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The Sirens of Titan (1959), Vonnegut’s second novel, was on the Hugo final ballot along with Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and lost in what Harlan Ellison called a monumental injustice. Malachi Constant is a feckless but ultimately good-hearted millionaire who, in this incondensable interplanetary Candide (lacking perhaps Voltaire’s utter bitterness), searches the solar system for the ultimate meaning of existence.

Constant is aided by another tycoon, Winston Rumfoord, who, with the help of aliens, has discovered the fundamental meaning of life. With the help of Salo - an alien robot overseeing the alien race, the Tralmafordians (who also feature in Slaughterhouse-Five) - Constant attempts to find some cosmic sense and order in the face of universal malevolence. Constant and Rumfoord deal with the metaphysics of “chrono-synclastic infundibula” and the interference of the Tralmafadorians. The novel is pervaded by a goofy, episodic charm which barely shields the readers (or the characters) from the fact of what seems to be a large and indifferent universe.

All of Vonnegut’s themes and obsessions, further developed or recycled in later work, are evident here in a novel slightly more hopeful than most of his canon. It is suggested that ultimately Constant learns only that it is impossible to learn, that fate (and the Tralmafadorians) are impenetrable. On the basis of this novel, Vonnegut was wholly claimed by the science fiction community (as the Hugo nomination demonstrated) but he did not reciprocate, feeling from the outset that to be identified as a science fiction writer would limit his audience and trivialize his themes. His recurring character, the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout (prominent in Slaughterhouse-Five) was for Vonnegut a worst case version of the writer he did not wish to become.

Topics: Metafiction, Adventurous, Black Humor, Playful, Satirical, Futuristic, Cynical, Aliens, Space, Space Travel, Postmodern, Funny, Unreliable Narrator, 20th Century, American Author, and Episodic

Published: RosettaBooks on Jul 1, 1962
ISBN: 9780795311994
List price: $8.99
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You have to "get" Vonnegut to enjoy his books. This is the first book of his that I actually finished, so now I see this and I think I'm starting to get him. And I like it. A lot. He has a distinct vision of humanity, one that challenges everything. And I like a challenge - oh yes, I do. This is not light reading. Don't expect to take it to the beach, or read it on the subway. You have to devote your entire being, heart, mind, and soul. But if you're up for the challenge, you'll be glad you made the sacrifice.read more
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I only read this because someone recommended it to me. This was my first Vonnegut book, and, simply put, I didn't like it. That's what the 1-star rating says when I mouse over it, and so that's what I have rated it.

I'm not a big fan of sci-fi in general, but religious satire sci-fi? No thanks.

Do yourself a favor and read the last few lines of the book. Yeah, that's the end. A joke on a statement said in one of the first chapters.

Ha. Ha.

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An excellent Vonnegut book. If you are a fan of his writing or of anything good then I highly recommend it. It is a histerical look into the future that include the classic aliens from Tralfalmadore. It is an interesting look at human nature whether they live on Earth, Mars, Titan, or a space traveling man and his dog that control the future. It is very enjoyable.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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You have to "get" Vonnegut to enjoy his books. This is the first book of his that I actually finished, so now I see this and I think I'm starting to get him. And I like it. A lot. He has a distinct vision of humanity, one that challenges everything. And I like a challenge - oh yes, I do. This is not light reading. Don't expect to take it to the beach, or read it on the subway. You have to devote your entire being, heart, mind, and soul. But if you're up for the challenge, you'll be glad you made the sacrifice.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I only read this because someone recommended it to me. This was my first Vonnegut book, and, simply put, I didn't like it. That's what the 1-star rating says when I mouse over it, and so that's what I have rated it.

I'm not a big fan of sci-fi in general, but religious satire sci-fi? No thanks.

Do yourself a favor and read the last few lines of the book. Yeah, that's the end. A joke on a statement said in one of the first chapters.

Ha. Ha.

Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An excellent Vonnegut book. If you are a fan of his writing or of anything good then I highly recommend it. It is a histerical look into the future that include the classic aliens from Tralfalmadore. It is an interesting look at human nature whether they live on Earth, Mars, Titan, or a space traveling man and his dog that control the future. It is very enjoyable.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut’s second book, is one that I first read a long time ago, and have not re-read since, Like the majority of his work it tends to get labelled “science fiction”, a label he himself hated, arguing that the themes he was trying to talk about transcended the idea of genre. His books do tend to be wider-read than much SF, and deservedly so.Sirens is about Winston Niles Rumford, a rich eccentric in the 22nd century who – like Billy Pilgrim to come – becomes unstuck in time, existing as a wave in space-time who periodically appears in particular locations and dispenses knowledge gleaned from his time travel. Along the way he colonises another planet, engineers a suicidal interplanetary war, and establishes a new religion – the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent – all in the name of trying to make humanity better itself, cheerfully abusing and sacrificing the book’s principle protagonist, Malachi Constant, along the way. Ultimately though, Rumford’s manipulations prove futile in the face of a realisation of a greater, and yet more arbitrary, manipulation of the entire human race. (And even knowing that revelation in advance, it still made me laugh when it turned up – it’s clear to see why Douglas Adams cited Vonnegut as a major influence when he came to write The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide…)Vonnegut looks at religion, love, fate, beauty, and the great questions of why we’re here, and what our purpose in life is. On one level, the book’s conclusions are somewhat nihilistic, but even in the pointlessness that marks the book’s ending Vonnegut is alluding to something quintessentially more human with the potential to become something more. Malachi’s final moments have a bittersweet quality of redemption to them that suits the tone of the entire book. Beauty is where we find it and what we make of it. For a book written so early in his career, it’s amazingly well-formed. Vonnegut’s position as one of America’s finest authors is well earned.
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Okay, I've modified my original [two-star:] rating of this book. I actually rated it when I hadn't completely finished it, but hey! When I did finish it, I liked it more than I thought I would. I just don't think I'm a Vonnegut person. I've tried reading Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, but with no luck. This was when I was a bit younger, so I'll have another go at it. I really enjoyed the sardonic and biting societal commentaries Vonnegut made, but the sci-fi/high tech/futuristic aspect didn't interest me. However, as a classic author....I feel like I should give him another chance!
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This is my favorite Vonnegut book, and I say this with the feeling of going against the grain for some reason. So many have held up Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five as his best. They have their shining moments, to be sure, but Sirens has a special place in my heart for its sci-fi answer to humanity on Earth, it's witty humor and colorful style. It could also be that it was the first Vonnegut book I've ever read, as well.
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