by Joseph Heller
I'm almost at a loss to describe just how great this book is, but I'll give it a go anyway. Suffice it to say Mr. Heller's tale of war, courage, and madness is as relevant today as it was on its first printing. It's a book that will make you laugh, make you think, and make your heart ache all at the same time.
This is the story of Yossarian, an American bombardier stationed on Pianosa under the command of the vain Colonel Cathcart. No matter how many missions Yossarian and his comrades fly, the colonel demands more of them, gradually raising the number from twenty-five all the way up to eighty. Yossarian becomes increasingly desperate to escape the certain death he knows is waiting for him, especially as his friends are seemingly knocked off one-by-one not just by German gunners but sometimes by friendly fire or outright bizarre circumstances--like being smothered by a cat. Surrounded by pompous, preening, madmen like Cathcart, Yossarian turns out to be the only sane person on the base because he still has at least a shred of conscience.
The satiric wit employed to paint the Army Air Force as bumbling stooges might have seemed ridiculous until a few years ago. Now with Gulf War II and soldiers being sent on four, five, or more tours of duty it doesn't seem quite so far-fetched that a Colonel Cathcart or General Peckem could really exist.
As good as this book is it can be a challenge keeping all the characters straight and all the events in proper order. And like a "Saturday Night Live" skit this goes on a little longer than it should until the bit starts to lose some of its impact. The end is tremendous as Yossarian does the only thing he can do in the face of overwhelming stupidity and madness.
If you're a fan of M*A*S*H the movie or TV show then this book is right up your alley with its wisecracking antiheroes and bumbling commanders. Really to me "Catch-22" seems like the precursor to that movie/series only on a grander scale.
And hey this is one of the only books to add a new word to the dictionary, so that's neat too. Go ahead and give this a read; you won't be disappointed.
That is all.