Sirens of Titan Hardcover – 1 Jun 1972
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|Hardcover, 1 Jun 1972||
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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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"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
"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
"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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book written by an absolute legend of sifi literature.
Great condition and fast deliver.
Interesting story about manipulation of people and their use by those more powerful than them. Charmingly written and surprisingly dark in places.Published 4 months ago by firstname.lastname@example.org
A Vonnegut classic. Humour at the heart of it. New ideas and old combined to create an aching arc of scifi about the human soul.Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is classic, early Kurt Vonnegut and, in it`s way, an important example of his work. The book is not an easy read but does contain humour and lighter moments. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Megabux