under a conquering army's subjugation. Apparently this was the sum of the author's wartime experience. Making sense of it all, coming to grips with this new reality and that of his own country's disregard for innocent life comprises much of the subject matter. It is essentially Slaughter House Five played out again in variation.

One story, "The Unicorn Trap" steps well outside of the WWII setting, sending us back to peasant life in 1067 England. However, it's the same old, same old, this time with the Normans as conquerors.

Armageddon in Retrospect was the first thing published after his death and that always rings morbid. The overall mood brings my rating down to 3 stars, but Vonnegut's superb writing and humor save the day, as usual, and so I'll go with 4 stars.