Vonnegut is possibly the most monotonous of excellent authors. He has one topic–modern mass society–and but one statement to make on it, “there’s only one rule I know of, babies, goddamnit, you’ve got to be kind”.
Player Piano is no exception to this rule. Vonnegut gives one of his most impressionable tales of modern society, largely because of its disturbing prescience. Silicon chips have replace vacuum tubes, but the slow and steady trend of humans replacing themselves with machines continues; our desire for new for newness sake continues unabated.
Though Vonnegut is often styled as absurdist, Piano Player is a modern fairy tale. Like every fairy tale it takes the stories men use to explain the world, whether they be fairies or scientific progress, and follows their logic to the end. Piano Player takes at face value the arguments of politicians, economists, city planners and tech entrepreneurs the world over. With characteristic wit and subterfuge, Vonnegut brings up the uneasy underpinnings of these thinkers: that man is little more than a series of “if-then” statements, a compilation of various regular laws and tendencies. In doing so, Vonnegut asks if perhaps the push for material progress as such and understanding entails has pushed out our humanity. Piano Player makes no effort to prove the pushers of progress wrong—it takes the more disturbing tact of asking whether they have the right.