What an odd story. It’s about the end of the world, but that’s not really the point. I’ve narrowed the main idea down to one of two things: Either Vonnegut is a drunken writer who is completely off his rocker, or he is a calculating master who poses an absurd reality as the mask hiding his pointed social commentary.
If you go with the insanity angle, it’s a really strange read. There are odd turns, crazy religions, weird people and unbelievable societies. The silliness of it all becomes a little fun, especially as you look forward to the next Bokonist song or parable.
As a social commentary, some of the undertones can be a bit stinging (well, they are if I interpreted them correctly.) Most everything in the book is presented as something special, then revealed to be something less spectacular. It’s a world of lies, which is the reason for the title of the book. That silly rope game taught to children is a lie for there is no cat and no cradle. And the point is made over and over again. There is no love lost for parents, lovers, religion, or government. Ultimately, there seems to be a futility in the book which is escaped only by writers and artists for whom the author seems to have a high regard.
After getting off to a slow start and finishing just so I could get through it, I’m glad I read it. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly entertaining read, but it was thought provoking. In the spirit of the book’s title, and lies in general, Cat’s Cradle guises itself as entertainment, but eventually sneaks in some thoughtfulness. If you’re looking for a book that starts out light and silly, but has serious undertones, this one might be a good choice.