"Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time." So begins Vonnegut's absurdist 1969 classic. Hawke rises to the occasion of performing this sliced-and-diced narrative, which is part sci-fi and partially based on Vonnegut's experience as a American prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany during the firebombing of 1945 that killed thousands of civilians. Billy travels in time and space, stopping here and there throughout his life, including his long visit to the planet Tralfamador, where he is mated with a porn star. Hawke adopts a confidential, whisper-like tone for his reading. Listening to him is like listening to someone tell you a story in the back of a bus-the perfect pitch for this book. After the novel ends, Vonnegut himself speaks for a short while about his survival of the Dresden firestorm and describes and names the man who inspired this story. Tacked on to the very end of this audio smorgasbord is music, a dance single that uses a vintage recording of Vonnegut reading from the book. Though Hawke's reading is excellent, one cannot help but wish Vonnegut himself had read the entire text. (Nov. 2003) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Drawing on Vonnegut's own experience as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany, Slaughterhouse-Five is an absurdist time-travel story in which mild-mannered Billy Pilgrim is jerked back and forth between past and future. As a soldier during World War II, he is taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to Dresden, where he witnesses the Allied firebombing that killed more people than the atom bomb that was later dropped on Hiroshima. In the future, Billy is put on display as an alien specimen in a remote planet's zoo. Despite its absurdities, the novel is anchored in the grim reality of the pointless destruction of Dresden. Slaughterhouse is a powerful and popular work that is sure to attract many listeners; it is therefore a shame that actor Ethan Hawke's narration is not stronger. His reading is tolerable, but much of it is in a conspiratorial whisper that sounds as if Hawke were reading a bedtime story to children. Still, recommended.-R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.