Galapagos explores an interesting question: what is the future of the human race one million years down the road?
Galapagos is a great novel, one of the last great novels of Kurt Vonnegut’s career. Told from the perspective of the ghost of Leon Trout one million years in the future, it offers an upfront commentary on human nature and society that is scathing, comical and consistently fascinating. Trout died while building the Bahia di Darwin, the ship which would become the second Noah’s Ark. He decides to stay a ghost, rather than venture into the afterlife, and observes the evolution of mankind from the passengers on this ship, to the flippered kin of the future.
The passengers, from who all of mankind one million years in the future is descended, consists of a Captain, an American widow, a Japanese woman and her daughter, a young blind girl, and six Kanka- Bono girls native to South America, each one with a funny or absurd back story. The book follows their journey from Ecuador to a remote island in the Galapagos, while the rest of civilization falls into shambles.
Although we don’t specifically witness these scenes, we know that these people become the ancestors of all mankind ( what happens to the rest of humanity is a bit ambiguous, though there is brief mention of a fertility destroying disease), and mankind, over the course of one million years, adapts to the new environment, adaptations which include significantly smaller brains, and flippers, perfected for fishing purposes.
Vonnegut breaks the cardinal rule of any intro to writing class: show, don’t tell, but he does so to brilliant effect. Trout tells most of the story, what will become of mankind, what has brought this odd myriad of characters together, but it never feels lacking. Vonnegut’s precise, and humorous writing style, creates an engrossing, and immensely enjoyable read.
Vonnegut’s trademark satire and social commentary, and almost addictive writing style are put to good use, in this interesting novel and I can not recommend it enough.