Cat’s Cradle unfolds through the eyes of Mike, a free- lance writer, who is doing a story on the late Felix Hoenikker, who was one of the fathers of the atomic bomb.
His research takes him to Dr. Hoenikker’s place of employment in Ilium, New York. Mike learns that when Dr. Hoenikker died, he was working on an isotope of water which would remain a solid at room temperature. He also wrote letters to two of the three children of Dr. Hoenikker.
The location of the third child, Frank, was unknown. Mike discovered later that Frank was the Minister of Science for the Republic of San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo was a small island in the Caribbean being developed for tourism. "Papa" Monzano was the President of San Lorenzo. Mike went to San Lorenzo to see Frank. On the plane he met the other two children, Angela and Newt.
They were going to San Lorenzo because Frank was marrying Mona, the beautiful daughter of "Papa." When Mike arrived on San Lorenzo, he discovered that the island was non-productive and worthless. The people on the island were dirt poor. The islanders were all Bokononists, which was a new religion founded by a runaway black slave named Bokonon, who came to the island years ago. He also discovered that "Papa" Monzano was dying and that Frank would be the next President.
As it turned out, Dr. Felix Hoenikker had actually invented an isotope of water which freeze at 114 degrees Fahrenheit. He called it ice-nine. When he had died, there was a piece of ice-nine left in the kitchen. His three children each took a splinter of the ice-nine. If a crystal of the ice-nine touched regular water, all the water would turn to ice-nine.
Mike also became aware of the dangerous situation that existed with three odd children all carrying the secret and the power of a crystal which could freeze the world if it touched a river, lake, or ocean. As it turned out, "Papa" Monzano died and told Frank on his death bed that he would be the new President of San Lorenzo. However, Frank had no desire to be President of San Lorenzo. He was only interested in science and did not like talking to people.
San Lorenzo was so worthless and had so many problems, that no one else wanted to be the president of San Lorenzo either. Eventually, Frank convinced Mike that he should be president of San Lorenzo. The only catch was that he would have to marry Mona Monzano because it was written in the books of Bokonon that Mona would marry the next President of San Lorenzo. In the end, through an unusual series of events, the ice-nine finally did hit the ocean. The world froze and everybody did die.
— Lance Winslow, www.worldthinktank.net