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Summary

Kurt Vonnegut's first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul's rebellion is vintage Vonnegut – wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.

As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Kurt Vonnegut's book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Gay Talese about the life and work of Kurt Vonnegut – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.

©1980 Kurt Vonnegut (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Mr. Vonnegut is a sharp-eyed satirist." ( The New York Times)
"One of the best living American writers." (Graham Greene)

What members say

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Uncanny prediction of today's world of automation.

I love Vonnegut's world view and style; his irreverence towards authority and satirical perspective. What makes him a superior satirist is how he doesn't need to resort to the hysterical. He's measured. His worlds, however inventive, are believable extrapolations of the real one.

I also think his irreverence is particularly mature. In this story which critiques thoughtless, directionless automation of industry in the name of unqualified "progress", he's very aware of the negative consequences of a luddite approach to technology. He's not so irresponsible to say "smash the system" and then walk away without any solutions. He also asks "and then what?" I'm not even sure he's on the side of his heroes who hope to smash the machines and return control to the people. My take home from this is we're damned if we do, damned if we don't when it comes to the use of tech. The best we can do is exploit tech in service of the sort of society we want, and not just for efficiency's sake, choosing carefully what we implement and what we don't for everyone's benefit.

As someone working in AI and concerned about the social and political ramifications of it, I can't believe Vonnegut was so "on it" over 50 years ago. We live in a prepubescent version of the tech utopia/nightmare he predicts. He's one of those writers who can look around him at our madness and synthesize it into a coherent criticism, show us common sense and suggest the humane thing to do.

One of my top ten novels.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Still great, don't worry about it being dated

Despite being full of technical stuff dated in the 50s, the issues and ideas are still relevant and the story telling is timeless. Very well read, with good voice acting across the range of characters. A funny and thought provoking book.

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Absolute Brilliance!

What a wonderful book! Funny and serious at the same time it explores what should we value about modern life. Vonnegut writes in a very clear understandable manner that allows the reader to fall fully into his way of thinking, which is laced with heart felt wisdom and insight. Highly recommended!

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brilliant

vonegut vision in player piano is immensely profound. the plot is engaging but the world is the true star of the novel, it's unsettling lyn accurate in many ways. I think Orwell reads vonegut...

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  • Christopher Bowers
  • 18-09-17

Poor narration

I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, and was hoping to really enjoy listening to this book. I love the story, but the monotone (digitally sourced?) narration makes this impossible to listen too. Do not buy Kurt Vonnegut books from this series!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Pla77
  • 08-02-16

Relevant today

This is particularly relevant given the rise of AI and references to vacuum tubes can easily be replaced with transistors without batting an eye. Like most Vonnegut he creates the engine, gets it running, takes a short drive and abruptly abandons it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • 12-12-08

Not Vonnegut's best effort.

I read this a long time ago and bought the A-B. There are some interesting insights in this book that have some application in todays "outsourced" economy. Funy in parts tiresome in others, the ending seems J-V was trying to meet a deadline.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • thomas
  • 20-02-14

Spectacular

What did you love best about Player Piano?

It is hard for me to write a review of a Kurt Vonnegut book, I am clearly not a literary critic, but for me he is the most under appreciated writer in the American literary tradition. This book, his first, is just fantastic.

What other book might you compare Player Piano to and why?

Within the Vonnegut library I would say Sirens of Titan, another early book with big ideas.

What about Christian Rummel’s performance did you like?

It is interesting that all the Vonnegut books on Audible have been done by different narrator's and all of them have done a great, great job. Rummel handled the material so well I cannot imagine any else doing it better. Just great.

Who was the most memorable character of Player Piano and why?

Paul Proteus probably but Kroger and Finnerty really cracked me up....sometimes it is hard to tell (when really Vonnegut) if you are imagining his characters or the subsequent one's that recent writers ripped off from him. These are archetypal characters at times and it is difficult not to love all of them.

Any additional comments?

Thanks Audible, well done.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ben C.
  • 15-07-18

Cynical, satirical, and a little bit lyrical.

The diversity of character personalities was refreshing, though my favorite character didn't change as much as I had anticipated. Great critique of how science can enhance or drain the human condition.

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  • emma
  • 10-07-18

Super talented narrator

Christian Rummel is a genius. Perfect collaborator for Vonnegut. ;)
This book is timely as it deals with machines sort of like how we grapple with AI now. It raises issues we are currently debating.

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  • P. Bunyan.
  • 22-05-18

Dynamic performance

Its really good; just try the sample if you don’t trust me. I’ve read every Vonnegut thing ever and I really loved this. The narrator really brings it.

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  • M Jordan
  • 10-06-17

Marvelous and Profound!

Vonnegut creates excellent characters with humor. They tell a story that should be required reading as more & more of our jobs become automated. Brilliantly read - an extra bonus.

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  • Paul Bernhard
  • 17-03-17

Timeless themes and perfect ironies

Oversized brains that overtechnologize life will always win; the innocent victim is our own humanity.

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  • cynthia
  • 27-11-16

The usual excellence

Crafting sentences, paragraphs , and chapters was not accidental. Vonnegut worked diligently to achieve that simple style. It made him my favorite at a young age and he remains so now.