While this book may seem to be about the (mis)adventures of Yossarian, a soldier who lives with a dead man in his tent, this actually is a snarky look into the ugly, enterprising world behind glorified military lines, with the one main catch that rules over it: Catch-22.
(That catch is, in itself, a curious and contradictory one, but it's one that makes sure that Yossarian, just when he thinks he's about to go home, finds out that he has to go back to flying his jets once more. This may seem the major focal point in this novel.)
It deals with soldiers who go to the hospital as frequently as they can to avoid going to battle. It tells us of commercial exploits happening with government funds in the hands of war-made entrepreneurs. It introduces us to the women (read: whores) the men flirt and fall in love with. It describes to us, in anecdote after anecdote, of the people who supposedly fight for the country, but actually end up tinkering with stoves, writing the same letters of grief, and applying fake signatures to official documents out of sheer boredom.
While all of these glimpses may have been magnified to make the characters here seem like mere caricatures, it seems obvious that the outlandish stories each have a grain of truth in them. This is especially seen in other small aspects of military life, such as with how it also deals with the difficulties in flying fighter planes, the men who get wounded and die in duty, and the wishes for freedom and patriotism.
All in all, this book actually appears to be an almost day-by-day look into the life of a soldier in the battlefield. It may be difficult to keep reading this for some (it was for me), as its story is peppered with, and sometimes segued heavily by, black humor and social commentary. However, this story is meant to be read for more than its plot. Read it for the comedy, and be prepared for snapshots of the political horror in military life. Remember, just when you're sure you've won, you lose.
Read this book now! Here's Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition on Amazon (for Kindle).
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars