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BOOK REVIEW –  KURT VONNEGUT JNR – CAT’S CRADLE 1963 Penguin Books.

 

Science fiction classic by an author who always proved reluctant to be called an SF author. Due to soldiers always complaining about having to march and fight in mud, the military invent a chemical agent called Ice (which will instantly freeze any body of moisture rock hard and unmeltable.  This works rather too well and freezes whole lakes, and the bodies of anyone who comes into direct physical contact with Ice 9.

 

Recognizing the danger, the product is immediately withdrawn, but people involved in the project as souvenirs keep a handful of fragments.

 

One sliver of Ice-9 becomes a pendant around dthe neck of Papa Monzano, the dictatorial ruler of an obscure Caribbean island, called San Lorenzo and the story mainly deals with the hero’s visit to the ruler’s country. He is researching the life of Felix Hoenikker, a scientist whose work included the invention of Ice-9.  Despite being a deranged killer, who hangs people on meat hooks every two years, Monzano is well liked by the US Government,  (with hints of satire at the US support for dictators like Pap Doc). 

 

Unfortunately, Monzano is dying of cancer, and as the story concludes, he commits suicide, freezing solid in his beachfront cabin. When a plane crashes into this, the body is dropped into the ocean, which comes into contact with his sliver of Ice-9, and so all the water in the sea, rivers, etc, sets solid.  All life on earth is wiped out in just two days.

This is a startling satire on the irresponsibility of science creating forces that cannot be controlled, and the politics of making friends with deadly people for your own national purposes.  The book is short, and still as relevant today as when Vonnegut wrote it.

 

Copyright. Arthur Chappell                              

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