Player Piano

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Player Piano Cover

Player Piano - 1952


This was Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, published seven years after being released from a German POW camp. He sees the evil ends of a society dominated by machines and managers, and compares humanity to slaves. The satirical visit of a Shah provides a counterpoint to the dissatisfaction of the main character. Paul Proteus (a great name!) has this high IQ and good prospects, and his response is to try and leave the system - until he is dragged back into the inevitable conflict.

What this story lacks is the sense of humor honed through later novels. This mild dystopia is interesting, but dry, and the characters sometimes fall flat. The conclusion (a court-room scene, complete with rallying speech!) feels forced. That said, the nuggets of future Vonnegut are here, and the overall book is still quite good - especially for having been written 63 years ago.

I read this as my 1952 entry in a "defining science fiction of the 50s" challenge. A solid 3½ stars.