beware, there be spoilers: Timequake

Timequake strikes me as a more directly autobiographical work than some of Vonnegut’s other novels, but he does make fairly extensive direct use of his experience in much of what he writes, at least amongst the novels. (Less so for the stories, or at least the ones I’ve read so far.)

Timequake is best described as partially autobiographical, in that the narrator seems to be largely Vonnegut himself, set by himself in the fictional context of the novel. The other main character is the oft-seen Kilgore Trout. And reading Timequake makes me realize that I might be great difficulty getting to know any one of my characters as well as Vonnegut knows Kilgore Trout.

I would also like to read the (alas non-existent) collected writings of Kilgore Trout, as he has some spectacularly wacky ideas, summarised in this and other novels,

Timequake, like Slaughterhouse Five, is a time travel novel of sorts, though like Slaughterhouse Five, it is somewhat non-traditional in how it makes use of time travel. In Slaughterhouse Five, Billy Pilgrim moves backs and forwards in time, but only to other parts of his life. (Or so he tells the reader.)

In Timequake, everyone and everything (presumably throughout the universe, but this is never explored) jumps back in time by almost exactly 10 years, from February 2001 to February 1991, and then lives the exact same 10 years ago, without any chance of deviation from what they’d done before.

But they are aware of this, which is fine for the 10 years but becomes a key aspect of the novel, and the main stage for the heroism of Kilgore Trout, when we move past the jump point and 10 years of complacency and autopiloting become part of the catastrophe of the reestablishment of free will and agency. Things do get a bit messy for a while.

I’d like to finish here with an observation, but I’m not sure that I have something sufficiently pithy to say. Timequake is a good read but it will never be among my Vonnegut favorites; I have too much fondness for ice-nine and boko maru. But it does feel like a summary of sorts, or a summation. I have one more novel remaining, Hocus Pocus, and I’m curious to know how I’ll feel then.

~ by Jim Anderson on 7 May 2019.

One Response to “beware, there be spoilers: Timequake”

  1. […] planned on reading them in chronological order, and it was only with the last two (Hocus Pocus and Timequake) that I inadvertently messed with the order of things. […]

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