Friday, August 27, 2010

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano is also one of the first Vonnegut novels that I read. It is a dystopian novel that takes place in a near-future society that has eliminated the need for human workers through near-total mechanization. The upper class are the engineers and managers who keep things running, while the lower class, whose skills have been rendered useless, drink away their days with a sense of purposelessness. But a rebellion is stirring up.

I read quite a lot of this type of book--the dystopian science fiction novel, that is--when I was in high school, counting the likes of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World* among my favorites. I don't know what the appeal was, but I'm certainly not alone--a recent New Yorker article discusses the recent trend of dystopian novels for young adults. I guess it's the ideal genre for angsty teens.

*Speaking of which, in a 1973 Playboy interview Vonnegut says that in writing Player Piano he "cheerfully ripped off the plot of Brave New World whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin's We." (The latter of which I have not read.)

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