Even though the first sentence names a “sum of money” as its leading character, this is Vonnegut at his most charming and humane. The plot concerns a millionaire playboy who develops a conscience, decides to give away his fortune and open a help center, and then finds himself declared insane by nearly everyone else in America. If the book has a slogan, it’s “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind,” for it reads like a study of selflessness, charity, and public service in a country driven by greed and selfishness. Throughout, Vonnegut lampoons the American dream as well as the quintessential American narratives of the self-made man. He also muses about mental illness and depression—sometimes comically, sometimes soberly, but never without compassion. Finally, for fans of the Vonneverse, this novel gives us the first raucous appearance of derelict sci-fi guru Kilgore Trout.

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