Welcome to the Monkey House is the first Vonnegut book I’ve read, but I’m certain that it won’t be the last. I borrowed it from the Kindle Unlimited selection during a free trial (which incidentally I won’t be renewing, as the range is incredibly limited). Happily though, this was a successful gamble.
The collection begins slowly with “Where I Live”, an unexciting travelogue. The second installment is “Harrison Bergeron”, set in a future of enforced equality, where those with higher IQs are mentally handicapped for the sake of fairness. I’d read this before without especially realising it was Vonnegut, but it was nice to revisit. The titular story, “Welcome to the Monkey House”, falls fourth in the collection, and made me question whether I was going to enjoy the rest of the book. It’s set in a world where overpopulation is so crippling that society is encouraged towards euthanasia, and everyone takes pills to numb their sexual desires, making sex purely procreational. It features gang rape as an awakening, with the lead perpetrator framed as being in the right, and left me extremely uncomfortable.
Fortunately, the rest of the collection was much easier to digest, and much more enjoyable. My particular favourites were:
“All The Kings Horses”, in which a group of prisoners are forced to play chess for their lives.
“More Stately Mansions”, in which a woman lives in a house constructed entirely of imagination.
“Report on the Barnhouse Effect”, starring a man who develops extraordinary mental powers, which of course the government want to harness.
“Unready to Wear”, set in a future where a section of humanity have learned to discard their bodies as the next stage of evolution.
I could go on, but would end up summarising a significant portion of the book. As a whole, “Welcome to the Monkey House” is an excellent collection, demonstrating a mastery of genres. Vonnegut can write people, he can write tension, and he can write some great stings in the tail. I’m certain that I’ll be reading more of his work soon.
“Love is a hawk with velvet claws; Love is a rock with heart and veins; Love is a lion with satin jaws; Love is a storm with silken reins…” – EPICAC
[Read from 3-21 July 2017]