Foul Fish in the Sea – A Review of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

A review on the back of the book said that this was the only war fiction that they read that ever made sense.


I would try to tell you what Catch-22 is about but I genuinely don’t know myself. I read on the synopsis it was supposed to be about the troubles of a paranoid bomber on an island in Italy and him trying to leave the war for good. I thought it was going to examine his attempts at trying to loophole various loopholes that would keep him flying at death’s door for the rest of his life.

Instead I got a headache and wasted 10 weeks trying to finish this thing just to tell you guys how bad it is.

Being a book taking place in the Second World War, I had high hopes for this and despite the confusing narration I kept on trying. Catch-22 wasn’t the first novel with odd narration I had read – in fact my all time favourite is one of those books. However, I can clearly say that this book put me off nonlinear novels all together. I wouldn’t mind reading something nonlinear if I could actually tell when I was taken forward and back in time. There was literally no way to tell up until the last quarter or so of the book.

I’ve heard many people say that they took a couple of rereads of the first few chapters before they got to reading the book. Heller should’ve known this would turn off readership. My word of advice if you can’t get into it within the first read: don’t. It’s not worth it. Here’s a few more reasons why:

Even without the changes in timeline, so much of this book was filled with filler. Every character had a backstory included in this book which brought nothing to the overall narrative. I don’t care that this Major’s wife doesn’t love him back – he was only present for three chapters in the book. Though Major Major’s backstory was pretty sad, it did nothing to the plot but make me wonder when we’d be going back to the story of the main character Yossarian. Was he even the main character? I can’t tell you. Barely any of the book touched on him trying to get out of the war when compared to all that wasn’t him trying to get out of the war.

I couldn’t tell you what any of the characters looked like. Each of them was described once, some of them without even a hint of their eye colour, and then nothing about their appearance was ever brought to attention again. This was terrible considering not only that there were so many of them but the fact that they were all white boys. Like 80% of the cast were white boys and only know the hair colour of one of them. Do you know how hard that was to visualise things and not get characters mixed up?

The “realistic” dialogue drag the story out for far too long. Yes, when we talk naturally we have a tendency to talk back and forth and eventually in circles and tangents. Conversation naturally drags our attention away from what is important. You can already imagine how poorly this translates in creating a narrative, especially when these tangents become pages long. To a reader, this is too much. I just want the story to continue.

A vast majority of the text was written in lengthy unreadable paragraphs that took up 3/4 of a page. Pieces weren’t broken down to make the text easier to digest, but it didn’t matter because as I said before there was a lot of filler. A bunch of “He said that she said…” was present. I found great joy in skipping paragraphs entirely, and that’s bad.

But in light of all these errors I decided that I wouldn’t hate on the story so harshly at first glance. I decided to give the TV series adaptation a watch to see if the story would actually be something I would enjoy. Some of the issues still stood like filler dialogue and difficult to distinguish characters, but I can conclude the following:

For once, the book was not better.

Catch 22 gets a score of 1/5. It only had the potential to be something average.

Yours in writing


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