Category Archives: Science fiction

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, @ 1973, 295 pages.

So while I was supposed to be reading War and Peace, I started reading Vonnegut. There’s this whole Vonnegut/Dovlatov connection I keep trying to make, but to read more Dovlatov, I either have to wait until April for the release of Pushkin Hills in English OR I have to learn Russian. Ok, so I know some Russian. I know enough to eat and travel. And to get some quizzical looks. Rosetta Stone, BTW, is turning out to be great for Russian pronunciation.

Anyway, I read Breakfast of Champions a very long time ago. I’m reading it again because I remembered how intensely creative Vonnegut was with his structure and storytelling. On this read, Vonnegut pummels me over the head with foul language and imagery. Apparently, I used to be immune to this. Now, not so much.

Breakfast of Champions—wow—what to say about this book. It is all over the place and perfectly organized at the same time. It has characters you don’t want to get to know, and yet, like the train wrecks they all are, you can’t stop reading about them. Hmm.

And speaking of trains, I found Vonnegut’s ideas about machines to be very interesting. Vonnegut really develops this, but here is the kernel:

‘You are surrounded by loving machines, hating machines, greedy machines, unselfish machines, brave machines, cowardly machines, truthful machines, lying machines, funny machines, solemn machines,’ he read. ‘Their only purpose is to stir you up in every conceivable way, so the Creator of the Universe can watch your reactions. They can no more feel or reason than grandfather clocks.’

Breakfast of Champions is the kind of book that I think I want to read again, maybe in 20 years. Maybe then, I’ll be able to digest it fully. And Vonnegut, like Dovlatov, is one of those guys you wish was still around so you could say stuff like: hey, what do you think about the 2045 project? What do you think about immortality for humanity? Isn’t that a really bad idea?

I’d love to put those guys in a room, ohh and add in George Carlin, who is also now in the club, introduce the topic, and let them go. What I wouldn’t give to hear that conversation. I wonder if D wouldn’t be too polite for these two rambunctious Americans. Would he sit there with a thin smile on his lips, thinking how uncivilized George and Kurt were? Or, would he, after almost coming to blows on certain subjects finally let loose with some raucous laughter, teeter on his chair, and nearly fall over?

Have Space Suit—Will Travel

Have Space Suit—Will Travel
Have Space Suit—Will Travel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Robert Heinlein;

@ 1958 by Ace Books, 255 pages.

Written by Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) and published in 1958, the story is set some time in the future, at a time when the elite and well-educated live and work on the moon.

High school senior Kip wins a second-hand space suit in a contest, fixes it up, and goes on a wild adventure, lending an opportunity for all kinds of cool (if not outdated) space travel ideas to be explored along the way.

Not much as space suits go these days. It was an obsolete model that Skyway Soap had bought as surplus material—the tenth-to-hundredth prizes were all space suits. But it was a real one, made by Goodyear, with air conditioning by York and auxiliary equipment by General Electric. Its instruction manual and maintenance-and-service log were with it and it had racked up more than eight hundred hours in rigging the second satellite station.

It was my childhood dream to go to the moon. I think I really would have liked this book if I had read it when I was a bit younger. As it was, I almost lost interest. While it’s not my favorite book, it has redeaming qualities. You can depend on Heinlein for big ideas, and he does deliver, even if it’s towards the end.

Although I am a fan of Heinlein, I’m not so fond of this book. I can’t recommend it to the busy reader, but for someone who would get a kick out of comparing physics ideas of the 1950s to those commonly accepted today, it would be a nice diversion. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about either to benefit from all the amusing factoids offered here.