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The Sirens of Titan by [Vonnegut, Kurt]
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The Sirens of Titan Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Amazon Review

Kurt Vonnegut's second SF novel was published way back in 1959 but remains horribly timeless. For all the book's wild inventiveness, it's one of the most blackly nihilistic comedies ever published in the genre. The tragicomic godgame is presided over by Winston Niles Rumfoord, who has accidentally become a standing wave in space/time and knows the past and the future. Since the future is fixed, he can't change it even though it involves him arranging nasty fates for many people--in particular Malachi Constant, richest man in the world since his father's career of interpreting the Bible as a coded guide to the stockmarket. Despite his struggles, Constant is destined for a grimly comic pilgrimage around the Solar System to Titan, home since 203,117 BC of the visiting alien Salo whose presence has warped the whole of human history. Salo's far-off people manipulated us into building Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China and other vast constructions as reassuring signals to their stranded emissary--who himself is carrying a message of truly cosmic unimportance. Small wonder that Rumfoord tries to cheer up humanity by founding the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. Vonnegut scatters crazed ideas in all directions, forcing you into painful laughter at the grandiose futility of his cosmos. Another worthy Millennium SF Masterworks classic. --David Langford

Review

"Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist."--"Time
""Reading Vonnegut is addictive!"--"Commonweal
""His best book . . . He dares not only ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it."--"Esquire
"

Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist. "Time
" Reading Vonnegut is addictive! "Commonweal
" His best book . . . He dares not only ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it. "Esquire
""

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1215 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (30 Jun. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XREM5G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #25,766 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is my second time of reading - the first time was many decades ago when I absolutely loved it and loved Vonnegut's humour in confronting the absence of meaning for humans in an indifferent universe. I still love it, the writing is fresh and inventive and could have been written yesterday. This time, being a bit older and wiser, I have been more affected in a negative way, at times feeling despair at the parodied actions and beliefs of humankind. Nevertheless, I still found the book very funny, very clever and totally engaging.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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