I really disliked Timequake at the beginning because
I didn't know what it was. Of course I knew Vonnegut would be satire of some kind, but the cover blurb led me to believe it was more squarely a
science-fiction novel about time travel, which I usually love. But the
book seemed just a horrible amalgamation of non-sequitors hovering between
newspaper blurbs and anecdotes. But halfway through, I realized this
was the point. Turns out Timequake is a series of brilliant observations
and thoughts about life's cruelty, pure joy, and unexpected silliness.
The reason I was misled by a science fiction premise
is that there is one at the core of the book, albeit faint. Vonnegut
posits that the universe one day got sick of going forward in time and
instantly went backwards ten years, then changed its mind and went back
to normal. So everyone had to relive their ten years, this time as unwilling
puppets, limiting their free will to their memories and minds.
But this absurd and ingeniously-never-explained universal
quirk is merely a setup to allow Vonnegut to travel through time with
his anecdotes and musings. Many of these are outright hilarious, though
most are seemingly unrelated to anything else in the book. (The funniest
concept repeated throughout the book is that when the "Timequake" is
over, people used to running on auto-pilot are suddenly shocked to have
free will. Most of them suddenly fall down.)
So it's just like Slaughterhouse Five but without poignancy.
If you try out Timequake, keep your mind casual and don't expect a thrilling,
suspenseful plot. It's more like having a pleasantly rambling conversation
with a very intelligent old man. With this attitude in mind, the book
comes out surprisingly coherent and whole by the end.