Saturday, May 12, 2007

Aaron's Book of the Week :: Utopia 14 by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Utopia 14 aka Player PianoContinuing our tribute to the late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the Book of the Week is the first paperback printing of Utopia 14, Kurt Vonnegut's first published novel, set in a mechanized future society. All you Vonnegut fans out there racking your brains trying to remember a book called Utopia 14 can relax -- the book is far better known under the title Player Piano.

Subsequent editions have always used the Player Piano title, no doubt because mainstream readers would be scared off by the sci-fi sound of Utopia 14. (I'm not quite sure why Vonnegut's second book, The Sirens of Titan, never received the same kind of name change. Perhaps publishers were counting on mainstream readers being unaware that Titan is the largest moon of Saturn.) Of course, the fact that the mainstream eventually did acknowledge Vonnegut as an outstanding writer, and then tried to redefine his work as not science fiction at all, is only further evidence of the absurdity of the prevalent prejudice against SF.

A final link between Vonnegut and the SF field is his recurring character Kilgore Trout. Kilgore Trout was inspired by one of Vonnegut's fellow SF writers. Before we get around to revealing who that was, next week's Book of the Week will be the only book ever published as by Kilgore Trout. The book was not written by Kurt Vonnegut as widely suspected, but by another prominent SF author.

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