Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos is a favorite book of mine.
The plot, loosely summarized, centers around a group of tourists who take a cruise to the Galapagos Islands in 1986. Then the apocalypse happens, killing all of humanity apart from this group of tourists. The narrator looks back on these events from 1,000,000 years in the future.
But the plot’s not overly important apart from this: human brains had evolved into much smaller organs by 1,000,000 + 1986. Galapagos is a social essay that argues big brains are an evolutionary disadvantage, at least where contentedness is concerned.
On old-time big brains
“That, in my opinion, was the most diabolical aspect of those old-time big brains: They would tell their owners, in effect, ‘Here is a crazy thing we could actually do, probably, but we would never do it, of course. It’s just fun to think about.’
“And then, as though in trances, the people would actually do it.”
“‘Maybe it’s time you stopped being so absolutely certain about so much!’ said Mary.
‘That thought has occurred to me,’ he said.”
“Donald was the dog. Robert was the man. And Donald was harmless. He had never bitten anybody. All he wanted was for someone to throw a stick for him, so he could bring it back, so somebody could throw a stick for him, so he could bring it back, and so on. Donald wasn’t very smart, to say the least. He certainly wasn’t going to write Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. When Donald slept, he would often whimper and his hind legs would shiver. He was dreaming of chasing sticks.”
“Darwin did not change the islands, but only people’s opinion of them. That was how important mere opinions used to be back in the era of great big brains.”
On all of it
The book starts with a quote from Anne Frank, which after reading most of Vonnegut’s work, seems to aptly summarize KV’s worldview:
In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.
Galapagos: 4.3 out of 4.7 Loon Stars
I recommend it.