by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut was a man who loved to skirt the line between science fiction and fantasy with at least a few of his books, and Galápagos isn’t an exception here, in this case marrying evolutionary theory with a ghost narrator. The story concerns a small group of people who find themselves marooned on the Galápagos Islands at the height of a catastrophic financial crisis. After an untimely disease then spreads and renders the rest of the world infertile, the small group unknowingly becomes the sole progenitor of the human species––a species that now must evolve according to life on the Galápagos.
Much like Charles Bukowski, Vonnegut has a talent of taking things that I would usually loathe in a story and making them somehow charming. He can at times be incredibly unsubtle––such as when he denotes when characters will soon be dying by applying stars next to their names, bringing up the why of each starred and un-starred choice again and again––and this type of thing would usually lessen my enjoyment when reading, but I think it has less to do with the subtlety at the surface level, and more to do with what is accomplished with such a technique. Much like how he handled the overall “surprise” in Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut often employs this to ramp up the interest or the suspense, rather than just doing it for the sake of doing it, and it works. Similarly, he handles some comedic aspects of his book in ways that feel like they should be clumsy, but they similarly end up fine in the end of it all. (A good example here would be the author’s incredible repetitiveness over a short course of the story, but the joke somehow gets funnier and funnier when it comes back around.) I’m at a bit of a loss to explain this one sufficiently, but I think it has to do with the author’s experience and expertise, knowing just how far he can push something without it feeling overdone.
I have to admit, however, that, while I appreciated a great deal of Galápagos, there were still major things I didn’t get, probably from not understanding some context or something. This is the first candidate to come around in a long time for which my opinion will likely change substantially on subsequent reads-through.