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The Sirens of Titan PDF, ePub eBook The Sirens of Titan is an outrageous romp through space, time, and morality. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there's a catch to the invitation—and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell The Sirens of Titan is an outrageous romp through space, time, and morality. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there's a catch to the invitation—and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell.

30 review for The Sirens of Titan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 5 THINGS I KNOW I learned from reading Sirens of Titan 1. Kurt Vonnegut was a brilliantly insightful GENIUS whose brain waves were ever so slightly out of phase with our universe making complete comprehension of his work by the rest of us impossible; 2. In the hands of a master, literature can be both incredibly entertaining and soul-piercingly deep; 3. Vonnegut had a rock hard MAD on the size of a Dyson Sphere against Organized Religion; 4. Winston Niles Rumfoord is a Gigantanormous, Hobbit-blowi 5 THINGS I KNOW I learned from reading Sirens of Titan 1. Kurt Vonnegut was a brilliantly insightful GENIUS whose brain waves were ever so slightly out of phase with our universe making complete comprehension of his work by the rest of us impossible; 2. In the hands of a master, literature can be both incredibly entertaining and soul-piercingly deep; 3. Vonnegut had a rock hard MAD on the size of a Dyson Sphere against Organized Religion; 4. Winston Niles Rumfoord is a Gigantanormous, Hobbit-blowing, Douchasaurus Rex (or if you prefer the proper latin phrase Giganticus, SamwiseGamgeeus, Douchbaggius Maximus); and 5. A Martian soldier unable to stand at attention because he has been strangled to death by his best friend...can be VERY, VERY FUNNY!! There is quite a bit more that I’m pretty sure of after reading this Vonnegut classic, but on the above I am very confidant. I had so much fun with this book and I am sure that I still missed some of what Vonnegut was trying to say. His delivery is so dry and understated that if your attention wonders even for a moment, you can miss his point. I think this is one of those books that just screams to be read in a group and discussed. Maybe that’s why books like this lend themselves so well to re-reading every so often, because there is so much more there to find upon closer inspection. PLOT SUMMARY Here is a brief rundown of the plot (for what it’s worth). The story is told by an unnamed far future historian and takes place over a 40+ year period during the “Nightmare Ages”…“sometime between the Second World War and the Third Great Depression.” The story revolves around 3 main characters are Malachi Constant, the aforementioned Winston Niles Rumfoord and Rumfoord’s wife, Beatrice. The story begins with Malachi Constant, the richest man in the world, being granted a rare invitation to the Rumfoord Estate to witness a “materialization.” You see Winston Niles Rumfoord, while traveling between Earth and Mars with his pooch came in contact with a phenomenon called chrono-synclastic infundibulum (one of the truly remarkable concepts created by Vonnegut, but you’ll have to read for yourself). As a result of his encounter, Rumfoord now exists as a wave phenomena, has complete knowledge of the past a future, and “materializes” for a few minutes at his home every 59.9 days. Malachi is the first person (other than Beatrice) to be allowed to see and speak to Rumfoord during his visits. During the visitation, Rumfoord tells Malachi all about his future (and the future of his wife Beatrice) and explains that Malachi will go on a series of journeys and will eventually end up, with Beatrice, on one of the moons of Saturn called Titan (hence the title). Malachi, not liking the idea that his path is set goes about doing everything he can to prevent the events Rumfoord has ordained. This event starts the series of events that make up the novel. Along the way, Vonnegut bitch-slaps organized religion; puts forth a funny, witty and piercing examination of the question “Free Will: YES or NO?;” and follows his characters as they experience growth and change through the constant loss and destruction over everything they are. A FEW FAVORITE MOMENTS Without leaking too many details regarding the myriad of uncut gems that Vonnegut includes in this story, I do want to point out a few of my favorites. On Religion Clearly, Kurt's most all up in your face critiques are directed at “organized religion.” He doesn’t spend time bashing “belief” in any mean-spirited way. Rather, he focuses his ample ire on the “actions” that organized religion often leads its followers to perform. In this regard, my favorite satirical nuggest in this area were: 1. The Bible as Financial Analyst and Stock-picker. 2. The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent (this name still makes me chuckle) 3. The Earth as God’s Spaceship and the 10 commandments reworked as a launch countdown. On Free Will and Why We’re Here My single favorite “idea” from the entire book is the central idea of the novel in which Vonnegut answers for us the “what’s it all about” question. His answer, delivered with classic VonnegutSHOTness is sublime. When you take: a. The intro to the story by the narrating future historian; plus b. The final “reveal” regarding the purpose behind all of the actions of the characters in the story; plus c. Some additional inter-story commentary from our narrator who hindsights this period of our history… …and add it all together…the result for your eyes, gut and mind is a truly popping, wrenching, expanding STOP YOU IN YOUR TRACKS moment that may require a few injections of Whiskey (or stronger) to take the razor sharp edge off. It is certainly commentary that will burrow into your memory and lay idea eggs. So I really, really liked it. In sum, a truly exceptional work by a truly exceptional author expressing some exceptionally powerful ideas that made my exceptionally tiny brain scream for an exceptionally long time until I downed an exceptionally large glass of some exceptionally good stuff and suddenly felt exceptionally well….and exceptionally wobbly. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!! Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1960)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Somebody up there likes me. One of my favorite film directors is Wes Anderson. I’m not sure if he is a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, but he should be and he should produce and direct the film adaption of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Sirens of Titan. Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut’s second published novel, was released in 1959. Some aspects of his brilliant short story Harrison Bergeron, which was published in 1961, are revealed in the pages of Sirens. Other aspects of this novel are fairly representative of the la Somebody up there likes me. One of my favorite film directors is Wes Anderson. I’m not sure if he is a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, but he should be and he should produce and direct the film adaption of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Sirens of Titan. Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut’s second published novel, was released in 1959. Some aspects of his brilliant short story Harrison Bergeron, which was published in 1961, are revealed in the pages of Sirens. Other aspects of this novel are fairly representative of the later work that many people regard as his masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five. In fact, interestingly, aspects of several works in Vonnegut’s bibliography can be detected, including Galápagosand Slapstick or Lonesome No More!. Player Piano may have been the first book published by Kurt Vonnegut, but Sirens of Titan was the first Vonnegut book. Player Piano was an excellent story, a fine work of science fiction literature written by a man with much world experience and wisdom. But … for the body of work that would come, that great canon of literature that would inspire and entertain and provoke thought from generations of readers, the vanguard was Sirens of Titan. Kurt Vonnegut, when he wrote Sirens of Titan, was 37 Earth years old, he was 6 feet 2 inches tall and had curly brown hair that his mother, Edith Lieber, called chestnut. I have read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s books and I think Sirens of Titan was the book that formed the template, the engineering blueprint, for what would become. And so it goes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    I'll start with a roundabout introduction. Garry Kasparov was not just one of the best chessplayers of all time, he was also one of the best analysts. Even as a teenager, he was always coming up with the most amazing ideas. Chessplayers often prefer to hoard their ideas; it can be worth a lot to surprise your opponent in a critical game, and there are many stories about grandmasters keeping a new move in the freezer for years, or even decades. Kasparov asked his trainer if he should be hoarding I'll start with a roundabout introduction. Garry Kasparov was not just one of the best chessplayers of all time, he was also one of the best analysts. Even as a teenager, he was always coming up with the most amazing ideas. Chessplayers often prefer to hoard their ideas; it can be worth a lot to surprise your opponent in a critical game, and there are many stories about grandmasters keeping a new move in the freezer for years, or even decades. Kasparov asked his trainer if he should be hoarding too. "No, Garry!" came the sage reply. "Use them now! You'll get new ones." And, indeed, this turned out to be a correct prediction. Kurt Vonnegut wrote Sirens of Titan early in his career, and I wonder if he didn't receive similar advice. The novel contains enough ideas for half a dozen normal books, and fairly bubbles with creative energy. I like it much more than Slaughterhouse Five, and I've always wondered why it isn't better known. I suppose it doesn't actually make sense; but, for goodness sakes, do things always have to make sense? Free associating for a moment, Candide, A Grand Day Out and the Old Testament are all undisputed masterpieces. None of them make sense, and they would be greatly diminished if they did. Put them together and package the result as a 50s SF novel, and you might get something a little bit like Sirens. So, you have a naively optimistic central character, who suffers the most appalling reverses of fortune in a way that somehow ends up being more comic than tragic; but, instead of going to South America, he spends most of the book wandering around a Solar System which is very slightly more credible than Nick Park's cheese-flavored Moon. He's pursued by a God who's rather too fond of elaborate practical jokes, but who is simultaneously trying to use the story to convey deep truths about the meaning of life. Unless He's just kidding. It's a bit hard to tell, but isn't that normal for pronouncements made under the influence of divine inspiration? I see I've left out all the good bits. I haven't mentioned the chrono-synclastic infundibulum. Or Bea's sonnet, "Every Man's an Island", about how to breathe in space. Or Salo, and his message for the people at the other end of the Universe. Or Universal Will to Become. Or even the Sirens. If you haven't already done so, why don't you buy the book and check them all out for yourself? It's an easy read, and it even has a happy ending. I think.

  4. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    ‘the sirens of titan’ (or as i have alternatively titled it, ‘why life is the universes greatest long con’) is the perfect catalyst for my impending existential crisis - all courtesy of john! in this review, i will explore the two major themes of the novel, state what we can learn them, and explain how these lessons apply to our meager lives. lets get started. free will || ah, the biggest illusion of them them all. if the universe was a magician, the fact that we somehow believe we have control ov ‘the sirens of titan’ (or as i have alternatively titled it, ‘why life is the universes greatest long con’) is the perfect catalyst for my impending existential crisis - all courtesy of john! in this review, i will explore the two major themes of the novel, state what we can learn them, and explain how these lessons apply to our meager lives. lets get started. free will || ah, the biggest illusion of them them all. if the universe was a magician, the fact that we somehow believe we have control over our lives would be considered the finale, the best trick saved for last. because we are nothing more than 'victims of a series of accidents.' the combination of random events created us and will continue to lead us and nothing we can do or say has any influence over that. there is no way to control that which is unpredictable. (alexa, play despacito.) meaning and purpose || if you choose to believe vonnegut, intrinsically everyone knows how to find the meaning of life within themselves. meaning that, even though we just established we have no control over our lives, we can still find meaning/purpose and make it highly personal in nature. in this instance, i agree with the book, in that ‘the purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.’ unfortunately for me, im painfully single. in closing, what have we learned? its that life is meaningless but we should be happy about it. because even though we may not be able to control what life throws at us, we have the innate disposition to be able to make it meaningful. thats what makes us human. and that is something we all could do well to remember. thanks for coming to my ted talk. ↠ 4.5 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    Always prophetic. Always relevant. In Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan, we accompany Malachi Constant on adventures through time and space. He is unlike any other hero you're likely to read about; Malachi "was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all." The plot, which seems ridiculous and completely random (like those series of accidents), takes on visionary proportions in Vonnegut's hands. Especially in this novel, I thought about how much Vonnegut had influenced Douglas Adams and Th Always prophetic. Always relevant. In Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan, we accompany Malachi Constant on adventures through time and space. He is unlike any other hero you're likely to read about; Malachi "was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all." The plot, which seems ridiculous and completely random (like those series of accidents), takes on visionary proportions in Vonnegut's hands. Especially in this novel, I thought about how much Vonnegut had influenced Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Whereas Vonnegut uses the absurd to explore what makes us human (because what else really is there besides the absurd?), Adams takes the absurd and turns it into a funny and highly entertaining romp. (I was so struck by the similarities that I began to re-read Adams even before finishing Sirens). I recommend this book for any fan of Vonnegut or Adams. Finally, by having our 'hero,' Malachi, as an unwitting victim of his own adventures (during a lifetime of learning and unlearning), Vonnegut approaches tragedy, but he turns away from it because that would be taking this life much too seriously.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut The Sirens of Titan is a Hugo Award-nominated novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., first published in 1959. His second novel, it involves issues of free will, omniscience, and the overall purpose of human history. Much of the story revolves around a Martian invasion of Earth. Malachi Constant is the richest man in a future America. He possesses extraordinary luck that he attributes to divine favor which he has used to build upon his father's fortune. He becomes the cent The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut The Sirens of Titan is a Hugo Award-nominated novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., first published in 1959. His second novel, it involves issues of free will, omniscience, and the overall purpose of human history. Much of the story revolves around a Martian invasion of Earth. Malachi Constant is the richest man in a future America. He possesses extraordinary luck that he attributes to divine favor which he has used to build upon his father's fortune. He becomes the centerpoint of a journey that takes him from Earth to Mars in preparation for an interplanetary war, to Mercury with another Martian survivor of that war, back to Earth to be pilloried as a sign of Man's displeasure with his arrogance, and finally to Titan where he again meets the man ostensibly responsible for the turn of events that have befallen him, Winston Niles Rumfoord. ... تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و یکم ماه فوریه سال 2012 میلادی عنوان: افسونگران تایتان؛ نویسنده: کورت ونه گات؛ مترجم: علی اصغر بهرامی؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1390، در 376 ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20 م مردی با سفینه اش وارد چاله های فضایی شده، و اکنون بیرون از زمان است، و در زمان مسافرت میکند. او فهمیده، زنش و یکی از هنرپیشه های هالیوود توسط مریخیها دزدیده شده، و با هم بچه دار میشوند و ....؛ ونه گات باورهای روز دنیای غرب را، در این اثر به رشته ی نگارش درآورده؛ از عصر روشنگری، تا نظریه‌ های فیزیک کوانتوم؛ خوانش و درک طنز، و درونمایه های اثر، برای خوانشگرانی که با اسطوره های غربی آشنا نیستند، بسیار کند است، گاه خوانشگر منظور متن را درنمییابد، با اینحال اثری با چشم اندازی نو، و جهانشمول است. ونه گات، در این رمان، با دستمایه قرار دادن اسطوره‌ و کلان روایتها، و شوخی، و دست‌انداختن آنها، در پی به چالش کشیدن وضعیت بشر معاصری ست، که علیرغم خیال تسخیر کهکشانها، و دستیابی اش به کره ی ماه، و سیارات منظومه شمسی، نه تنها همچون نیاکان خویش، خوشبختی، هنوز هم برایش میسر نیست، بلکه زندگی، برایش از بگذشته ها نیز، ناآشناتر نمایان است. عنوان رمان، برگفته از عنوانهای اسطوره ها، و کهن الگوهای غربی ست، شخصیتها: خدایان، الهگان، یا قهرمانانی هستند، که به سبب برخورداری از نیروهای فرابشری، توان انجام کارهای فراطبیعی را دارند. ملاکی کنستانت، یا انسانها، در این اسطوره‌ ها، یا باید شاهد فرود عذاب از جانب خدایان باشند، یا به جبر سرنوشت خویش، تن دهند، و نیروهای فرابشری را قهرمانان خویش بدانند. ا. شربیانی

  7. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Love the One You're With Most of Vonnegut's enduring tropes start life in Sirens: - Time and its distortions - Places like Newport and Indianapolis - People such as Rumfoord and Ben and Sylvia - The planet Tralfamadore and its inhabitants - And of course the Volunteer Fire Department What holds these oddities together is what holds everything of Vonnegut together, an ethical theology. His sci-fi is a way of displacing talk about God just enough to do some serious thinking. And he may indeed have inspi Love the One You're With Most of Vonnegut's enduring tropes start life in Sirens: - Time and its distortions - Places like Newport and Indianapolis - People such as Rumfoord and Ben and Sylvia - The planet Tralfamadore and its inhabitants - And of course the Volunteer Fire Department What holds these oddities together is what holds everything of Vonnegut together, an ethical theology. His sci-fi is a way of displacing talk about God just enough to do some serious thinking. And he may indeed have inspired a new generation of thinkers about God as a consequence. Vonnegut's Church of God the Utterly Indifferent follows a teaching remarkably like a Christian theology developed almost 40 years after Vonnegut's novel. This theology of the Weakness of God rejects the idea of God as the all-powerful fixer of the universe. And it rejects the idea that power flows downhill, as it were, from the divine source to spiritual and secular leaders. Its ethical import is that all of us are engaged in a search for God, and that the only help we have in this search comes from our fellow human beings. This is essentially Vonnegut's Titanic Theology. “The two chief teachings of this religion are these: Puny man can do nothing at all to help or please God Almighty, and Luck is not the hand of God." God does not interfere in human affairs; he is what in traditional theology is called 'apathetic'. He is not affected one iota by human action. In short "God Does Not Care." Whatever morality there is in human life comes not from His interests or the possible benefits from pleasing Him, but from the necessity for the community life of human beings. So the ethic of Vonnegut's theology is direct and clear. There is only one commandment: "These words will be written on that flag in gold letters on a blue field: Take Care of the People, and God Almighty Will Take Care of Himself." This mandate requires no complicated exegesis or commentary. Nevertheless it's profundity takes a while to sink in: “It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” In a world ruled by such an ethos there is the possibility of pain, but of a particular sort: “The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody,” she said, “would be to not be used for anything by anybody.” So-called ‘Weakness Theologians’ like John Caputo are apt to agree: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Danger

    3RD READ-THROUGH 4/18/17: Since I was about 19, I’ve been referring to this novel as my “favorite book.” I don’t know if *quite* holds that distinction still, having read a lot more in the succeeding 15 years, but it is STILL, without question one of the best! This book might be the “plottiest” of all of Vonnegut’s novels, while I enjoy the voice later Vonnegut much more (The Sirens of Titan was only his second book) the ideas presented here are deep and varied, lying what is obviously the philo 3RD READ-THROUGH 4/18/17: Since I was about 19, I’ve been referring to this novel as my “favorite book.” I don’t know if *quite* holds that distinction still, having read a lot more in the succeeding 15 years, but it is STILL, without question one of the best! This book might be the “plottiest” of all of Vonnegut’s novels, while I enjoy the voice later Vonnegut much more (The Sirens of Titan was only his second book) the ideas presented here are deep and varied, lying what is obviously the philosophical and spiritual groundwork for a lifetime of work to still come. This book still hits, and it hits HARD. If you haven’t read this and don’t rectify that immediately, then I don’t think we can be friends. 5 GIGANTIC STARS! This is my favorite Vonnegut book, and I've read them all, except for one, which I am afraid to read because he is dead now and once I read that last book there won't be any more to read and my life will be meaningless.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kedar

    Do you read a Vonnegut book, or does the book read you? Does it expose your thoughts to the most detailed analysis of humanity, human behavior, and human mind and then tells you to not give a damn? Except that it also seizes the phrase 'to not give a damn' from your control. Leaves you hanging midair. Questioning. So what to do? What is to be done? Apart from whatever has already been done? You go beyond the story. See Unk staring at you pointedly with a hazy gaze. Figure out if he thinks whether Do you read a Vonnegut book, or does the book read you? Does it expose your thoughts to the most detailed analysis of humanity, human behavior, and human mind and then tells you to not give a damn? Except that it also seizes the phrase 'to not give a damn' from your control. Leaves you hanging midair. Questioning. So what to do? What is to be done? Apart from whatever has already been done? You go beyond the story. See Unk staring at you pointedly with a hazy gaze. Figure out if he thinks whether you are in control of the story or is he the real commander. Go beyond the cliché, beyond the at-times stupendously obvious humour. Look at the blanketed irony. Then either sleep in the warmth of ignorance or throw away the cover and dive deep in the chills of reality. Reading Vonnegut is probably a religion. The Church of God the Exquisitely Sarcastic. Shake hands with Rumfoord. If he allows you to do so. Peer through the kaleidoscope of allusions. The allusions in the form of the War, Harmoniums, Old Salo. A machine with a heart, as opposed to humans with emotions hardened as Titanic peat due to over exposure to something unrecognized or overtly familiar. Kazak, the dog on the leash. The soulless slave of gravity. In between become "unstuck in time" while reading the events that led to the initiation of the formation of "The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent". Keep reading and re-reading several passages. I have a feeling that I am lost. Lost while comprehending the gravitational depth for each line Vonnegut has written. I don't know whether I really liked this book or I really want to like it more than I did. I wonder what planet influenced me to write this review. The Hindu religion does give a lot of importance to planets and their influences on your life and the reviews you write. I will abstain from asking myself these questions after a Vonnegut book in future. Best is to try and emulate the sweet sounds of Poo-tee-weet. I need a stiff drink.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    “Rented a tent, a tent, a tent; Rented a tent, a tent, a tent. Rented a tent! Rented a tent! Rented a, rented a tent.” — Snare Drum on Mars” That is funny until it suddenly becomes creepy, to tell you why would be a spoiler though. The Sirens of Titan is great stuff, this should come as no surprise to you if you are a Kurt Vonnegut fan, but it surprised the hell out of me. You see, I didn't like Cat’s Cradle, one of his most celebrated books and, if I remember correctly, I didn't like Slaughterh “Rented a tent, a tent, a tent; Rented a tent, a tent, a tent. Rented a tent! Rented a tent! Rented a, rented a tent.” — Snare Drum on Mars” That is funny until it suddenly becomes creepy, to tell you why would be a spoiler though. The Sirens of Titan is great stuff, this should come as no surprise to you if you are a Kurt Vonnegut fan, but it surprised the hell out of me. You see, I didn't like Cat’s Cradle, one of his most celebrated books and, if I remember correctly, I didn't like Slaughterhouse-Five either, though I read that too long ago to be sure. Slaughterhouse-Five is even more celebrated than Cat’s Cradle. So I didn’t expect to like The Sirens of Titan, not a good attitude to start a book with, but after a few pages it just clicked. The Sirens of Titan is obviously science fiction but if you are a die-hard sci-fi fan with Clarke, Asimov etc. as your literary heroes you may want to approach this book with a different set of expectations. Even with spaceships, aliens and chrono-synclastic infundibulation this novel is not primarily sci-fi. Kurt Vonnegut is only using sci-fi as a platform to tell an allegorical story about life, together with an anti-war and anti-religion themes. In spite of a fairly simplistic prose style, this novel really is quite profound. I don’t think I have managed to decipher all the subtexts, I am still pondering them as I write. I wonder if the artist has actually read the book. This seems to be based on just the title. The story begins with a man named Winston Niles Rumfoord who, together with his dog, accidentally becomes “chrono-synclastic infundibulated” during a space voyage. I will leave you to find the precise meaning of “chrono-synclastic infundibulated” for yourself, amusingly explained by Vonnegut. The upshot of it is that Rumfoord and his dog become a “wave phenomena” spread across the universe; they materialize briefly on a planet whenever that planet’s orbit intersects their spiral waveforms, and soon dematerialize when the planet moves away from the intersection. Being spread through space and time gives Rumfoord knowledge of future history because “the Everything that ever was always will be, and everything that ever will be always was.”. In other words, the future is just as immutable as the past. This foreknowledge leads Rumfoord to play God with the entire human race, with special attention paid to Malachi Constant, the richest man in the world, and Rumfoord’s wife, Beatrice. To this end, Rumfoord orchestrates a war between “Martians” and humanity simply to make a point and teach mankind a lesson. With its unpredictable plot, characters, humour and philosophical themes The Sirens of Titan is a triumphant little novel that confounded my expectations. In spite of the comedic tone throughout the narrative the book is underpinned by sadness and loneliness. The time traveling aspect of the story is of the “predestination model” where the past and future exist simultaneously and both are equally unmalleable. Malachi Constant’s futile attempts to thwart his destiny as revealed to him by Rumfoord is funny to begin with until all his agency is taken away from him and he becomes a tragic and pathetic figure. The storyline is quite unpredictable from beginning to end, the book is often very funny, and the end is wonderfully poignant. Vonnegut makes the reader question his place in the vast uncaring universe, and he (rightly) doesn't offer any easy answer. One very impressive feature of Vonnegut’s prose style is that it is deceptively simple but hides a shrewd perception of the human condition and human compassion. A more relevant cover The Sirens of Titan actually works quite well as a “soft sci-fi” novel but it is more of an allegory about our floundering search for the meaning of life. I will probably give Slaughterhouse-Five another go and I look forward to reading Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and many more of Vonnegut’s works. Fan art by Gargantuan-Media

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan One of my favorite Vonnegut. Top-shelf. Snug and warm next to Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, & Mother Night. The magic of Vonnegut is he develops an idea to the point where -- just as you start believing it :: just as you are comfortable in his absuridty -- he kicks you down another Martian rabbit hole. He doesn't want you sitting and enjoying yourself. He wants you const “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan One of my favorite Vonnegut. Top-shelf. Snug and warm next to Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, & Mother Night. The magic of Vonnegut is he develops an idea to the point where -- just as you start believing it :: just as you are comfortable in his absuridty -- he kicks you down another Martian rabbit hole. He doesn't want you sitting and enjoying yourself. He wants you constantly bubbling with that 'da Fu?' look on your face. He wants you to think -- goddammit. He wants you to understand and that means he has to first confuse the hell out of you. But that doesn't mean his rollercoaster ride has to be boring. No no. He is going to zip you forward and sideways so fast you are going think you are close to sickness, except his funky humor and biting satire seems to balm all nausea ad absurdum. Incredible. Genius. There are points in this book where if Vonnegut had said he was forming a church, I'd join. If he said he was God the lawgiver, I'd reverently lower my eyes. If he said he expected a tithe, I'd buy another Vonnegut book. Yessir, I'd go door-to-door seeking converts to his form of absurd and giddy Humanism. Amen, pass the snuff-box. ___________________

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    I'm one of those people who like to pick on the super popular works of SF especially when the literary intelligencia has deemed so-and-so SF writers better than the common hoi polloi. I have to see what is up with them, find a reason to bring them back to the SF fold rather than the claustrophobic Literary BS. So what happens when I pick up Vonnegut and read him? I like him. Again. Damn it. In fact, The Sirens of Titan may be my favorite. It's a toss-up between The Breakfast of Champions and this. I'm one of those people who like to pick on the super popular works of SF especially when the literary intelligencia has deemed so-and-so SF writers better than the common hoi polloi. I have to see what is up with them, find a reason to bring them back to the SF fold rather than the claustrophobic Literary BS. So what happens when I pick up Vonnegut and read him? I like him. Again. Damn it. In fact, The Sirens of Titan may be my favorite. It's a toss-up between The Breakfast of Champions and this. Slaughterhouse Five is third. I was bored the first time I read Cat's Cradle, so I'll leave that off this list. :) This is a funny book. It tackles so much. Predestination, luck, a god with a nasty sense of humor, more luck as a cosmic joke, and lots of rented tents. Rent a tent! Rent a tent! :) Ostensibly, this SF pulp novel feels like an SF pulp novel with spaceships, a war with Mars, little music loving aliens on Mercury, and a mad ancient sculptor on Titan. Add a little shock to the system with all time and space open to ya and your cosmic dog, and all the good and bad luck of the universe will befall our MC. :) Again, pretty wild. So what is this? A pulpy-SF from '58? It's certainly light, funny, and entertaining. But I suppose it's gotten the attention it has gotten for one big reason. It has depth, too. A lot to say about God. Insanity. Memory. And almost nothing good to say about modern society. It is, in every respect, a light satire. More importantly, it's great writing. :) I totally recommend this to everyone.

  13. 4 out of 5

    mark monday

    rope-a-dope is a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches. rope-a-dope is a tactic employed by Winston Niles Rumfoord as he blithely controls the fates of his wife Beatrice, entrepreneur Malachi Constant, the buffoonish and warlike Martians, and of course all of the humans crowding up this planet Earth. they try to push back against this immaterial man, beamed to them with his hound of space Kazak for less than an hour, rope-a-dope is a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches. rope-a-dope is a tactic employed by Winston Niles Rumfoord as he blithely controls the fates of his wife Beatrice, entrepreneur Malachi Constant, the buffoonish and warlike Martians, and of course all of the humans crowding up this planet Earth. they try to push back against this immaterial man, beamed to them with his hound of space Kazak for less than an hour, every few months, full of plans that will change their identities, change their ultimate destinies. they take their swings, throw their punches, they tire themselves out. they don't even see the knock-out coming. Vonnegut employs his own sort of tactics. he's a playful author and a serious thinker. such a delightful tale; such darkness below the surface. this a breezy story about the dismantling of faith and religion as the only way to save humanity. this is a cheerful story about long-game manipulation, memories wiped, rape, friend killing friend, and genocide used to bring people together. this is an upbeat story about lives upended, dreams destroyed, and exile from all of your kind. the lovely sirens of Titan call to readers and characters, beckoning them to a place of delight; those lovely sirens live on Saturn's moon, statues submerged in a pool of green muck and murk, ignored.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Loretta

    Nope. Not for me. I enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five so much more. This book, The Sirens of Titan was, to me, boring and just couldn't get into it. 😕

  15. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    It's a thankless job, telling people it's a hard, hard Universe they're in! But somebody's got to do it, and that's the job Kurt Vonnegut embarks on here, through the voice of his character Winston Niles Rumford, an impromptu deux-et-machina who plays with humanity like a fickle overlord with his toy soldiers, hoping to lure us, push us, force us, enchant us, frighten us into growing up, into freeing our minds of the shackles of political games, money grubbing, religious intransigence or epicur It's a thankless job, telling people it's a hard, hard Universe they're in! But somebody's got to do it, and that's the job Kurt Vonnegut embarks on here, through the voice of his character Winston Niles Rumford, an impromptu deux-et-machina who plays with humanity like a fickle overlord with his toy soldiers, hoping to lure us, push us, force us, enchant us, frighten us into growing up, into freeing our minds of the shackles of political games, money grubbing, religious intransigence or epicurean abandon. You see, Winston Niles Rumsfoord is a special person. He went out exploring the Solar System in his private spaceship even after earlier probes revealed the dangers of the endeavour. Subsequently he became chrono-synclastic-infundibulated (don't worry, the concept is explained in the novel) meaning he and his dog became scattered both in space and in time, witnessing the past and the future of the Earth. He now regularly re-materializes as a Prophet / agent of social change, determined to bring humanity into a new Illuminated Age. Any man who would change the World in a significant way must have showmanship, a genial willingness to shed other people's blood, and a plausible new religion to introduce during the brief period of repentance and horror that usually follows bloodshed. The plot of the novel pretty much follows the above Rumsfoord script, but within these boundaries Vonnegut excells as usual in his particular brand of black humor, impassionate condemnations of the military mindset, sharp satire of religious fundamentalism (check out the new concept of handicapping the lucky ones in order to cancel out their born advantages). What is particular to this early novel is a youthful enthusiasm, a more optimistic vibe, an exuberance and a rush of new ideas that would be tempered in later Vonnegut novels by a darker mood, dissillusionment and bleakness at humanity's chances to pull itself out of its present funk. Coming back to the plot of the novel, it may be the influence of reading Dante in parallel, but I detected some pretty obvious references to the Divine Commedia. Rumsfoord picks as his agents of change his former wife Beatrice and a billionare Hollywood playboy named Malachi Constant. Beatrice plays a more passive role until the end of the novel ('The excesses of Beatrice were excesses of reluctance'.) I see her main role in the economy of the story as a cautionary tale against being too afraid to live your life, to take chances and to risk getting your heart broken in the process. (view spoiler)[ the conclusion of her story arc is one of those wonderful Vonnegut aphorisms, so quotable: The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. (hide spoiler)] Malachi Constant I interpret as the man who loses his way in a dark wood and descends to Hell before he can ascend to Purgatory (there to meet the sirens of Titan from the title and to decipher at last the meaning of life). Another analogy could be made to biblical Job, as he is uprooted from his luxurious life and isolated from all his fellow humans by the machinations of Rumsfoord. I'm not starting a synopsis of his misadventures, because they form the backbone of the plot and I want to leave the pleasure of discovery for new readers intact. Again, Vonnegut draws the conclusion with his usual black humour: Oh, my! said Constant, life is funny when you stop to think about it. The novel is relatively short, but the rush of new concepts and the inventiveness make it feel like three or four normal novels condensed into one volume. One character in particular I felt deserved his own separate story. I'm referring to Salo the Tralfamadorian, the alien with inflatable feet whose defective flying saucer left him stranded in our Solar System until he could get a spare part from 150000 light years away. Extraterrestrial lifeforms in SF serve as mirrors to reflect and define our human nature when looked from outside our narrow, pebble in the sky perspective. Salo is no exception, and his millenia long monitoring of our planet has in the end changed his neutral, detached status: The machine is no longer a machine. The machine's contacts are corroded, the bearings fouled, his circuits shorted, and his gears stripped. His mind buzzes and pops like the mind of an Earthling - fizzes and overheats with thoughts of love, honor, dignity, rights, accomplishments, integrity, independence. The last batch of bookmarks I have are all related to the new religion created by Winston Niles Rumsfoord ( The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent), part satire, part serious teachings from the pen of one of my favorite humanist crusaders. I believe they are self-explanatory: Take Care of the People, and God Almighty Will Take Care of Himself! Oh, Mankind, rejoice in the apathy of our Creator, for it makes us free and truthful and dignified at last. No longer can a fool point to a ridiculous accident of good luck and say 'Somebody up there likes me'. And no longer can a tyrant say, 'God wants this or that to happen, and anybody who doesn't help this or that to happen is against God'. The sermon of the panorama was that even a man without a friend in the Universe could still find his home planet mysteriously, heart-breakingly beautiful. Not to be lonely, not to be sad - xxx had decided that those were the most important things in life. You might wonder why, after all the praise, I still didn't rate the book five stars. While I consider it a classic and one of the best Vonnegut efforts, I did had some issues with the plot development, especially the chapters centered on the Mars military force. I also thought the concepts taken individually are all great but they don't always mesh together optimally, making the ideas more important than character development or motivation. I put it down to an aboundance of inspiration that felt the need to throw in everything at once into the mix. Maybe a re-read will add the last star.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    The Sirens of Titan: An early Vonnegut classic about the randomness of life Originally posted at Fantasy Literature This is a tough book to review. And it’s not really SF at all though it adopts the trappings of the genre. The thing about Kurt Vonnegut’s books is that they are so deceptively simple. The prose is spare, humorous, ironic, and to the point. And yet the story is very ambitious, as it seeks to provide answers to some very basic questions. Why do we exist? What is the universe for? Do w The Sirens of Titan: An early Vonnegut classic about the randomness of life Originally posted at Fantasy Literature This is a tough book to review. And it’s not really SF at all though it adopts the trappings of the genre. The thing about Kurt Vonnegut’s books is that they are so deceptively simple. The prose is spare, humorous, ironic, and to the point. And yet the story is very ambitious, as it seeks to provide answers to some very basic questions. Why do we exist? What is the universe for? Do we have any free will to determine our lives? Should we have chicken or fish for dinner? The story focuses on Malachi Constant, the richest man in America; Winston Niles Rumfoord, an older wealthy man who travels throughout the solar system with his dog Kazak, manifesting in various locations in space and time; Unk and Boaz, two buddies in the Martian Army preparing to invade the Earth; Beatrice Rumfoord, who is afraid of living but ends up having a troubled son named Chrono; Salo the Tralfamadorian, an alien robot stranded far from home who has more emotions than many of the human characters. The plot sounds ridiculous when written down. Winston Niles Rumfoord roams throughout the solar system, manifesting in various times and places after encountering a chrono-synclastic infundibulum. He can see the past and the future, and intercedes in human affairs, such as arranging an elaborate and utterly inept invasion of Earth by a Martian Army of conscripts controlled by radio antenna. He also founds “The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent” in the aftermath of this failed invasion, which turns the invaders into martyrs and makes the people of Earth feel guilty for eradicating them. The Church teaches people that they really shouldn’t expect any divine intervention in their lives, because clearly God doesn’t give a toss. This should liberate people to live their lives unencumbered by superstition, aware that life is what they make of it, and nobody is watching out for them. Malachi Constant is the other main character, a fairly unpleasant person whose wealth was inherited from his absurdly lucky father, who spent his entire life in a hotel room betting on stocks with a unique and bizarre strategy, and also completely neglected Malachi as a child. Malachi is a rich man in search of answers, but instead he finds himself spirited off to Mars after losing his fortune, losing his memory, getting embroiled in the fails Mars invasion, and finally ending up on the moon Titan with his lover and child, before being granted some final peace of mind at a bus stop in Indianapolis. Makes sense? Of course not, but then neither do our lives or the universe at large. The Sirens of Titan, like all of Vonnegut’s books, really has a simple message behind the irony and absurdity. Our lives are not dictated by a divine plan, and people are free to be either good or evil without any particular consequences. But given those circumstances, wouldn’t it be better to be as kind and sympathetic to the people you love? And don’t take yourself so damn seriously.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.5* of five I read this book when I was a teenager in the 1970s. I missed a lot of assumptions, like the one where it's okay for a man to discuss his own wife "being bred" by another man; the one where black people all speak in dialect, obviating the need to mention their skin color; the one about homosexual sex being offensive; I'm at a loss, as a 695-month-old reader with literally thousands more books under my expansive mental belt, how this 1950s prejudice whipped past my allegedly e Rating: 3.5* of five I read this book when I was a teenager in the 1970s. I missed a lot of assumptions, like the one where it's okay for a man to discuss his own wife "being bred" by another man; the one where black people all speak in dialect, obviating the need to mention their skin color; the one about homosexual sex being offensive; I'm at a loss, as a 695-month-old reader with literally thousands more books under my expansive mental belt, how this 1950s prejudice whipped past my allegedly enlightened 1970s sensibilities. Two stars off. The Tralfamadorian Salo, tangerine-colored mechanical man whose millions of years of lightspeed travel get interrupted by an unexpected landing on the balmy, verdant shores of Titan, also gets the stink-eye from my increasingly myopic baby greens. Winston Niles Rumfoord, the chrono-synclastically infundibulated spacetime sprinter, becomes his buddy? Salo spends inordinate amounts of energy, for a Tralfamadorian, setting WNR (a note to come on these initials) up and making his life on Titan extraordinarily pleasant. That has more than a faint whiff of colonial privilege, Salo being the first inhabitant of Titan though not native to it, who expends all his energies to improve the lot of an ungrateful, entitled newcomer. Another star off. Malachi Constant, reasonably dim, phenomenally lucky, is summoned to Rumfoord's famous reappearance after he's been chrono-synclastically infundibulated (seriously, if you're ever in a foul humor or just draggy, say or better yet type, "chrono-synclastic infundibulum." Your smile muscles will automatically activate and your crow's-feet will dance) in order to converse with the great man, though why he's so great really isn't much discussed. And what happens? Constant is turned into an unlucky pauper and press-ganged to Mars to fight a fake war with real casualties designed to unite the people of earth. In service of this goal, Malachi Constant has his identity stripped from him, mechanical thought-control devices implanted in him, and he's specifically made subject to a black man's total control to symbolize his utter dehumanization. More racism, fewer stars. What are we down to, one? I'll snatch that one back for black-man-as-nature-gawd-of-Mercury, Boaz using his natural rhythm (urp) to feed the harmoniums off his superiorly rhythmic pulse in preference to Unk/Malachi's more, what? bland? attenuated?, white man's pulse. No stars for you, Vonnegut. Zip. Zero. Rien. Nada. So whence cometh the three-and-a-half stars above? The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. The mass religion of billions who know with the simple certainty of faith that God couldn't pick you out in a police line-up and couldn't possibly care less about you, your prayers, your troubles, and your existence or non-existence. You don't matter to God. That is the single best take-away from reading this book. The assurance with which Vonnegut adduces the non-existence of God's interest in humanity is worth all three and a half stars I've rated the book. This isn't the reason I suspect people want to read a novel. It isn't my first thought on picking up a novel. But it damn sure makes for a great end! Though I have to say the ending of this novel, as opposed to its end in the sense of purpose, is...it's...on the bland side. Things rather stop than end. After a long, long time passes, the show rings down the curtain and you don't have to go home but you can't stay here. I remembered this novel as a Big Deal, a game-changer for me, and so it might have been in my teens. I think encountering a created world in which the Indifference of the Divine was simply accepted as fact, and the attitude towards the accumulation of money was sneeringly superior to those who merely grub after gold in the mud resonated strongly with my noblesse oblige sense of wealth as responsibility not opportunity. Another entry in the "re-read at your own risk" files. I might have liked it better left un-re-read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    One exercise is to attempt to try to flex your memory and remember back before the point you were born… for instance I was born in July of 1977 but can I recollect February of that year or August of 1976? What you are met with then is a solid nothing; blankness and blackness and not even sense at all; and this is probably what death is like. However if one is to take something positive from this exercise it’s the implication that death can also be something “before” and not something always and One exercise is to attempt to try to flex your memory and remember back before the point you were born… for instance I was born in July of 1977 but can I recollect February of that year or August of 1976? What you are met with then is a solid nothing; blankness and blackness and not even sense at all; and this is probably what death is like. However if one is to take something positive from this exercise it’s the implication that death can also be something “before” and not something always and forever “after”- Nabokov’s assertion that life is such a sunlit surprise that why wouldn’t death be just as much of one. I am certain that I read and loved The Sirens of Titan sometime before I was twenty, I am certain that after I read and loved it I gave it away to someone, and I'm certain I can’t remember that person either. The greater part of all experience goes unnoted, even to writers. The dissolution of reading The Sirens of Titan is analogous to universal dissolution- from youth I remember vivid things, startling moments, important transitions, staggering defeats or losses, hard-won victories, as well as the odd banal moment that for some mysterious reason strongly stayed- but most everything is irretrievably submerged. In the case of this book, the exceptions are a fabulous name, Malachi Constant, and a vague feeling of being contained. So the person to whom I gave The Sirens of Titan (forever, and where has that book ended up now after its long discursive travels?), they too have disappeared, but what vague feeling was deposited in my being by having known them? (Similar to that one of being contained that was left me by reading the book...) I suppose books, even ones we’ve forgotten, and people, those who have trailed off in time, leave these notions, almost colors, almost hunches- they have been carved in some way onto our beings, our personalities, like wind etches landscapes- and we might retrieve them without intending to and in ways we won’t know, but that still matter and shape what we do and who we are in our present tense. A book from a strange time in my life- and both have vanished. The convenient thing about books is, I can go to the library and check out The Sirens of Titan any time I wish and recover it all, live it all, feel it all again, and I will again be contained and I might know what that means. But the ferris wheel of personal time seems to be on an ever-upward (or ever-downward) arc, and those below or above us that we’ve lost are always fixed on some other place on the curve, and you can only hope to catch glimpses of them now and again, brief appearances, shadows of memories or re-emergences (who or what is a person whose only characteristic is that I once gave them a book?), overt or coded, or perhaps the sobering notion of “never again” as your arc completes its swing...

  19. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Wow. I'd forgotten quite how amazing a writer is Mr. Kurt Vonnegut. The Sirens of Titan is his second novel, and already his voice is developed to its peak: the irony, the cynicism, the repetition, the bleakness, the heartbreaking. This book moved me more than his other works. Something about these sad, lonely and powerless characters fighting their fates in a dark, unfeeling cosmos. It is a bleak, emotionally resonant work, far more moving than Slaughterhouse 5 or Breakfast of Champions. You can Wow. I'd forgotten quite how amazing a writer is Mr. Kurt Vonnegut. The Sirens of Titan is his second novel, and already his voice is developed to its peak: the irony, the cynicism, the repetition, the bleakness, the heartbreaking. This book moved me more than his other works. Something about these sad, lonely and powerless characters fighting their fates in a dark, unfeeling cosmos. It is a bleak, emotionally resonant work, far more moving than Slaughterhouse 5 or Breakfast of Champions. You can also see how influential this book was on Douglas Adams. The Hitchhikers Guide series, one might argue, is a whimsical offshoot of this novel. A classic. Easily in his top three novels.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    Since discovering that I love me some Vonnegut a few years ago after a humorless eighth-grade English teacher nearly kept me from ever giving him another go, I've read a not immediately dismissive number of his works. And they've all left me in various degrees of speechless. It can't be helped. He delights me in the way that only a favorite writer can. Reading Vonnegut makes me realize that there's nothing I can say that he hadn't already said better and more cleverly. And that's not really a ba Since discovering that I love me some Vonnegut a few years ago after a humorless eighth-grade English teacher nearly kept me from ever giving him another go, I've read a not immediately dismissive number of his works. And they've all left me in various degrees of speechless. It can't be helped. He delights me in the way that only a favorite writer can. Reading Vonnegut makes me realize that there's nothing I can say that he hadn't already said better and more cleverly. And that's not really a bad thing because he made some idea I so fundamentally agree with sound so good that other people have to agree with him and, therefore, also me. And knowing that continues to make me feel a little better about the world.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    Eh. Vonnegut thinks life is a bitch, and so has bitch-slapped some odd characters. Neither absurd nor insightful enough to be great. Indeed, there's something lazy about this book. And I can't be bothered to pin it down.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I read this many years ago, but am rereading with "The Evolution of Science Fiction" group. https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/... I remember liking this more back when I first read it in the 70's. I think both the times & my age had a lot to do with that. It never captivated me. Vonnegut made each character a caricature of some ideal of our society & then used that achievement & their flaws to destroy them so that when I didn't actively dislike them, I pitied them. It wasn't subtly I read this many years ago, but am rereading with "The Evolution of Science Fiction" group. https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/... I remember liking this more back when I first read it in the 70's. I think both the times & my age had a lot to do with that. It never captivated me. Vonnegut made each character a caricature of some ideal of our society & then used that achievement & their flaws to destroy them so that when I didn't actively dislike them, I pitied them. It wasn't subtly done, either. Vonnegut smacked them down with ridiculous, ham-fisted finality & then dragged them into their next moment of truth, only to find out it was really just a lie. It's an absurd morality tale, mildly humorous & immensely sad, that tell us there is no meaning to our lives or civilization. We'd be happiest if we quit trying to pretend there was. The only way to be truly happy is to embrace the situation & love those you're with. Well, that's how I see it, anyway. Vonnegut's writing isn't for everyone. His humor isn't particularly subtle & can be depressing. He writes like a moody drunk which is kind of fun, but gets old after a while. My favorite book by him has always been Welcome to the Monkey House (which I just downloaded), a collection of short stories. The brevity & focus of a short story suits his style & my appreciation of it far better. I just downloaded Armageddon in Retrospect, a collection of twelve new and unpublished writings on war and peace that was published a year after his death. I'm looking forward to it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Is it Fate or Coincidence? The Sirens of Titan is an odd satirical twist of a science fiction novel which explores nothing quite as grand as the meaning of life. There are echoes here of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, but guess what. Sirens of Titan came first. Legend has it that Vonnegut wrote this in a few hours while at a dinner party. Obviously, some of the ideas were percolating in his head for awhile. It is most of all a book of ideas. Vonnegut has the Is it Fate or Coincidence? The Sirens of Titan is an odd satirical twist of a science fiction novel which explores nothing quite as grand as the meaning of life. There are echoes here of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, but guess what. Sirens of Titan came first. Legend has it that Vonnegut wrote this in a few hours while at a dinner party. Obviously, some of the ideas were percolating in his head for awhile. It is most of all a book of ideas. Vonnegut has the reader pondering the nature of luck, of fate, of coincidence, of predestination, of higher powers, and of course free will. Like stories about time travel, he posits the question of whether, knowing your destiny, can you avoid it or are you fated to fulfill that destiny no matter what. Even knowing the future only weds you to that future (as Leto Atriedes later discovered). And what is free will. Are we controlled by destiny? By ancient space aliens like just so many marionettes? By the March of preordained history? If we are controlled by fate is it so different from a radio controlled army marching in lockstep? One of Vonnegut’s oddest satires is the notion of the invasion by Martians who are mind-controlled earthlings kidnapped and trained and who have their memories wiped. Sirens of Titan is by no means a normal novel. It’s plotting is odd, different, unusual. The characters are all odd, disjointed, and never quite fit in or get along. But what makes it work is the questions it keeps posing. Vonnegut plays with our sense of reality in ways that would make Neo and the Matrix proud. And, all throughout, Vonnegut keeps bothering the readers with issues of what’s fair and just. He asks if being lucky 🍀 is just some random thing like picking stocks based on the letters of biblical passages or if the fair thing is to handicap those born with advantages. Is it fair that some can run a four minute Mile and the rest of us mortals can’t. By George, let’s make the fastest carry weights so we can all be equal. Vonnegut also has fun with mass media and the rumor mill, fortune tellers, and televangelists. He looks at mass hypnosis and the psychology of crowds. But, in the end, he keeps coming back to the meaning of life and whether playing music for ten thousand amoebas 🦠 is more important than finding your way home.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Vonnegut's second novel started off great for me. The whole thing about the chronosynclastic infundibulum being "those places...where all the different kinds of truth fit together" struck me as pretty cool. I thought the hapless irresponsible Malachi Constant, richest man in America, was going to get straightened out and find the meaning of life. Well, he did, but it did not make him happy. Rumfoord, who at first appeared to me as someone who had the good of mankind at heart, turned out to be qui Vonnegut's second novel started off great for me. The whole thing about the chronosynclastic infundibulum being "those places...where all the different kinds of truth fit together" struck me as pretty cool. I thought the hapless irresponsible Malachi Constant, richest man in America, was going to get straightened out and find the meaning of life. Well, he did, but it did not make him happy. Rumfoord, who at first appeared to me as someone who had the good of mankind at heart, turned out to be quite the opposite. He didn't end up happy either. That terrible antisocial kid Chrono becomes the only guy who redeems himself in any way. The story just seemed to sputter out exactly the way some people's lives do and I found that depressing. So Vonnegut fooled me, which is OK because I actually don't mind when authors jerk me around a bit. In fact, at this point in my life, I also believe that we live in an indifferent universe but we still ought to love "whoever is around to be loved" while we do our best to survive, keep the planet going and practice kindness when at all possible.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    There’s nothing like a Kurt Vonnegut novel to show you how stupid your own species can be. Slaughterhouse Five illuminated the absurdity of war, and The Sirens of Titan does something similar with Christianity, sheathing its criticism in a fun read that is suffused with Vonnegut’s wit. Malachi Constant, ridiculously rich heir to his ridiculously (and undeservedly) rich father is a wastrel, a spendthrift and a fool who attributes his astonishingly good fortune to ‘someone up there’ liking him. As th There’s nothing like a Kurt Vonnegut novel to show you how stupid your own species can be. Slaughterhouse Five illuminated the absurdity of war, and The Sirens of Titan does something similar with Christianity, sheathing its criticism in a fun read that is suffused with Vonnegut’s wit. Malachi Constant, ridiculously rich heir to his ridiculously (and undeservedly) rich father is a wastrel, a spendthrift and a fool who attributes his astonishingly good fortune to ‘someone up there’ liking him. As the narrative begins Malachi has no idea that he is to become a modern Job, send from calamity to calamity, forced to endure years-long trails that will see him bounced around the solar system according to the whims of a near-godlike power. This godlike power is Winston Rumfoord, a man who through contact with a strange astrophysical phenomenon floating between Earth and Mars has become distributed across space and time in a line from Earth to Betelgeuse. As a result of his distribution he periodically appears at various locations in the solar system when they intersect the wave form he has become, and he can predict future events as he exists concurrently across the present and the future. With these powers Rumfoord sets himself to change the world, and Malachi Constant is to be his unwilling tool, his martyr. Using the technology of a stranded Tralfamadorean (yes, the planet Tralfamadore that appears in Slaughterhouse Five) he orchestrates a plot that spans the solar system. This a whirl of a story and Vonnegut’s eye for the ridiculous is in full evidence here, with an entire religion springing up under Rumfoord’s ministrations, employing Malachi Constant as its focal point. As the story progresses there are some fine illustrations of human foolishness and an amusing illustration of the absurdly extreme events it could take to unite humanity as a species. However, while Titan is a good read it has aged poorly in one major respect. I’m not referring to the dated references to reel-to-reel tapes and chain-smoking spacemen that dot SF novels of this vintage. There are a handful of 1950s markers in the form of technology and social attitudes that position this novel as a 50s work, but in the main they don’t detract too much from the story. What does detract are the gender relations presented in the narrative. (view spoiler)[The way Rumfoord speaks about his wife Bee- as though she is a chattel to be shared about and used for breeding as needed – jarred, as did the scene were Malachi rapes a confused and sedated Bee. This rape results in Bee becoming pregnant and it is treated with woeful casualness throughout the novel. Hell, Bee pretty much thanks her rapist for using her at the novel's end. (hide spoiler)] I found this quite jarring. Some readers may find that it ruins the book entirely. Slaughterhouse Five remains the best Vonnegut novel I’ve read (of a grand total of two) but The Sirens of Titan isn’t without its charms and it’s an entertaining read providing you can get past the awful treatment of the female character (I was about to write characters, but really there is only one) in the story. Three Tralfamadoran flying saucers out of five.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    "Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress." -RANSOM K. FERN This fantastic quote from the fictional character Ransom K. Fern greets the reader before the story even starts and sets the tone for the many more that follow. The story is billed as a tale from the Nightmare Ages. An age that falls roughly between the Second World War and the Third "Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress." -RANSOM K. FERN This fantastic quote from the fictional character Ransom K. Fern greets the reader before the story even starts and sets the tone for the many more that follow. The story is billed as a tale from the Nightmare Ages. An age that falls roughly between the Second World War and the Third Great Depression. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds. This romp through space takes him from Earth to planets such as Mars, Mercury, and Saturn's moon Titan. This was told from the third person perspective of an omnipotent narrator. A ploy that allowed Kurt Vonnegut to use humor and irony to explore his main themes of religion, free will, and the meaning of life! I liked the themes of the story and enjoyed a lot of Vonnegut wry observations on humanity. The story itself was OK, but nothing special. The message was always worth more than the characters and the plot so that hurt my ability to fully engage with either. Rating: 3.5 stars. Audio Note: This was narrated by Jay Snyder who gave an exceptional performance.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    Piercing the Veil on Religion 27 January 2014 I'll start of by saying that I have read a number of Kurt Vonnegut books (five to be precise) and have a another one on my too read list (Player Piano) and of the five, three of them I have read twice (including this one) and of the remaining two, one I them I intend on reading again (Slaughterhouse Five). As a writer, a satirist, and post-modern thinker, I quite like Vonnegut's work, but for some reason the second time around I found that I simply co Piercing the Veil on Religion 27 January 2014 I'll start of by saying that I have read a number of Kurt Vonnegut books (five to be precise) and have a another one on my too read list (Player Piano) and of the five, three of them I have read twice (including this one) and of the remaining two, one I them I intend on reading again (Slaughterhouse Five). As a writer, a satirist, and post-modern thinker, I quite like Vonnegut's work, but for some reason the second time around I found that I simply could not get into this book as much as I was able to get into the other two (Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle), though I am not saying that this book is essentially bad, it was just somewhat dryer than the others that I have read. However, before I go on with this commentary I have to say something important: meaning that if you haven't read this book, and would like to read it, then please read this after reading the book because what I want to do here is not so much sway your mind to whether you want, or don't want, to read this book, but rather discuss some of the ideas that Vonnegut explores in this book, and unfortunately I am unable to do this without pretty much revealing what ends up happening in the book. Now, Vonnegut has explored the concept of religion in his other books, however in Sirens of Titan religion pretty much takes front and centre. In his own, strange way, Vonnegut explores what he understands religion is, and the role religion plays in a universe that pretty much makes absolutely no sense (and remember the absurdity of existence is also pretty much front and centre in Vonnegut's books). A lot of Christian writers (rightly) expose our world as a world where we only see half of what is going on, namely we see things from our point of view, but are blind to being able to see and understand reality from God's point of view. The Bible (particularly in the book of Job) attempts to draw the curtain back to enable us to see the world from the spiritual reality so that we may be able to make sense of the absurdity of the world around us. Vonnegut also pulls aside the curtain, but in pulling aside the curtain, he is not adding purpose to the world, but rather completely destroying it by indicating that there is actually no purpose to this world and for those of us who are desperately trying to seek purpose in this world are on a fools errand. In the end, Vonnegut suggests, we should stop looking for purpose and simply seek the company of others, and the love that comes from those around us. So, I am going to go through and explore a number of themes, starting off with his conclusion, and that is of love. Love Have we ever experienced unrequited love? I know I have and I have wasted a lot of time trying to turn unrequited love into requited love. In the end that task is little more than a fools errand because not matter how hard we try, we can never really change somebody's thoughts. Okay, that may not always be the case, because there are times when the iron is metaphorically hot, and we need to be able to recognise those times so that we can strike it. However, the problem is that by narrowing our focus on one specific area we can end up missing the beauty of the world around us. As the protagonist comes to realise at the end (and the protagonist, whether it be Unk, the Space Wonderer, or Malachi Constant – I'll explain that in a bit – isn't actually searching for meaning, but rather stumbling around an absurd universe and ends up discovering the pointlessness of the universe) that the only purpose is love, and the love that he needed was around him all the time. However, it was only for a year in which he actually experienced this, and then it all came to an end, at which point he died, and upon his death bed is thrust into an illusion of paradise. The other interesting character is Chronos, who at the end, says goodbye to his mother and father (the first time he recognises them as such, or seems to because we are never allowed to see inside his mind) and runs off to immerse himself in nature. What we see in Chronos, especially at the end, is contentment. He is content in nature, and does not need the company of others. He only recognises the two most important people in his universe, and then departs to immerse himself in his own universe, and that is the last we see of him. He is described by some as a savage, but in reality he is the most civilised of all the characters because he needs no purpose, he just accepts and appreciates, and immerses himself in that appreciation. The Future We are told at the beginning that one of the major characters, William Niles Rumfoord, and his dog Kazak, had gone off on a space voyage and was caught in a space anomoly which resulted in him going into an infinite loop between the sun and Beatleguese and would only appear on Earth for a set time every so many years. For a time he is kept hidden away, and when Malachi Constant is finally allowed to see him, he tells him that the reason his wife has kept him away from everybody is that he told her her future, and then proceeds to tell Malachi his own future. Immediately Malachi resents this and seeks to go and do completely the opposite (as his wife had done) however it ends up that the future Rumfoord predicted comes true. In a way we see biblical ideas coming out here in the belief that we can never run away from God (such as we see in the book of Jonah) however the catch is that the future is not actually being told, it is being created. Malachi, and Mrs Rumfoord, cannot escape the future because the future has not actually come to pass. In the end everything that they do ends up moving them towards the future that has been predicted. Once again there is no purpose and there is no future, there is only a route that we are travelling, and it is a route that we cannot escape from – it is the absurdity of the universe. Sometimes it only takes a simple suggestion (hey, what do you think of such and such, do you want to ask her out – which results in you suddenly thinking about it, and moving yourself in that direction despite you initially not wanting to go down that path). It is not that the future has been set, but the future has been created, and while there may be a purpose to that creation – it has nothing to do with you – that is the essence of the absurdity. Malachi Doll There was only one proper way to hang a Malachi Constant doll. That is by the neck. There is only one proper knot to use, and that was a hangman's knot. This chapter is immediately followed by a chapter entitled 'We Hate Malachi Constant Because …' The comparison between Jesus Christ and Malachi Constant are astounding. Firstly, we have the Malachi Constant doll, a doll of a figure known as Malachi Constant (though not necessarily in his image because when he walks among the people of Earth nobody recognises him), which is being hung by an hangman's noose. Have you ever wondered the origin of the cross that you see around many people's neck? Yes, it is the cross that represents Jesus Christ. And why does that cross represent Christ? Because that was the cross that he was executed on. Many of us know, but do not really appreciate, that what we are hanging around our necks is an instrument used to execute people. This is the absurdity of Christianity and that is that we glorify somebody whom we executed. What is being suggested, or what I understand, is that what the cross symbolises is not so much our faith in Christ, but rather a statement suggesting 'this is what we did the Christ the first time he appeared on Earth, and if he dare come back again, we will do it to him again.' Then we have the chapter on hating Malachi Constant. While we are not told, those of us who are astute readers will realise that Unk, and the Space Wanderer, are both Malachi Constant. The thing is that the people of Earth do not realise this. When the Space Wanderer appears, everybody is worshipping him, all the while displaying effigies of what they will do to Malachi Constant when they get their hands on him. Thus, when Rumfoord brings the Space Wonderer in front of the people, they are worshipping him, right up until the point that Rumfoord informs them that he is Malachi Constant, and which point the attitude of the crowd changes from one of immense adoration to a desire to rip him limb from limb. Such it was with Jesus Christ, for one day they are heralding him as King as he rides into Jerusalem on a Donkey, and the next they are calling for his blood and demanding that the Romans crucify him. The reasons behind that sudden change in attitude deserves an essay entirely to itself, but it demonstrates three things: 1) our immensely fickle nature; 2) our innate desire for self preservation; and 3) the fact that we would rather follow the crowd than think for ourselves. The Purpose So what was the purpose of the events in the story? Simply put it was to enable a highly advanced alien to be able to get the component that he needed to get his ship working again. What was the mission that this alien was on? It was to travel millions of light years to another civilisation to deliver a message that simply said 'hello'. All of Earth's history, all of our wonderful achievements, and all of our technology was simply manipulated for this one goal, a goal that had nothing to do with us. As such, all human existence is absurd and pointless, and in the grand scheme of things our purpose, to ourselves, was not so much pointless, but only to allow a very simple mission to succeed, a mission that seems to be almost as absurd as the book itself. It is a good thing that my world view is not as absurd as that, but at least it helps me look out beyond my self satisfaction and appreciate the fact that while my existence here on Earth may seem meaningless to me, and indeed meaningless to us all, that there are greater things at work. What Vonneget seems to have forgotten, or not even mentioned (because maybe it is for us to work it out) is that this little thing that the alien Salo is performing has a much greater significance than even he realises. The universe is so great that it is mindboggling, and even the most insignificant events have a much grander purpose than even we can realise.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    The Sirens of Titan is a rare masterwork, a novel with broad and varied powers. It is an elusive book that seeks you out, a panorama of arresting images, a cosmic drama played out across the galaxy and set in the devices of the future but capturing eternal beauty as though in indestructible stone. At its simplest, it is the story of Malachi Constant, who despite his egotistical intentions, endures mental and physical suffering, isolation, and the loss of his own identity in order to be reunited The Sirens of Titan is a rare masterwork, a novel with broad and varied powers. It is an elusive book that seeks you out, a panorama of arresting images, a cosmic drama played out across the galaxy and set in the devices of the future but capturing eternal beauty as though in indestructible stone. At its simplest, it is the story of Malachi Constant, who despite his egotistical intentions, endures mental and physical suffering, isolation, and the loss of his own identity in order to be reunited with the family he hardly knows. At the same time, it is an impossible, ridiculous, audacious tale that involves interplanetary war, breaking the laws of time and space, mind control, an atheist religion, and spaceships powered by Nietzschean metaphors. It takes an unimaginably deft touch to make this overreaching jumble of tone and genre work. For it not to be a mess is a major accomplishment, but the genius of this novel is that it enthralls. The tone is often absurd but never silly, combining morbid humour with surprise emotional blows to nurture a chiaroscuro of thought and emotion that prompts a buzz of elation rather than one distinct response. It does drag a little in the exposition, but the narrator quickly commands your inquiry and the book rarely slackens its pace until the beautiful and alien finale. No other work I've discovered has the same power of destabilization, of uprooting your resting assumptions and depicting what is and what could be.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rod

    This, Vonnegut's second novel and a science-fiction classic, had me worried for the first 50 pages or so—I was actually rather underwhelmed. I didn't care very much for the protagonist, Malachi Constant, who is the richest, most impossibly lucky man on Earth, and a degenerate wastrel. The other main character—another very wealthy man named Winston Niles Rumfoord—has become caught in a space anomaly that makes him materialize at various points in the solar system at regular intervals, and also al This, Vonnegut's second novel and a science-fiction classic, had me worried for the first 50 pages or so—I was actually rather underwhelmed. I didn't care very much for the protagonist, Malachi Constant, who is the richest, most impossibly lucky man on Earth, and a degenerate wastrel. The other main character—another very wealthy man named Winston Niles Rumfoord—has become caught in a space anomaly that makes him materialize at various points in the solar system at regular intervals, and also allows him to see into the future. What do I care about these fantastical rich boys? Answer: Not much—at first, anyway. However, if you want to redeem an incredibly wealthy, seemingly irredeemable character, the most effective way to go about it is to take away everything he has and give him amnesia, which is what Vonnegut allows to happen to poor Malachi Constant. As soon as Unk appears almost 100 pages in, I started to love this character and the book, and the feeling only grew until the last page was turned, concluding with a profound emotional payoff. I now understand the affection that so many people have for Sirens, as this is the best Vonnegut I've read so far. Also, has anyone mentioned the influence that The Sirens of Titan must have had on Alan Moore's Watchmen? (view spoiler)[I was surprised by some of the similarities, such as having a character who, through an accident, is endowed with godlike omniscience and the ability to be in multiple places at one time. Or the idea of a character orchestrating events to carry out an interplanetary attack on Earth (or a simulation of one in Watchmen's case) in order to unite the people of Earth and bring about world peach. There are other parallels that can be drawn as well. I'm assuming it's an acknowledged influence? (hide spoiler)]

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    3 and a half stars. In typical Vonnegut fashion, this novel is zany, unpredictable, funny, thought-provoking and very, very hard to summarize. As much as I enjoy his books, reviewing them is always a challenge, because where the hell am I even supposed to begin? With the story of the man and his dog, who are spread across time and space; the story of the rich and depraved Malachi and his feeble attempts to control his fate? The non-linear way this strange story is told makes me think of a Mobius 3 and a half stars. In typical Vonnegut fashion, this novel is zany, unpredictable, funny, thought-provoking and very, very hard to summarize. As much as I enjoy his books, reviewing them is always a challenge, because where the hell am I even supposed to begin? With the story of the man and his dog, who are spread across time and space; the story of the rich and depraved Malachi and his feeble attempts to control his fate? The non-linear way this strange story is told makes me think of a Mobius strip: I’m not sure where it really begins. Describing the story too much would be giving away the good parts, so I won’t try to go further, but I will tell you that I love Vonnegut’s slightly infantile humor, his humanist views and his disdain of corporations and organized religions. I love the old sci-fi books that are in fact deep philosophical works, and this one is right down that alley. It didn’t hit me as hard as “Breakfast of Champions” did, and it wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as I had anticipated (hence the rating), but in the grand scheme of Vonnegut’s work, this is an interesting and entertaining book about free will, the institutions that control our destiny without our awareness and how utterly insignificant we are when you think of how big the universe actually is.

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