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Welcome to the Monkey House: 12/04/08
Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of short stories written by Kurt Vonnegut in the 1950s and 1960s. The collection was first printed in 1970.
Despite the age of the stories, they hold up remarkably well. Vonnegut's tales are character driven explorations of basic human emotions and needs. Although the collection can be classified as science fiction, not all of the stories have science fiction elements. The science fiction is a means to an end, not a gimmick.
The book's title comes from the fourth story. It is a look at the world in the future, over populated with mostly with people who look forever stuck in their twenties thanks to advances in medicine. To keep the population down, people are forced to take "ethical birth control " and everyone is encouraged to do their part by offing themselves at the local suicide parlor (conveniently located next door to the government run Howard Johnson's). There is something deliciously Futurama about "Welcome to the Monkey House " (1968).
My over all experience with Welcome to the Monkey House was enjoyable but there were some stories that fell short. Among those is "All the Kings Horses " (1953), a chess game played with prisoners of war. It feels out of place with the sillier stories in the collection, "Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog " (1953) for example. The other hit against it, is that I had just finished re-reading Waiting for the Barbarians which has many of the same themes but presented better.