Book Review: The Sirens Of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Jean-Paul’s Review: 3/5 stars

“The Sirens of Titan” is Kurt Vonnegut’s second novel and you can really feel him just starting to get his unique voice in it.  It is kind of a hybrid standard novel/typical Vonnegut prose mix.  There are none of the one word paragraphs yet, but the paragraphs sizes are noticeably smaller than your standard novel.

Many of the standard Vonnegut subjects are already present in this novel.  You have Tralfamadore and allusions to “Harrison Bergeron”.  Much of the book deals with finding your place in the world and fate’s part in it.  The humor is dark, even more so than his usual fare.  I suspect that my three star rating has more to do with the fact that almost everything contained in the book has been done better by him later in his career and I read all of those first.

The book starts with the chrono-synclastical infundibulated (think unstuck in time-ish) Winston Niles Rumfoord paying one of his cyclical visits to his wife, Beatrice, and special guest, playboy billionalre Malachai Constant.  Rumfoord tells them both their future and how they will go to Mars and get married and have a kid together before heading to the Saturnian moon of Titan, with Constant making a side trip to Mercury beforehand.  Finding each other mostly repulsive, they attempt to avoid that fate by any means necessary only to have it all come true.

It all comes true in horrible Vonnegutesque fashion.  When I said this novel was dark, I meant it.  No one in this novel is a good person, except for maybe Salo the Tralfamadorian and he’s a machine.  So it goes.  I had no idea where anything in this novel was going until it went there.  None of it was out of left field either.  It was all, “Oh, that makes beautifully horrible sense.”, which is quite an accomplishment.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors and it’s really interesting to read his second novel and see his growth as an author.  If you’ve read most of his later stuff, you should totally pick up this book, but if you’re a Vonnegut virgin, there’s better to be had in “Slaughterhouse-Five”, “Cat’s Cradle” and, well, most of his other works.  That doesn’t make this book bad, it just makes it not as good.

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