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Author: Kurt Vonnegut
A small group of apocalypse survivors stranded on the Galapagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave new human race.
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ISBN-13: 9780385333870
ISBN-10: 0385333870
Publication Date: 1/12/1999
Pages: 336
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 60 ratings
Publisher: Delta
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio Cassette
Members Wishing: 3
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reviewed Galapagos on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This is truly a fun story told only as Vonnegut could. Placing his narrator (whom is a relation of his recurring character Kilgore Trout) one million years in the future, where man has evolved into a oceanic species with none of the marks of intelligence we know today. It tells the tale of the beginning of the end civilization and the survivors that would be modern man's (of one million years from 1986) forbears. Our narrator also tells us that it is our "over-sized brains" that cause all of our problems. At times startlingly cautionary and always entertaining, any Vonnegut fan would love this read.
althea avatar reviewed Galapagos on + 774 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I've kind of intentionally avoided Vonnegut since disliking the couple of books I read by him back in highschool. But, on the urging of many Vonnegut-fans, I agreed to read this one. Well, it was OK.
I might have really liked it if it had been about a fifth of the length it was. It really is a one-joke story, and it stretches out for far too long. It's also much too enamored with its own cleverness.
The concept is that it's narrated from the point of view of a ghost, a million years in the future. He reiterates, repeatedly, that the downfall of humanity was their big brains, and that now that the descendants of humanity have evolved into simple, seal-like creatures, there's no trouble.
And how did we get there? Well, back in the 80's (present, for this book) there was advertised a 'Nature Cruise of the Century' to the Galapagos Islands. It was supposed to be filled with all kinds of celebrities, but due to political and economic strife, most of the scheduled guests don't show up. The destined parents of future humanity are an odd, ragtag bunch...
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terez93 avatar reviewed Galapagos on + 273 more book reviews
The future of evolution is devolution, apparently, like a flightless cormorant's wings or an equatorial penguin's lack of girth, I suppose. Sometimes nature has to devolve in order to survive. A million years hence, in Vonnegut's estimable imagination, humans will have left behind their land-dwelling abodes in favor of the sea, and their "big brains" will likewise be no more, as they will have reverted to their animal-like origins before achieving a state of self-awareness. It's an odd sort of apocalypse, one which ended the human experiment - apparently nature has returned us outliers to our original state, one of harmonious perfection with the planetary whole. Or so it seems.

This is yet another odd bird (!) from Vonnegut, who seemingly blames humankind's ills on our constantly humming brains, which has resulted in our extinction, albeit one resulting from a slow and methodical demise. The premise of the story is likewise odd: in the wake of a global economic collapse, a handful of unlikely survivors make it to the isolated Galapagos islands to begin life, but not civilization, anew.

Written in the mid-eighties, at the height of the Cold War, when a global apocalypse was a real possibility, Galapagos serves as a warning to the world, but, I fear, that as with many of his other novels, not very many will "get it." Satire of this sort is so far beyond the general population as a whole, even the literary sort who may have been inclined to pick up a book or two of his, that I fear that the message is lost to all but a select (and disillusioned) few. That may also be KV's tragic legacy: he was just too damn smart for his own good.

Case in point: Here, the topics of war and death are more sub-themes: his critique of the human race is all the more overt, however, as his book, serving as something as an homage to Charles Darwin (like the good humanist he is!) places the blame for the collapse of human civilization and the possible extinction of life on earth squarely on human shoulders, suggesting that homo sapiens is little more than an evolutionary deviation, one easily subsumed and corrected by nature, as soon as it has the chance to once again gain a foothold. The narrator states, in fact, that "the only true villain in my story: the oversized human brain."

Once human folly has provided a narrow window of opportunity, a global pandemic renders all humans infertile, aside from those stranded survivors on the islands, who are the only ones able to reproduce. Unfortunately, due yet again to human folly (specifically a mutation caused by radiation damage wrought by the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima), humans devolve into an entirely new animal, one covered in fine hair, apparently semi-aquatic and able to catch fish, with a streamlined body and flipper-like hands. The "Nature Cruise of the Century" is one, indeed.

All this is recounted by an unlikely narrator, as well: none other than the host of Leon Trotsky Trout, son of the great science fiction writer Kilgore Trout. Leon is a Vietnam Veteran, and, as such, has some pretty definitive ideas about the human race of the past as well. In fact, Leon dies during the construction of the Minnow, or, rather, the Bahia de Darwin, which ferries the castaways to their final destination before the great blue tunnel ushers them to the hereafter. I think I would have gone with Trotsky himself: it seems a more rational fit.

I much prefer the Vonnegut novels that are more grounded in reality than these highly creative, albeit rather fantastic, sci-fi, inverted fairy tales, which do indeed have a moral. I get that they're satire, and are also quite humorous at times (although this one less so than several others I've read thus far), but the aforementioned approach makes them more poignant and impactful. I still enjoyed this, for the creativity and for the overall message: evolution has doomed us to destruction, and there is precious little our oversized brains can do about it.

--------NOTABLE PASSAGES--------
Mere opinions, in fact, were as likely to govern people's actions as hard evidence, and were subject to sudden reversals as hard evidence could never be.

Thanks to their decreased brainpower, people aren't diverted from the main business of life by the hobgoblins of opinions anymore.

To the credit of humanity as it used to be: More and more people were saying that their brains were irresponsible, unreliable, hideously dangerous, wholly unrealistic - were simply no damn good.

When I was alive, I often received advice from my own big brain which, in terms of my own survival, or the survival of the human race, for that matter, can be charitably described as questionable. Example: it had me join the United States Marines and go fight in Vietnam. Thanks a lot, big brain.

This episode made me sorry to be alive, made me envy stones. I would rather have been a stone at the service of the Natural Order.

Marriage from love, like vinegar from wine-
A sad, sour, sober beverage-by time
Is sharpened from its high celestial flavour,
Down to a very homely household savour
-Lord Byron
dnhowarth avatar reviewed Galapagos on + 174 more book reviews
KV had an interesting premise in his plotline for this story but screwed it up by making it repetitive and eventually dull and not appealing and less than so-on. Book needs a home with a newly-converted KV fan.
reviewed Galapagos on + 14 more book reviews
Great book! Classic Vonnegut.
reviewed Galapagos on + 33 more book reviews
Great book for the Vonnegut fan.
reviewed Galapagos on + 20 more book reviews
Story has aged very well and is still very timely to global climate issues today and the future of mankind. Usual dry wit of Vonnegut throughout. A very good and entertaining read.