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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reading List: Children's Crusade

Cawdron, Peter. Children's Crusade. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2014. ASIN B00JFHIMQI.
This novella, around 80 pages print equivalent and available only for the Kindle, is set in the world of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. The publisher has licensed the rights for fiction using characters and circumstances created by Vonnegut, and this is a part of “The World of Kurt Vonnegut” series. If you haven't read Slaughterhouse-Five you will miss a great deal about this story.

Here we encounter Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack in their alien zoo on Tralfamadore. Their zookeeper, a Tralfamadorian Montana nicknamed Stained, due to what looked like a birthmark on the face, has taken to visiting the humans when the zoo is closed, communicating with them telepathically as Tralfs do. Perceiving time as a true fourth dimension they can browse at will, Tralfs are fascinated with humans who, apart from Billy, live sequential lives and cannot jump around to explore events in their history.

Stained, like most Tralfs, believes that most momentous events in history are the work not of great leaders but of “little people” who accomplish great things when confronted with extraordinary circumstances. He (pronouns get complicated when there are five sexes, so I'll just pick one) sends Montana and Billy on telepathic journeys into human history, one at the dawn of human civilisation and another when a great civilisation veered into savagery, to show how a courageous individual with a sense of what is right can make all the difference. Finally they voyage together to a scene in human history which will bring tears to your eyes.

This narrative is artfully intercut with scenes of Vonnegut discovering the realities of life as a hard-boiled reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. This story is written in the spirit of Vonnegut and with some of the same stylistic flourishes, but I didn't get the sense the author went overboard in adopting Vonnegut's voice. The result worked superbly for this reader.

I read a pre-publication manuscript which the author kindly shared with me.

Posted at April 27, 2014 22:08