Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut is not a comfortable book. It is not extremely optimistic, clean, or uplifting. It is, however, real. Despite the fact that the book is filled with fantastical situations and mythical creatures, Vonnegut never strays very far from the truth. A veteran himself, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is the tale of a young man, Billy Pilgrim, who fights in WWII and expierences the Dresden Bombings.
Throughout the novel, Billy interacts with aliens who give some pretty intersting opinions on the human condition. The choice to include other-worldly and seemingly omniscient beings in a time where the future was not guaranteed was a creative decision executed perfectly by Vonnegut. These aliens provide not only well-needed comic relief, but allow the reader to look at the world from a fresh and foreign point of view. It may seem impossible to laugh during a book about World War Two, but somehow, you will. Sometimes it's the sheer absurdity of the situation the protagonist has gotten himself in, or it's a comment made about a silly human practice. Either way, Slaughterhouse-Five will not fail to entertain you.
The novel is highly praised as one of the best anti-war books of all time, and for good reason. Vonnegut makes a point never to glorify war or death, and even the title "...The Children's Crusade" ensures the reader never forgets that it is children who are giving their lives during wartime, mostly young men who have so much life ahead of them. All aspects of war are shown, including all the tragic, ugly moments most people prefer to look away from. Not only do you feel the soldiers pain, but you also can understand the emotions of the innocent civilians who lost everything during the war. The book never fails to show you how there are no good sides to war, and how everyone is affected in some way. Overall, the anti-war content was brutal, but it was a message that needed to be sent.
The way in which Vonnegut's writing simplifies such horrifying situations and shows them a way a child might see them is heartbreakingly beautiful. Vonnegut's unusual writing style forces you out of your comfort zone, and takes the reader from point to point in time without any obvious order. There is also a very thin line between what humans understand to be true and what Vonnegut specifically believes to be true. Since the novel is so engaging, keeping the two ideas separate becomes increasingly difficult as the book progresses. You are left feeling manipulated, but in the best way, like the author was so talented that he not only showed you his world, but brought you in to his mind. Even though I knew that there were no aliens abducting movie stars in the mid-1900's, I never once felt the author was lying to me. There is something undeniably true, raw and believable about the novel. Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a life-changing, eye-opening book everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.