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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.
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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.
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on 25 April 2016
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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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.
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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.
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on 5 May 2015
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. Do not expect to read of galactic empires, robots and laser cannon - this is nothing like a `space opera`. It is probably well up in the list of best-ever science fiction works and is highly regarded by many. At it`s current low price I consider `The Sirens of Titan` an essential read but it is not - in my opinion - amongst Vonnegut`s best work.
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on 24 March 2014
Kurt Vonnegut allows his imagination to run a bit wild in this novel. Perhaps a little too wild IMHO. The book feels like three stories that the author has cobbled together to form a full length novel. The first element of the story sets the sceneby introducing the characters - non of whom evoke much sympathy - and a pointer to the future track of the story.
The middle instalment describes a semi-military situation on Mars, being a preparation for invasion of Earth and then our subjects are mis-directed to Mercury - for no apparent reason - only then to return to Earth and thence to Titan where a sort of robot alien is living on his broken down spaceship.

A most unsatisfactory and ill-developed story. A great shame and for myself, a great waste of time.
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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!!
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on 4 April 2015
I'll not bother to add anything to the synopsis in this review; you can read it at the top and it is bang-on. - I must admit I bought it after reading the reviews on here and was delighted I did buy the book. It is wonderfully written and way up there with his best stuff. It gathers pace really quick and the characters do come alive from the page.
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on 25 February 2014
Kurt Vonnegut is one of the original science fiction writers I read years ago before the genre exploded and fantasy etc came along and sometimes mixed in with it, so when you had to be a good writer to be published. The fact that it was offered as a daily deal book at 99p prompted me to buy it and read it again. It is "old fashioned" science fiction but not just science fiction. His writing depicts human nature, and the way we tend to behave, to ourselves and others, not necessarily in a flattering fashion. or a cheerful way. This particular book also contains a somewhat pointed, satiric view of God and religion along the way. I will now probably re-read some of his other works.
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