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Slaughterhouse-Five

Written by: Kurt Vonnegut
Narrated by: James Franco
Length: 5 hrs and 13 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (159 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Slaughterhouse-Five is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW who has, in the later stage of his life, become "unstuck in time" and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously.

Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut's usual large cast of continuing characters (notably here the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralfamadorians, who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence). The "unstuck" nature of Pilgrim's experience may constitute an early novelistic use of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder; then again, Pilgrim's aliens may be as "real" as Dresden is real to him.

Struggling to find some purpose, order, or meaning to his existence and humanity's, Pilgrim meets the beauteous and mysterious Montana Wildhack (certainly the author's best character name), has a child with her, and drifts on some supernal plane, finally, in which Kilgore Trout, the Tralfamadorians, Montana Wildhack, and the ruins of Dresden do not merge but rather disperse through all planes of existence.

Slaughterhouse-Five was hugely successful, brought Vonnegut an enormous audience, was a finalist for the National Book Award and a best seller, and remains four decades later as timeless and shattering a war fiction as Catch-22, with which it stands as the two signal novels of their riotous and furious decade.

©1969 Kurt Vonnegut (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"James Franco is an inspired choice as narrator for this anti-war classic. While still young, he still manages to sound world-weary.... Franco has fun with the offbeat characters and Vonnegut's quirky text but keeps the overall tone thoughtful.... Franco's reading gives the 1960s classic a freshness that will appeal to both new listeners and Vonnegut's many fans." ( AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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A Classic

This book had been recommended to me several times over the years, but I'd never read it. I'm glad I did! It's one of those books that will stay with you forever. Put it on your "Must Read" list. It's timeless.

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all time great book. James Franco does a great job

James Franco does such a good job delivering Vonnegut's matter of fact style of writing.

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Greatest novel of the 20th century.

I love this book!! it's sad and it's sweet, and It's brilliantly mad!

The performance of James Franco leaves a little to be desired. Some if his choices for pronunciation of certain words hit my ears in a strange way.

Overall I was very pleased with this audio book.

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Franco Won Me Over!

In my view, this isn't always an easy read. The social commentary is often communicated through strange and random characters, episodes, and dialogue...which, I guess...and gather, is maybe the point. The further I got into it the more brilliant I found it to be - in language, lessons, and themes. At first, I was not captured by Franco's interpretation...but the longer I listened and the better able I was to figure out what Vonnegut was talking about the more I found Franco's narration and Vonnegut's words a perfect match. #Audible1

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Great Book, Decent Reading

First thing: once you get used to James Franco's cadence, things move along rather quickly - but the disaffected approach he seems to take is off-putting at the start.

The book is a classic, and worthy of that title: a powerful examination of death, war, and other inhumane behaviours, couched in madness, a touch of science fiction, and ambiguity. Masterful.

#Audible1

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oddly great book....

it's a book about so much and really nothing at the same time... more words were required to submit

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This is a really nice, quick listen.

I was skeptical about James Franco narrating, not anymore. He did very well. I will be checking to see what other books he's done. I'm really glad I listened.

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Boooooooring!

I have been working my way through classic sci-fi novels. I recently finished Neuromancer which was fantastic. Slaughterhouse Five is also considered a classic. Why? Probably because it was culturally relevant at the time, but in 2018, it simply sucks. This is one of those books that feels like it’s constantly in the introduction because it never goes anywhere. The main character is hollow and blank, he has no clear opponent or conflict and James Franco sounds like he recorded this at 3am. Finally, the author annoyingly inserts random pieces of information that The reader doesn’t give two shits about - like the profession of the previous owner of an apartment Billy was staying at and who the lady was that a boat was named after. I was not entertained, I was not moved and no new perspectives were gained.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Walter W. Quinn
  • 2018-07-05

Horrible narration.

One of my all-time favorites novels ruined by a narrator who just sounds bored. Real shame.

39 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Shane Fuder
  • 2017-03-11

Not well read

James Franco did a terrible job. Practically monotone. Audible could've gotten anybody to better than this.

33 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 2017-01-22

Everything is nothing, with a twist.

I've read Slaughterhouse-Five several times and I'm still not sure I know exactly how Vonnegut pulls it off. It is primarily a postmodern, anti-war novel. It is an absurd look at war, memory, time, and humanity, but it is also gentle. Its prose emotionally feels (go ahead, pet the emotion) like the tug of the tides, the heaviness of sleep, the seduction of alcohol, the dizziness of love. His prose is simple, but beautiful.

Obviously, part of the brilliance of this novel is born from the reality that Vonnegut is largely playing the notes of his own song (obviously, obscured by an unreliable narrator, time that is unstuck, and generous kidnapping aliens). It is the song of someone who has seen horrible, horrible things but still wants to dance and smile (so a Totentanz?).

Emperor, your sword won't help you out
Sceptre and crown are worthless here
I've taken you by the hand
For you must come to my dance

I had to work very much and very hard
The sweat was running down my skin
I'd like to escape death nonetheless
But here I won't have any luck

It is essentially art pulled out of the tension between despair and hope, grief and celebration, love and death. It is a classic not because it has a message about war, but because it has a message about life. Vonnegut aimed at war and hit everything.

84 of 94 people found this review helpful

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  • j phillips
  • 2018-12-11

3.45 stars......mediocre

James Franco narrates Vonnegut’s classic, a tale that takes the listener inside the time traveling mind of Billy Pilgrim, a war vet suffering from PTSD. Franco isn’t a terrible narrator, but he should stick to acting. A good narrator makes all the difference. Vonnegut is a beloved author, and this post-war classic is considered great by many. Unfortunately, I’m in the minority....and so it goes.

Overall rating: 3.45 stars

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Cus
  • 2016-11-16

Good story, poor audio & reading

Classic 1960's writing. Terrible 2010 voice. Male vocal fry. Also, levels should have been normalized. Too much gain adjustment required. Kept having to back up position and increase volume to hear what I'd missed. Then, few minutes later, pull out the earbuds to keep from being blasted out.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Keith
  • 2015-11-20

Don't Quit Your Daytime Job, James

Vonnegut is one of a kind, and if you like that kind, Slaughterhouse Five is not to be missed. However, the same cannot be said about this audiobook. I usually like James Franco as an actor, but I was greatly disappointed with his narration of this book. There was nothing at all remarkable about his voice. He mumbled some of the time, and he sounded bored and listless all of the time. He seemed to be phoning it in.

81 of 93 people found this review helpful

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  • illnist
  • 2017-03-03

Don't bother

I loved this book until James Franco butchered it. I suggest having a listen to the preview first. Wish I did.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • JL
  • 2015-12-01

Good book, meh narrator

Although I liked the book, I wasn't a fan of James Franco's reading of it. His mumbling and flat affect made the book made the book feel a bit tedious.

68 of 79 people found this review helpful

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  • alan
  • 2018-07-02

Franco ruins this.

Franco's reading made me stop listening in under 10 minutes. Poor performance by him, I will buy the actual text instead.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Expat back home
  • 2015-11-21

Read it again.

Would you listen to Slaughterhouse-Five again? Why?

I read this book perhaps 30 years ago. I'm delighted to be reintroduced. A great author and great story. Even if depressing.

What did you like best about this story?

The dry wit.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me laugh and cry.

Any additional comments?

This book is read very well. The actor gets the subtlety of the book.
If you read this book in high school, read it again and you'll appreciate it even more.

25 of 30 people found this review helpful