Vonne-Get On With It, Already
I can't read more than one book by Kurt Vonnegut every year or two, and this book reminded me why. There are some beautiful, unique things about Vonnegut's narrative style that are impossible not to love: quirky, short sentences; the way he incorporates many of the same characters (including himself) into various works; a charming way of framing reality by describing, as literally as possible, the state of the world.
And this book, in particular, had a lot of promise for me at the beginning. The concept is this: a man named Dwayne reads a novel by pulp science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, goes crazy, adopts the book's philosophy as his own, and wreaks havoc. This is the setup, anyway, and it takes almost the entire novel for these two characters to actually meet and for Dwayne to discover the book that will drive him past the point of insanity.
Leading up to that moment, there are a lot of gems—most notably, other little stories, summaries, and anecdotes that are are often better than the novel itself. Throughout the book, I often found myself thinking, "That would make a great story. Why not write that instead?"
Because as the plot developed (or, well, didn't really develop), I began to lose interest. I'm not an impatient reader, and this was a short novel, but instead of having a fairly well defined trajectory as set up by the beginning of the story, the book felt more like a collection of colorful ramblings, periodically sending a casual glance in the direction of the denouement.
Once I actually finished the book, I was incredibly disappointed. I was actively engaged throughout the first half, but it went nowhere for me. I thought this book would be my favorite of the handful of Vonnegut novels I've read, but it seems I just have to add it to the shelf with the rest of his forgettable, half-developed plotlines and overplayed stylistic choices. So it goes.
OVERALL RATING (within genre): 2/5 stars
TL;DR: Just like the rest of Vonnegut's many forgettable stories, Breakfast of Champions ties in the usual cast of characters, themes, and stylistic choices to the point where, even weeks later, you won't remember which book from his bibliography it was—and it won't matter anyway, because by the end, the whole novel feels totally pointless.