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The Sirens of Titan (1959)

by Kurt Vonnegut

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9,482113643 (4.02)1 / 161
Malachi Constant, "the richest man in America," gives up his indulgent lifestyle to follow an urgent calling to probe the depths of space. He participates in a Martian invasion of Earth, mates with the wife of an astronaut adrift on the tides of time, and follows the lure of the "Sirens of Titan."
  1. 82
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (mike_frank)
  2. 47
    Watchmen by Alan Moore (wvlibrarydude)
    wvlibrarydude: Is there meaning to the universe, or one big joke of coincidences.
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» See also 161 mentions

English (110)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (113)
Showing 1-5 of 110 (next | show all)
Þessi saga greip mig ekki því miður en athygliverð engu að síður. Vonnegut tekur á flakki milli hnatta, plotti geimvera með mannkynið, hvort við höfum frjálsan vilja, tímaflakk og hvort þetta allt samna skipti yfir höfuð nokkru máli. Við erum í djúpum skít hvort eð er. ( )
  SkuliSael | Apr 28, 2022 |
The Sirens of Titan was Kurt Vonnegut's second novel and is included in the science fiction Masterwork series. Published in 1959 it was the novel that won the first of the many awards that Vonnegut won in the genre, although his first novel Player Piano had created a stir. I have previously read Slaughterhouse-five, his most well known book, a couple of times and neither time was I overly impressed. I think it is because I am not in tune with his style of writing. I think because he is such a well known author in the genre and [Slaughterhouse-five] crossed over into the mainstream, it is perhaps the sort of style that would be off putting for many readers, who were dipping their toe into science fiction for the first time. Certainly I think that would be true back in the 1960's, well before [A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy].

There is not much science in The Sirens of Titan, really it is more of a fantasy novel and one that reads like it was cobbled together after a drunken nights storytelling, which I think it was. The writing style has all the elements of an oral story; the sentences are short, the language is simple and it has a conversational style. The organisation feels a bit haphazard and the structure is one you might find in a good story made up as the teller went along. However after saying all this, it kind of works, the reader gets carried along with the story rush, not stopping to think about holes in the plot or the sheer craziness of the story: that is if you have not already tossed the book aside, thinking I am not going to read any more of this rubbish. It works in the genre where a sense of wonder and dare I say it: ideas; bordering on the fantastic; which are more important than literary style.

Of course there are flashes of brilliance in this crazy mess of a book and it is open to all kinds of interpretation; it is a bit like [Alice in Wonderland] and like Lewis Carroll's book it is funny and genuinely satiric. However in my opinion it has not stood the test of time, although the style has been imitated and I am thinking of Philip K Dick, who managed to run with it taking it to another level. If my thoughts are confused then I can only put this down to having just finished The Siren's of Titan. The story, the plot you don't really need to know. It deserves to be in the masterwork series because of what it is, but I just didn't like it and so 3 stars. ( )
  baswood | Jan 9, 2022 |
Did I like this book? I certainly appreciated this book. But Vonnegut is clearly annoyed by humanity and its search for meaning in our individual lives. In The Sirens of Titan Vonnegut depicts the human condition as having no meaning and that everything that happens is an accident and not of our own design. Individual human experience is simply collateral damage as a result of someone else’s plans or desires. And this makes sense coming from someone who experienced that calamity of the Dresden firebombing during WWII. But as a result, there are no likeable characters in this novel; none of them have redeeming qualities. There is no hero in this story. So does this say something about myself as a reader who wants to have their stories make sense to have purpose? Does this say something about my own life that desires some sort of sensical narrative and meaning? From that point of view, making me, the reader, ask these questions about my own life, this is a work of literature. But interesting that I didn’t “like” the experience of reading it. I much preferred Slaughterhouse Five. Maybe existentialist philosophy doesn’t make for very good fiction?

I like this rating system by ashleytylerjohn of LibraryThing (https://www.librarything.com/profile/ashleytylerjohn) that I have also adopted:
(Note: 5 stars = rare and amazing, 4 = quite good book, 3 = a decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful.) ( )
  Neil_Luvs_Books | Dec 22, 2021 |
Sadder then HGTTG but I'm sure that this was an inspiration to Adams when he begun the script to the radio show. Combat Respiratory Rations or CRR's or goofballs were — had to tell him to take one every six hours or suffocate. These were oxygen pills that made up for the fact that there wasn't any oxygen in the Martian atmosphere. like Robinson Crusoe on Mars. I just saw an interview of novelist Andy Weir and when asked if the movie was an inspiration he laughed talking about the oxygen pills, now as I read this pills again, but a few of the links to HGTTG would be Winston Niles Rumfoord's Pocket History of Mars and revised bible and the ship was powered, by a phenomenon known as UWTB, or the Universal Will to Become. UWTB is what makes universes out of nothingness — that makes nothingness insist on becoming somethingness compare to HGTTG infinite improbability drive "Not believing it was the thing that saved them from panic." "Don't Panic" ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
An impressive book for 1959, and for a debut. Vonnegut uses science fiction to satirize the wealthy, the military, religion, and mankind’s role in the universe, and manages to tell an entertaining tale on top of it. While fantastical, it’s brilliantly creative. There is a chrono-synclastic infundibula which spreads one of the characters and his dog out across space in a wave, such that they appear on Earth when its orbit regularly intersects it. There are translucent, diamond-shaped creatures in deep caves of Mercury with only one sense, touch, that cooperate with one another. There are creatures on the planet Tralfamadore who can’t find any purpose to existence and wage war against each other, ultimately turning the job over to machines ala the Terminator.

The satire of the ultra-wealthy, who believe they are that way because of their consummate business skill or because “someone up there likes me,” implying a God who actually pays attention to our little lives and favors them, is not only effective but well ahead of its time, and highly relevant today. We see overpaid CEO’s who don’t understand how much sheer luck played a role in their success. We see the immorality of their excesses, war profiteering, and the “philanthropy” of buying art and lending it out to museums in reality being PR and good investments. We see the creation of shell corporations that are “a marvelous engine for doing violence to the spirit of thousands of laws without actually running afoul of so much as a city ordinance.” We see generational wealth maintained via marrying within the set, even if it means with cousins. It’s just remarkable stuff, and one can only imagine what Vonnegut would think of the elite today.

Relative to the military, in some of his best and most chilling writing, Vonnegut describes a Martian army controlled by antenna implants into the brain and regular memory scrubbing, so that they strictly follow orders, even if it means cold-blooded killing. A military commander wears the uniform of an elite tactical group which caught his fancy, “regardless of how much hell anybody else had to go through for the privilege.” The Earthling military response is out of all proportion to the danger, with thermonuclear devices rendering the moon “unfit for human occupation for at least ten million years.”

As for religion and the delusion that there is a God looking down upon us, the story alludes to how this is weaponized, and how one of the characters creates a new church, that of the “God of the Utterly Indifferent” to combat this. Vonnegut writes: “No longer can a fool like Malachi Constant point to a ridiculous accident of good luck and say, ‘Somebody up there like me.’ And no longer can a tyrant say, ‘God wants this or that to happen, and anybody who doesn’t help this or that to happen is against God.’ O Lord Most High, what a glorious weapon is Thy Apathy, for we have unsheathed it, have thrust and slashed mightily with it, and the claptrap that has so often enslaved us or driven us into the madhouse lies slain!”

As for mankind, the story plays with meaninglessness in a vast universe and free will (or lack thereof) in fanciful ways. It also alludes to our violence, creatively captured in a statue of Neanderthals roasting a human foot on a crude spit, and one of a scientist with an erection for having discovered atomic power – there being little that is pure or cooperative about the species. Bonus points for the protagonist wanting to be let down in Indianapolis near the end because it was “the first place in the United States of America where a white man was hanged for the murder of an Indian,” referring to the Fall Creek Massacre of 1824 and subsequent hanging of three of the perpetrators the following year.

Great stuff here, full of meaning, but written in a light, engaging way. One to seek out. ( )
1 vote gbill | Nov 10, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, Kurtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, MarcCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chris MooreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, MarjattaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koeppl, LíviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowohlt, HarryÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snyder, JayNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teason, WilliamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules—and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress."
—Ransom K. Fern
Dedication
For Alex Vonnegut, special agent, with love
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Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself.

But mankind wasn’t always so lucky. Less than a century ago men and women did not have easy access to the puzzle boxes within them. 

They could not name even one of the fifty-three portals to the soul.
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Malachi Constant, "the richest man in America," gives up his indulgent lifestyle to follow an urgent calling to probe the depths of space. He participates in a Martian invasion of Earth, mates with the wife of an astronaut adrift on the tides of time, and follows the lure of the "Sirens of Titan."

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