Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
(Essential Penguin)


14 Critic Reviews

"Cat's Cradle" is an irreverent and often highly entertaining fantasy concerning the playful irresponsibility of nuclear scientists. Like the best of contemporary satire, it is work of a far more engaging and meaningful order than the melodramatic tripe which most critics seem to consider "serious."
-NY Times


Cat’s Cradle (1963) is Vonnegut's most ambitious novel, which put into the language terms like "wampeter", "kerass" and "granfalloon" as well as a structured religion, Boskonism and was submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for a Master's Degree in anthropology, and in its sprawling compass and almost uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) invention, may be Vonnegut's best novel.

Written contemporaneously with the Cuban missile crisis and countenancing a version of a world in the grasp of magnified human stupidity, the novel is centered on Felix Hoenikker, a chemical scientist reminiscent of Robert Oppenheimer… except that Oppenheimer was destroyed by his conscience and Hoenikker, delighting in the disastrous chemicals he has invented, has no conscience at all. Hoenikker's "Ice 9" has the potential to convert all liquid to inert ice and thus destroy human existence; he is exiled to a remote island where Boskonism has enlisted all of its inhabitants and where religion and technology collaborate, with the help of a large cast of characters, to destroy civilization.

Vonnegut's compassion and despair are expressed here through his grotesque elaboration of character and situation and also through his created religion which like Flannery O'Connor's "Church Without Christ" (in Wise Blood) acts to serve its adherents by removing them from individual responsibility. Vonnegut had always been taken seriously by science fiction readers and critics (a reception which indeed made him uncomfortable) but it was with Cat’s Cradle that he began to be found and appreciated by a more general audience. His own ambivalence toward science, science fiction, religion and religious comfort comes through in every scene of this novel.


Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.


Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut's World War II POW experience) and Cat's Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut's work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut's work as well as newcomers.

About Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut was a master of contemporary American literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America's attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as "a true artist" with Cat's Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, "one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.
Published November 4, 2009 by The Dial Press. 306 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Religion & Spirituality. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Cat's Cradle
All: 14 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 1


Above average
on Oct 06 2011

A riddle on the meaning of meaninglessness or vice versa in a devastation-oriented era, with science-fiction figures on the prowl and political-ologies lanced. Spottily effective.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Mr. Southern on Jun 03 1980

"Cat's Cradle" is an irreverent and often highly entertaining fantasy concerning the playful irresponsibility of nuclear scientists. Like the best of contemporary satire, it is work of a far more engaging and meaningful order than the melodramatic tripe which most critics seem to consider "serious."

Read Full Review of Cat's Cradle (Essential Penguin) | See more reviews from NY Times

Blog Critics

Reviewed by Laura Rae Amos on Jul 25 2004

It was different. And refreshingly deep. It was published in 1963, in a time when it was still fashionable to think. I don’t think our current culture, the new millenium bunch, likes to get too deep too often. And that’s a shame.

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Above average
Reviewed by Zack Kopp on Jan 28 2010

Vonnegut’s use of an imaginary language and culture as the canvas for his more abstract concepts, thereby making them concretely exotic, is a clever device. Bokononism encompasses concepts unique to the novel...

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Journal Sentinel

Reviewed by Jim Higgins on May 31 2011

In his self-evaluation of his books in “Palm Sunday,” Vonnegut gave one of his two A-pluses to “Cat’s Cradle” (the other to “Slaughterhouse-Five”). Nearly 40 years after publication, it retains its bitter charms.

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Teen Ink

Reviewed by BDecker13 on May 15 2015

Vonnegut wrote an excellent book that easily interests someone through the entirety of the book. Vonnegut’s writing style definitely gives the reader a new outlook on what a truly great writer can achieve, through many different literary devices. I would recommend this epic tale to anyone who fancies themselves a connoisseur of science fiction.

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Jules' Book Reviews

Reviewed by Jules on Sep 24 2011

This was an interesting, funny and overall enjoyable read as the author makes some interesting points using his usual satirical whit...this book is not only a classic read, but well written and funny. I also found it to be a quick read, and I think a lot of readers would probably enjoy the book.

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Literary Exploration

Above average
Reviewed by MICHAEL KITTO on Jul 30 2013

In true Vonnegut form, this book will take you on an interesting ride with no possible way of predicting the outcome. The book satirises science, this classic post-modern sci-fi novel...Although I wasn’t a fan of Breakfast of Champions, I feel like I’m a true fan of what Vonnegut does and Cat’s Cradle is a good example of that.

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Leeswammes' Blog

Reviewed by Leeswammes on Oct 01 2010

The book consists of many short chapters all from the viewpoint of John...I enjoyed reading the book, but I fear I didn’t understand any references and deeper meanings that may be present in the book. Or not...I love Vonnegut’s writing style, uplifting, not too many descriptions, lots of dialogue. Pick it up if you want to be dazzled!

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SF Book Reviews

Reviewed by Antony Jones. on Jan 25 2012

Cat's Cradle is a short book unhindered by lengthy exposition or world building, there is no wasted space at all and the rich, intelligent dialogue combined with brief chapters means that many people could read this in one or two sittings. I love the author's voice...I highly recommend that you read this book at least once.

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Val's Random Comments

Above average
Reviewed by Val on Jun 19 2013

Cat's Cradle was published in 1963 and it is a book of it's time...In that respect the novel is a bit dated but in others, it still feels very relevant...Vonnegut has written a pretty concise novel by today's standards...Cat's Cradle is a little gem of a novel.

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Above average
Reviewed by John on Apr 27 2008

It was published in 1963, which places it squarely in Vonnegut’s great period. On rereading it, I was relieved to find the theory holds: it’s a masterpiece of Vonnegut’s seductive, clear-eyed whimsy, and possibly his best book.

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Warpcore SF

Reviewed by Ros Jackson on May 16 2015

This novel is a satirical commentary on our careless attitude to nuclear technology and the pursuit of scientific discovery without heed to the consequences. Vonnegut is an excellent observer of human nature. His depictions of human folly are subtle, intelligent, and never dull. That's why a book like this will never go out of date.

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The Rhapsodist

Above average
Reviewed by Alex Willging on Aug 05 2010

Cat‘s Cradle is well laid-out, following the stories of various people that the narrator meets along his journey to the Republic of San Lorenzo. It’s written in Vonnegut’s trademark style of unembellished dialogue and constant wit. And even if the end isn’t that bright, it’s still an affirmation of human beings and their creativity.

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Michael Manley 20 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 4.5 out of 5


Rolli 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list