I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was one of those teenage boys who read the crap out of Kurt Vonnegut (along with Stephen King, William Sleator, and a few others). This one is one my brother owned, and I recall trying to read it at some point and it just not taking.
I’ve read it now, and from Vonnegut’s weird (but still good) 80s output, I think this one really stands out for its richness and inventiveness. We are told in the first sentence that our literary perspective is from 1,000,000 years in the future, and soon enough we find out that our narrator seems to be a ghost, and knows that he’s writing some kind of text, as he references the asterisks he places beside characters’ names who die before the main events of the novel pass.
The story involves a series of catastrophic events on a nature cruise to the Galapagos islands in Ecuador and how the people stranded as a consequence of this series of events become the last remaining humans in that 1,000,000 years hence. The novel plays around a lot with time, especially the effects and consequences of singular moments in the novel and what effect they have through that million years. Like the birds and tortoises and other animals on the Galapagos, the humans that survive there also end up adapting to the extreme and barren biome on the islands.
The novel is a kind of weird postmodern love letter to Darwinian evolution, science fiction and science fiction tropes, and the emerging computer age.
What adds a lot of hilarity and charm to the novel is the presence of a pre-internet database (more like a cd-rom) contained within a translating computer one of the inhabitants has invented that is full of famous quotes that the narrator of the book seeds throughout this tale as on-the-nose and also trite readings of the events in the book. I was pretty delighted by this one.