It had actually been awhile since I read this, widely considered Kurt Vonnegut's best or close to it. I couldn't help realizing that when I came across a scene that reminded me of 9/11 and then, less than 10 pages later, another that reminded me of Jonestown. Cat's Cradle was published decades before either event so I don't know how anyone can get too far from the idea of and the word "prescience." But there's more: it's extremely short, some 191 pages in my ancient mass-market edition, addresses itself to the end of the world, and gleefully riffs off Moby-Dick every chance it gets. First sentence: "Call me Jonah." No chapter any longer than three pages (thus, 127 chapters in a compact 191-page book). And cetacean imagery and language everywhere he can make it fit, and a few places where he can't. It's also really funny. It's true I generally have a taste for things that go under the label "black comedy," which fits here fine, but it's not often I find myself actually laughing very hard at some of this stuff. There's a lot of plot here, which gets a bit tiresome. It's much more fun when it dwells on its invented religion, Bokononism, and even more when the narrator (Jonah, which name, by the way, you never encounter again after the first page) enters into high moral dudgeons, with the rest of the players—and there are a lot of them here—standing around blinking and wondering what he's all of a sudden going on about. Those Bokononist terms and concepts—wampeter, foma, granfalloons, and all of it—would come to permeate Vonnegut's work time and again until they veered close to rancid from overuse. But this is not nearly as cutesy and Peanutsy as Vonnegut would wander off into with commercial success (compare Charles Schulz). With The Sirens of Titan, Welcome to the Monkey House, and Slaughterhouse-Five, this is where you find Vonnegut working as if everything mattered and rarely indulging himself. Everything that's funny here, such as the capital punishment in the banana republic where the action concludes and the way that people talk about it, is equally terrifying. Nothing is intuitive. It's all by design. And deserves the label "prescient" a hundred times over.