This slim volume covers two previously unpublished Vonnegut works. The first, “Basic Training”, is a very early novella, written a few years before “Player Piano”. “Basic Training” follows young Haley to his relative’s farm after the death of his parents. The head of the family is known as The General and runs the family in military fashion. The second half of the book is a unfinished novel entitled “If God Were Alive Today”. It is classic late Vonnegut, bitter, ironic and unabashedly honest. The protagonist, Gil Berman, is a self-proclaimed stand-up comedian who tackles everything from politics to morals to social mores and just about everything in between. Both works are semi-autobiographical, which should come as no surprise to any Vonnegut fan.
Both stories are interesting from a contextual point of view. I’ve read just about every Vonnegut book I’ve been able to get my hands on. It’s fascinating to see the development between the early and late Vonnegut writings, even if they can’t really hold a candle to the extant works. I do wish, however, that he had had a chance to finish “If God Were Alive Today”. Great potential there. Many classic Vonnegut-isms. Not, however, for the Vonnegut initiate.