I got really excited a few weeks ago when it was announced that a never before published Vonnegut novella had been discovered and was being released. Sadly, it was only in ebook format (though super cheap) because Vonnegut is one author I really do prefer to read in paper. But nevertheless, I waited until April when I had another free book to read through Amazon Prime and promptly downloaded Basic Training.
Vonnegut apparently wrote this novella fairly early in his career–as was judged by the address on the manuscript–but I think it’s as eloquent as anything he wrote. I was thrown by the utter realist nature of the piece (no time traveling aliens or Ice-9) but it was engaging and imaginative. The story focuses on a young boy who’s parents have been killed and he move in with his uncle and cousins on their farm. The uncle is a veteran called “The General” by everyone he knows and he runs his farm as though it were a military unit. The young man, Haley, is a slight boy who aspires to become a professional piano player and the rough physical life of the farm is quite a shock.
From what I know thus far of Vonnegut’s style (I’m still very much an amateur, but I’m working my way through his books) this novella is pretty representative. If you enjoy his outlandish set-ups and precise prose, you’ll definitely enjoy Basic Training. Even without aliens and world-ending scientific discoveries.