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Paperback The Sirens of Titan: A Novel Book

ISBN: 0385333498

ISBN13: 9780385333498

The Sirens of Titan: A Novel

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“[Kurt Vonnegut’s] best book . . . He dares not only ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it.”—EsquireNominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American ReadThe 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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Rest in Peace

Kurt Vonnegut has died; He had slipped from my radar and the next thing I knew he was gone. Recent pictures and footage of him show a man less old, than in disrepair, who nonetheless didn't actually look old. In the end he still seemed so young. This title came to my attention after the same manner many do; a trusted friend assured me that a book I didn't think I was interested in was a book I'd be interested in. And I was. Sirens of Titan captures the same absurdist tone of all the Vonnegut books and features a similar hapless protagonist, acted on and uncomprehending. As you read the last line of this beautifully structured book, you can conclude that life is a meaningless heartless equation, or that the universe knows exactly what it is doing. So, thank you for Mother Night. Thank you for Rented a tent, a tent, a tent. Thank you for Sirens of Titan. Thank you for not successfully killing yourself. Thank you for the horrible understanding of evil in your books, and the ravishing beauty too. Thank you. Thank you... Rest in Peace, Kurt Vonnegut. Sorry to see you go.

One of Vonnegut's most entertaining and funniest novels

Today when Kurt Vonnegut is regarded as one of the great American novelists of the second half of the 20th century, it is hard to remember that once upon a time he was regarded as a Sci-fi writer. This was the novel that most solidified that reputation, though it had begun earlier with PLAYER PIANO and cemented by both CAT'S CRADLE and SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE. Only gradually in the early 1970s did it become obvious to all that he was not really a practitioner of Sci-fi as it had become to be defined in the United States. Even in THE SIRENS OF TITAN it should have been obvious that he was more an experimental writer exploiting the Sci-fi genre than doing the same sort of thing that Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and their ilk were attempting. For one thing, Vonnegut didn't care much for predicting the future, the scientific plausibility of anything he was saying, or any of the other traditional aspects of Sci-fi. Rather, exploiting the genre on a superficial level gave him a freedom that was lacking in most other mainstream fiction at the time. It gave him license to think and imagine and write about almost anything. This novel ostensibly tells the story of Malachi Constant, hardly the captain of his own fate, but an unwilling tool of fate. More precisely, as we learn, the novel is the story of an alien stranded on Titan, a moon of Saturn, who needs a spare part for his broken space ship. All of human history turns out to have been generated by a distant civilization for the sole purpose of getting Salo, as our alien is known, his missing part. Vonnegut uses farce in telling Malachi's story in order to undercut traditional understandings of God, religion, and the notion that humanity is at the center of the divine narrative. I must confess that I am baffled why so many religious people find this disturbing. I'm a devout Christian myself and secure in my faith, and find Vonnegut's account of the meaninglessness of life and his depiction of the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent to be comical rather than threatening. Some Christians seem to feel that unless you can hermetically seal all believers off from all views that differ from their own. But for those whose faith is a little less fragile, this will stand as a highly entertaining book with whose basic themes one will disagree. As a farce, it has much in common with other farces, such as Voltaire's CANDIDE, the book which in many ways it most resembles. Those this is a book with many virtues, perhaps the aspect I most enjoy is Vonnegut's absolutely delightful style. Many others would later attempt to mimic his way with a sentence, but few would do so as successfully. He helped introduce a new level of anarchy into the modern novel and in many ways paved the way for such writers as Thomas Pynchon, who perhaps exceeded him in ambition but certainly didn't match him in eloquence and grace. What is most amazing about this book is how much he grew as a writer d

To love and to be loved...

This is Kurt Vonnegut's second novel, and a sign of things yet to come. Upon first reading, The Sirens of Titan appears as pure science fiction, a tale of Martian invasion and inter-planetary missions. But upon closer review and inspection, this piece reveals a deeper and very unique vision of human purpose, life, and thought. This story is told in the form of a flashback to the "Nightmare Ages...between the Second World War and the Third Great Depression", a time when people had yet to explore their own souls. We find the world's richest and most immoral person, Malachi Constant, visiting a man caught in a Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum. This man sends Malachi on a journey that will make of him an example of what human life should not be. Many points are made defining human significance; in fact, the first two pages summate the history of Earth, in terms of exploration for knowledge of a greater purpose, and our subsequent failure to find meaning outside ourselves. Winston Niles Rumfoord, stuck in Chrono-Synclastic Infidibula, has a great scheme, a plan to aide and enlighten humanity. As he says: "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". He trains an army of earthlings on Mars, shaving their heads and implanting radios in their skulls to make them a mindless mass of killers who simply follow orders. Sounds familiar, no? Their attack on Earth is futile, and is made meaningful to Earth's people because "Earth's glorious victory over Mars had been a tawdry butchery of virtually unarmed saints, saints who had waged feeble war on Earth in order to weld the peoples of that planet into a monolithic Brotherhood of Man". During this time of understanding, repentance, and horror, Winston Niles Rumfoord introduces The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. A religion that can be accepted by anyone, it teaches that puny man can do nothing at all to help or please God Almighty, and Luck is not the hand of God. Finally, war, fear, hate, and envy in the name of religion shall die. Because there is truth in your soul, a meaning within yourself, rather than some phenomenal plan uncontrolled by people. There is no Great purpose for human life, and the only thing close to it is the delivery of a missing piece from a Tralfamadorian's ship. So, in light of our virtually meaningless existence, there is but one purpose a human can act upon singularly and individually: to love and to be loved. If Vonnegut's goal was to answer this question that many are afraid to ask, I feel sure that he achieved it. A philosophy few may agree with, it is plausible nonetheless. This is a powerful novel, pointing out the futility of war, the evil we do to create an army of "one", mankind's dependence upon finding meaning any way he can, be it in religion

Perhaps his best book

I've read many of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, and this is perhaps his best one of all (quite a high complement indeed, when considering the man is, in my opinion at least, one of the foremost writers of the 20th century.) Vonnegut's wit is acerbic and as on-target as ever; this time he expells on us about the meaning of life... or the meaninglessness of it. While this is perhaps not his most profound and meaningful novel (which would probably be Cat's Cradle), and not his most purposeful one (undoubtedly Slaughterhouse-Five), it is perhaps his wittiest and one of his funniest, and works the best as satire. It is astonishingly well-written. Quite a bit leap over his already very good first book, Player Piano. This has more of a plot than later novels would, without using much of the non-linear storytelling format that Vonnegut would later make famous use of. At this point, I also feel the need to comment on the review titled "whence..." The reviewer is taking the details of this book too seriously. The point of this book is not the plot or the details; it is the principle, the style. The reviewer goes to pains to point out scientific inaccuracies and plot holes in the book (yes, the escape maneuver from Mercury is implausible; yes, things happen in the book without any apparent logic or reason; but neither of these matter in the larger context of the book.) This book is not meant to be hard science fiction; nor should it be compared to scientifically stringent fiction by writers such as Arthur C. Clarke (whom the reviewer referenced.) In fact, I would say that this book is not science fiction at all. It is satire, pure and simple. The scientific ideas and elements in the plot are not meant to be taken seriously (as is often the case with actual hard science fiction; for example, the aformentioned Clarke's "The Fountains of Paradise", in which he propagates his vision for a space elevator.) Vonnegut uses these only as means to an end. This is seriously-intended satire (albeit highly enjoyable to read) put into a science fiction framework. This is actually, I would argue, what makes the book great. The genius of Vonnegut is that he takes highly serious subjects and puts them into a context in his books that puts them in a universal light where they can be examined: through satire, he places deathly serious subjects in improbable situations where we can all laugh at them, be entertained by them, but also examine their reality in depth. All books by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. work on two levels. The first is the "skin deep" level, on which the books appear to be merely rough-and-tumble, hilarious, little entertaining adventures. However, there is also the deeper element that is always there, the hard themes that resonate beneath the surface. Many writers treat such things entirely seriously, which is fine, but Vonnegut's style puts it in a format that everyone can relate to. This is why he is such a great and important writer, and why so many of us relate to him

Underrated is an understatement for Sirens...

When people hear the name Kurt Vonnegut, they think of Slaughterhouse 5, or Cat's Cradle, or perhaps even that his books are often burned in high schools around the country for their dim look at human existence. Not to, in any way, down play the importance or greatness of his more famous works, as I love them all, but I must say that Sirens of Titan is superior to his other works. For some reason, perhaps the science fiction aspects of the novel, this book has not received its deserved recognition. I read approximately the first fifty pages thinking that this book would be about the same as his other novels. I almost put it away to start a different one. Thankfully, I pressed on. Literally, a few pages later, I was entranced by the language, the structure, the revealed surprises, and the humanity of The Sirens of Titan. Every time you think he has revealed the best secret of the book, another one reveals itself. This story is wonderfully intertwined between a set of characters, and the meaning of life. I have since read this book three more times, enjoying it more each time through. If you only read another book in your entire life, please let it be this one. Open your heart and your mind, and let Vonnegut pour into them his wisdom and hope for a better tomorrow.

The Sirens of Titan Mentions in Our Blog

Published by Beth Clark • August 24, 2018
The Great American Read is a PBS series that explores and celebrates the power of reading as the core of an ambitious digital, educational, and community outreach campaign designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books. One hundred books, to be exact, so here are books 81–100 on the list!
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