10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2006
Kurt Vonnegut careens from crazed premise to crazed premise like a narrative pinball. A TARDIS in book form, the novel contains more ideas than it seems possible to cram into its 224 pages, with Vonnegut's imagination almost being a chronosynclastic infundibulum of its own, "a place where all truths fit together". And holding it all together is the idea that there is nothing or nobody holding it all together.
Like most of Vonnegut's novels, the humour is fast, sharp and pitch black. In many ways, the story is similar to Voltaire's "Candide", although perhaps more sympathetic. In "Candide", Voltaire's characters are little more than archetypes off which to bounce ideas off, or even collide them headfirst into them. Vonnegut clearly invites us to feel for his characters, despite how repellent and awful they may at first appear.
The new Gollancz edition has much to recommend for itself, being published in a knowingly pulpy format, complete with eyecatching book design and a cheerfully informative foreword by Jasper Fforde.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2012
Whilst this is a brilliant book by Vonnegut and deserves 5*, I have previously read Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse 5 - in my opinion, they are much more accessible and broader than Sirens of Titan. If you haven't read Vonnegut before I suggest you start with one of those rather than this, come to this afterwards.
This book concerns Winston Miles Rumfoord who gets caught (with his dog) in a time anomoly (a chronosynchlastic infundibulum) where he is held outside of time. He materialises on earth periodically at the home of his wife (very privately - no one admitted) but on one occurance he invites a playboy Malachi Constant to attend one of these materialisations. He informs Malachi that he will travel to Mars, Mercury and Titan and that Malachi and Rumfoord's wife Beatrice will have a son Chrono. Both Malachi and Beatrice try to prevent the future, but circumstances work against them and end up on Mars, and eventually end up on Titan.
On Titan is a stranded being, Salo, from Tralfamadore, waiting for a spare part for his spaceship to enable him to carry on his journey. He has been there for over 200,000 years watching the Earth and waiting for a message from home. Some areas were clearly inspiration for Douglas Adams Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy.
This satirical SciFi book explores religion, the hand of God, circumstanses, manipulation and control - it is disturbing in parts and amusing in others. I really enjoyed it!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2009
Winston Rumfoord visits the planets. He sees plenty, but is powerless to change anything. Although he understands the past and the future, he can affect no change. But he has a destiny and it's on the moons of Saturn where he'll discover the meaning of life and the ultimate destiny of mankind.
This is a pleasant read. Although nihilistic, the story is presented in a whimsical and ironic manner. This is a warm up for Vonnegut's later more profound works. The principles of pre-determined fate and the futility of existence are presented here but for pure comic effect rather than the cutting serious approach used later in Slaughterhouse 5. The invented religion of God the Utterly Indifferent is a great phrase but doesn't have much substance behind it and isn't as well applied as the ludicrous religion in Cat's Cradle. That is not a major concern. This is probably the author's most easily enjoyable novel with more fun asides and great lines than any novel has a right to have.
There's a serious message all right, but it's buried beneath the gags rather than presented up front as in the later books. Throwaway ideas here are developed further later on, but in many ways I think Vonnegut may have been better served staying with this whimisical but no less biting style.
Most memorable is the ending which provides the genesis of Douglas Adams's 42 as the meaning of life gag along with several other of Adams' classic ideas, except they are done a lot better here and a lot earlier. This is a very funny novel and probably the best one to start with if you want to try his books.
on 13 September 2012
Kurt Vonnegut is one of those science fiction writers who has been fortunate enough to be read and respected outside his own genre. This is one of the reasons why: his second novel, and a really good example of his particular style and storylines.
The novel tells the story of a 22nd century American billionaire, Malachi, who is contacted by Rumfoord, a mysterious human space traveller trapped in a strange inter-dimensional state. Rumfoord predicts a strange and disturbing future for Malachi which he goes to great lengths to avoid, only to haplessly bring this future about. In it he finds himself in a relationship with Rumfoord's estranged wife then on a journey to Mars, conscripted into the Martian forces for a war with Earth and then catapulted on a series of even stranger journeys. All this seems to have been manipulated by Rumfoord, who can see the past and future all at once and tells people only those parts of it that suit his as yet unclear agenda. It also seems to link to a traveller from a distant galaxy who has been stranded here for 200 thousand years.
This is a good starting point if you want to read Vonnegut, as it introduces characters and concepts that he brings back and develops in some of his later books. It's also a terrific story in its own right, full of satirical touches about human history, religion and politics. He tackles big themes such as free will, but these are all part of the story. His writing style is very amusing and seemingly offhand, but the whole book is very well put together and it all (kind of) makes sense by the end. It's a good start for getting into the slightly fatalistic style Vonnegut uses to express his ideas, the feeling that while we should all think and act for ourselves, we are all at the mercy of something bigger.
It's a classic novel of late 50s Sci Fi and it influenced other writers, especially Douglas Adams. Buy it if you like big ideas explored from unusual angles, and a quirky narrator.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2013
A subtle, intriguing novel. Very easy to read with a sprinkling of humor. The sort of humor that rings true and makes you think. Everything in this book will make you think; thoughts about religion, thoughts about life, thoughts about people and politics. Despite all this intellectual richness, this book can be read on the level of an ingenious and intricate plot.
If you're even looking on this page it implies you're considering getting this book. If you're even considering it, buy it: you won't regret it.
on 22 March 2014
I discovered Kurt Vonnegut as a schoolboy when I stumbled upon Cats Cradle. That book confirmed my love of science fiction. However, somehow I managed to skip Sirens of Titan until a few weeks ago.
This is an amazing book. The English language is remarkable for its redundancy but I am not sure that there is a redundant sentence or word in Sirens of Titan. Despite this the book is a pleasure to read. It is not a conventional story. The world that Constant, whose story this is, inhabits is not a conventional world but it feels familiar at first. Then Vonnegut drops the reader into the fantasy world of Mars. You could stumble and fall by the wayside at this point but Unk's story soon grips you.
I describe this book as a master class because I found myself reading it in wonder. Where did the ideas come from? How can text flow so smoothly? Why should this seeming nonsense be such a gripping read?
I see themes that I have encountered elsewhere in this book. As noted in the blurb I can see that Douglas Adams could have been inspired by this book. But do I pick up something of of Orwell's 1984 and Gillian's Brazil? I am not sure. What I am certain of is that I wish I had read Sirens of Titan years ago.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2009
This book may not be for everyone, but it is one of my all time favourites and I think I have read it twenty or more times over the years. I read it 2 times just last years!
I can see that it may be a bit hard getting into at the beginning, but if you just persist, you will not regret it. The book flips back and forth between time and space and planets. It is not as spacey as you might think. Vonnegut was a humanist. This book is a play on politics and religion. It is satirical and funny, serious and beautiful. You feel so very much for the characters as they lead you through a long chain of events from a hermit stock broker hiding in a hotel room, using the bible as code for the market...through a phony war from Mars.. to a religion made to save the world.
I love it, love it, love it!
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2001
There is a compelling argument for this to be considered Vonnegut's best book. Although the humour is more a sly ticklish undercurrent than a smack-in-the-face wake-up tidal wave, and there is none of the authorial intervention that Vonnegut has come to rely on in later work, some might say that these are no bad things.
"The Sirens of Titan" is an outlandish and imaginative fantasy that is also a serious consideration of mankind's need for meaning in life. Of course, seasoned Vonnegut readers will know that if you come to him knocking for meaning in life, the cupboard is bare. Nonetheless the investigation of why is as entertaining and thought-provoking a book as I've read all year.
Vonnegut, the arch-humanist who (in "Timequake") nonetheless acknowledges that faith is too important to lose, creates the tale of the pointlessness of everything that goes on in the "black velvet futility" of space, down to and including - especially - Earth. People search for meaning without knowing that their acts are all predestined: by a man determined to bring Earthlings together by wiping out the Martian invaders?; or by an ancient civilization from the other side of the universe trying to transport a spare part to their emissary on the moon of Saturn?; or by the seemingly arbitrary activities of an apathetic God? Well! How crazy would any of *that* be...
From the start both the cynical finesse and singleminded determination of Vonnegut's prose should have you in helpless thrall to his cause...
All these elements are present in this masterful early novel by one of the 20th century's greatest writers. Douglas Adams, author of the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, accepted a debt of inspiration to Vonnegut and here's where it most clearly lies: the made-up books, the universal-omniscient author, the chrono-synclastic infundibulum... The difference is that Adams' work was really (in his own words) "just jokes," whereas Vonnegut's serious purpose gives his book steel. And range: even Salo, the depressed robot precursor to Marvin the Paranoid Android, is profoundly moving, as are the deaths of the main protagonists, however stupid and selfish and careless they have been. Why: they're almost like you and me.
on 18 March 2014
A Hugo winner it may be, but if you're a fan of the more recent generations of authors then don't be tempted by this just because it's a bargain - it's well written and relatively engaging but having been written in the late fifties before there had been *any* attempts at space flight, it's overly simplistic, doesn't assume any tech-savvyness of it's audience, and it akin to the classic sci-fi movie of the same era, "Forbidden Planet". Actually I love that particular movie despite having grown up with Star Wars, but The Sirens Of Titan just isn't quite that good, in my humble opinion; Philip K Dick was probably at his most prolific around the same time (or maybe a few years later) but his work is much more visionary than this, so if you fancy trying something "retro", try him instead.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2001
Well, if you're looking for science fiction adventure with alien contact, space battles and the like, The Sirens of Titan is not going to be your cup of tea I'm afraid. In fact, it is debatable whether it's science fiction at all. Rather, this is a barmy, barking, Brobdignagian romp across a solar system which is definitely not our own! Top-heavy with satire, dripping wit and inventive with knobs on, not to mention an ending sad enough to make Pickaxe Charlie break down and sob. Simply great. Read and enjoy, but be warned - this book is to science fiction what the Official Monster Raving Looney Party is to British Politics!!