In 2001, a timequake hits, which means everyone in the world must relive the last ten years of their life. They can’t change anything, and they have no free will. Though according to Kilgore Trout, that might not be different than things usually are.
This is a very polarizing book among Vonnegut fans, and I can see why. The story of the timequake is not particularly strong. It’s mostly pushed to the wayside and replaced with personal stories from Vonnegut, making it partially autobiographical. Those portions of the book were very strong, heartfelt, interesting, a wonderful peek inside the life of a man I admire a great deal.
But then he keeps eventually winding his way back to the timequake, which just isn’t quite as engaging, and I think he knew that. He struggled to make it work, but it falls short. There are a lot of clever moments, but resorting to repeating over and over that these characters are just reliving old stuff makes it feel stale. It pays off nicely when the timequake ends, and a lack of choice for so long makes everyone inert, having to be shaken out of intense ennui. But payoff doesn’t totally make up for some shaky spots.
I think my main problem with mixing his own story with a fictional one is it’s not smooth at all. The transitions are jarring. It feels like two different books mashed together. With things that mostly work, at least for me, but the flow really doesn’t hit the mark.
This is where a personal journey with a book is so important. All that fussing I just did doesn’t really mean a thing. Because I read this at a time when I needed it so badly. Vonnegut knew this was his last book. He was getting old, and he took this opportunity to talk about aging. Part of getting older is losing people, because everyone around you is getting older, too. So there are some bits in here about losing people he loved and how that made him feel.
At first I thought that would be too heavy for me, because I recently lost someone very close to me. It turned out to be the best thing for me, because if there is anything that draws me to Vonnegut, it’s his world view. So even though it was an uneven tale with some choppy parts, this book spoke to me. I can’t ask for more than that.