Book Review: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Call me a book snob, but I’m still a Vonnegut stan.

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Call me a book snob, but I’m still a Vonnegut stan.

About the Book

Title: The Sirens of Titan

Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Published: 1959

Series: (standalone)

Genre: classics, sci-fi, humor

My Rating: 4/5 stars

The Premise

Synopsis (from Goodreads) (truncated):

“The Sirens of Titan is an outrageous romp through space, time, and morality. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there’s a catch to the invitation—and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell.

My Thoughts

“I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”

The Sirens of Titan opens by introducing the character of Winston Niles Rumfoord, a man who upon accidentally going into a chrono-synclastic infundibulum with his dog, is now forever consigned to materialize in different places in the universe on a fixed interval. But he actually exists everywhere at once, and can see past, present, and future at once, like the Trafalmadorians (the aliens. The same ones from Slaughterhouse-Five)

The Sirens of Titan was written before Slaughterhouse-Five but a LOT of the same themes are present in both, specifically the “unstuck in time” stuff but also the aliens. Aliens are always good. A lot of Vonnegut’s books seem to take place in the same universe and I love when authors do that with standalone books. The cohesion!

And by the way, what is a chronosynclastic infundibulum? It is a mysterious region of space that causes anyone who enters it to leave the linear experience of time, and enables the coexistence of different subjective truths at once.

Anyway, Rumfoord is basically this omnipotent figure who is able to see all of the past, present and future, while existing in many places, stuck in the chrono-synclastic infundibulum, and he intermittently materializes on Earth in the house where his wife still lives. The book opens with Rumfoord materializing to tell one of the other main characters, Malachi Constant, about what Rumfoord knows of his future.

The rest of the book is about Malachi Constant and Rumfoord’s wife Beatrice both trying and failing to avoid the future (do we have free will? Apparently not) and then said future unfolding. I can’t say more due to spoilers.

What really struck me about this book, though, were the themes. It was deep, man.

The Sirens of Titan opens with a monologue about humanity’s continual search for meaning outside itself. But when the chronosynclastic infundibula messed up the space program, we instead had to look within ourselves for the meaning of life— which is hinted at by the end of the novel.

There’s also kind of an anti-free-will undercurrent to the book. No matter how hard the characters try to escape their destiny it always fails. And the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent was funny.

The Verdict

Yet another Vonnegut book I loved. All I can say is, this book is really weird but you should read it.

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