Kurt Vonnegut's latest novel (1996) and likely his final one. In the year 2001, the universe questions whether it's all worth it and stops growing, actually shrinking 10 years.

Everyone must relive 1991 through 2001 exactly as they had the first time. They each wonder if they are going insane but can't ask anyone as they haven't the first time around. It is as if they are actors. Suddenly, in 2001 Free Will returns and many cannot deal. Kilgore Trout revives people with his call of "You were sick and now you are well again and there's work to be done."

It calls into question free will vs. determinism as Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse Five. Along with several other tales of John Wilkes Booth, he tells how he broke his leg when he leapt out of the booth that held Lincoln's dead body and broke his leg. "Which was bound to happen when an actor writes his own material."

This novel has a less convincing tone to it, as if Vonnegut wasn't positive what he was saying or if what he said was correct. However, it remains classic Vonnegut.

Vonnegut is an author widely known for his mind-blowing novels and sprawling style.  In Timequake, he does not disappoint.  While not as classic as Slaughterhouse Five, it is still good Vonnegut.  (Although, many people state that they like his earlier novels better.  It's opinion.)

The author's disconnected and sprawling style really shows - Timequake is more a collection of anecdotes, fictional and real, in no particular order.  Some of it is from "Timequake One," the original story that was scrapped.  Vonnegut actually references "Timequake One" within "Timequake Two," along with several other short stories that he never published.  He credits these to "Kilgore Trout," a sort of alter-ego.  (Well, it's complicated.)

One theme of the novel is free will or the lack thereof. 
When the universe sends everyone back ten years, everyone on earth is forced to repeat everything over again, exactly the way they did before.  They know what is coming, but are unable to do anything about it.  Thus, over the course of ten years, people fall to apathy about what they are doing - they no longer have free will.  Once the Timequake ends, this "Post-Timequake Apathy" stops everything in its tracks.  People have become so used to a lack of free will that once they obtain it, they stop short, not knowing what to do.  Cars crash because their drivers don't steer, people fall mid-step, and everything is chaos as everyone stops.
Basically, humans are very prone to letting outside influences make decisions.  Once a dictator emerges (in the novel, the universe itself), people will simply fall into step without thinking.  This apathy is dangerous.

While not his last novel (God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian was published in 2000), it certainly wraps up his life.  The points he made so eloquently in his other novels all come in at some point, during some anecdote.  His experiences with war and family, as well as bitter and biting humor, all come into play.  This leads to a more disconnected and unstructured feel than his other works, but it gives more insight into how his insights were formed.

I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates other books by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., but if you haven't read him at all, you probably would not find much pleasure in it.  When I read it for the first time, I couldn't stand it; after I finished Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, I reread it and found much more to it than I had originally thought.

(We'll all meet one day at the great clambake in the skyTing-a-ling, you son of a bitch!  :D )

I suppose if I had to review TimeQuake as succinctly as possible, it would be to say that if this manuscript showed up unheralded in the mailbox of some editor, there is not much chance that it would get published. There is not much chance it would get read past the first few pages.

This book is a memoir, randomly summing up the life of Kurt Vonnegut and his friends and families, in a series of rambling anecdotes. Mixed in with that is a novel following a science fiction plot about a ten year suspension in free will and its aftermath, the eponymous "timequake". The timequake is never explained in much details, and the characters in the novel are never fully explained, because the action of this novel is broken up by Kurt Vonnegut's memoir. Vonnegut admits as much in his introduction, saying that the original novel "Timequake" was never finished, so he produced this instead.

All of this could be seen as daringly post-modern, and for the most part, Vonnegut's style pulls off the book, at least in the sense that it is readable. But this book could also be seen as a bunch of self-indulgent claptrap, and that is my personal take on it. And I am not antagonist to Vonnegut's works, his idiosyncrasies, or his viewpoints. But his early novels, despite having odd asides and tangential points, did actually have plots and characters, with each sometimes being well developed. "Timequake" is, however, merely a series of disjointed asides and hastily sketched fables.

And the asides, which are often rants, or more formally, "polemics", are also rather uninspiring. I have read Vonnegut's other works, and after Slaughterhouse-5, there is not much more to be said about man's inhumanity to man. And yet, this book's anecdotes are full of repetitious listing of them. Not only that, but there is no real insight or attention paid to why humans act the way they do: the effect is of a smug old man laughing at all the little stupid people.

Being a smug old man with an axe to grind is generally not a desirable thing. Vonnegut's world view is generally humanitarian (and misanthropic at the same time), and he has certainly paid his dues by writing some great novels. Which is why this book has some redeeming features, but for me they can't overcome the basic sketchiness and redundancy of the book.

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