Before winning international fame with Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut was a master of the drugstore paperback and the popular short story. This authoritative collection of his brilliant early work opens with Player Piano (1952), a Metropolis-like parable of breakneck technological innovation and its effect on those it robs of their livelihoods. The Sirens of Titan (1959), the interplanetary adventures of the world’s wealthiest and most despised man, is both a pulp-fiction space opera and a satire on the vanity of human striving. The confessions of a German-American double agent well placed among the Nazi elite, Mother Night (1962) is a cautionary tale with a famous moral: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Here too are six of Vonnegut’s best short stories, gems that display his matchless talent for hilarious invention and caustic social criticism.
A companion volume, Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963–1973, collects Cat’s Cradle; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Slaughterhouse-Five; Breakfast of Champions; and three short stories, including “Welcometo the Monkey House.”