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Reviews of Catch-22 (1961)

Review by fuzzy_patters (2007-03-07)
Catch-22 is the well known World War II novel by Joseph Heller. It is the story of Yossarian, a soldier who is afraid of death.

The strengths of Heller's novel are it's humor and emotion. The reader catches a keen glimpse into the life of a soldier tormented by beurocratic folly and war weariness. With war all around him, Yossarian desperately wants to escape, and the reader wants to escape with him.

There is one primary weakness in the novel is that Heller gets a bit redundant during the middle section of the book. The gags that are comical early in the book lose their punch when they are constantly repeated. Around page 250, I found myself getting bored and counting the number of pages left.

Fortunately, the last 150 pages make the middle section worth wading through, and as a whole, this is a very good novel. The early section is humorous, and the ending is definitely worth sticking around for.

Review by lozzina (2004-01-22)
This book is really strange to read at first. You have to get into Heller's style of writing, which involves jumping back and forth between scenes and time.
The humour is odd, yet amusing, but i only found a few laugh out loud chapters, namely "the man who sees everything twice." I would recommend the book as an interesting satirical read, but i won't be reading it again in a hurry.

Review by aldarsior (2003-09-15)
Catch 22 is a very deep philosophical book on the subject of sacrificing individuals for the good of the Many

I don't know how to submit quotes into the entry, but here are some excelent ones

There was only one catch and that was Catch22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask, and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.

The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on.

"And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways", Yossarian continued "There's nothing mysterious about it, He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about, a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of Creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?"
Joseph Heller, Catch22

Review by laurie (2003-08-20)
This book is one of the few which have actually made me laught out loud on the bus on the way to work. Random, funny and painfully sad at times, this book is up there with 1984.

Review by nui6882 (2003-07-19)
A fine novel. Morbidly comic, it is the story of Yossarian, a bomber in World War II who witnesses the absurd horrors of war. The story repeats three times, each time growing more tragic, until Yossarian realizes he must escape. Genuinely funny and genuinely tragic. A masterpiece of black humor.

Review by mwisse (2003-03-10)
The trouble with some novels is that they're more then just novels, they've become symbols. Catch 22 is more then an antiwar novel, it is the antiwar novel, which makes it difficult to talk about. The reality of the novel itself is obscured by our expectations, the images we have about it, by what we've read about the novel before we managed to read it ourselves. Of course, every book that stays around long enough runs that risk, but it's far worse when a book, like Catch 22 has done, so permeats popular culture. Even worse, such books become litmus tests to judge reviewers and readers by --ask any fantasy fan how difficult it is to honestly criticise the Lord of the Rings cyclus. So yeah, I feel a bit of pressure reviewing this novel, never mind that it's all in my head. I do want to leave a good impression, after all.

Catch 22: you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. Or in the "hero" of Catch 22, Yossarian's case, he must be insane to fly bombing missions but trying to let himself be declared insane and so get out of the war is the sane thing to do, so he can't be declared insane. Hence he has to stay at the frontline, flying an ever increasing number of bombing missions before he can go home and never quite making it before the quota is raised again.

Yossarian is the main character, but the way the book is built up is really as a series of short stories focusing on different members of th squadron and their own unique troubles. Each of these stories being embedded in the main story of Yosserian.

As an antiwar book, this could've been an incredibly depressing and realistic look at life in a World War II bomber squadron at the Italian front, full of men dying pointlessly. However, Joseph Heller had the good sense to transform it into a piece of absurdistic theatre. Heller's wit is razorsharp, his view of humanity is bleak: nobody in the entire book really seems to care about anybody else, with the exception of the bashful and totally useless chaplain. By keeping the emphasis on the ridiculous though it takes a long time for the cynicism to seep through. But when it does, it hit me like a sledgehammer. It took a while before I felt ready to read on, whereas the first half or so I read in less then a week.

I'm glad I've read it, but I won't be rereading this soon.

(Taken from my booklog at

Martin Wisse

Review by Jago360 (2003-03-08)
I have to admit, at first I didn't like this book at all. The back-and-forth humor didn't amuse me and the constant scene changes threw me until I got into the rhythm of the novel; then I could settle down enough to really get into the humor. It may be satirical, but it still gives a poignant view of war and death, with a healthy dose of lunacy and ludicrousness. Recommended.

Review by KC7WUE (2003-03-08)
A book that captures the lunacy of war. Mr. Heller wrote a chronological story with bizzarre characters, then shuffled the chapters. It took a couple of times through to understand the story and how things fit together.

Review by mzsanford (2003-03-07)
A tangled, triping writing style which does a good job of illustrating the futility and confussion involved in war. I great satire on the state of modern armies, but by no means a quick read. Thick in part, but worth the effort.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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