Dell, 1960, 224 pages
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.
This is the second Vonnegut novel I've read. Slaughterhouse-Five was good but it just didn't hit me with its genius and wit. I mean, I got that it was a satirical anti-war story and that Vonnegut had a crazy imagination, and I do appreciate his humane message underlying all the craziness. But The Sirens of Titan was just more of the same, and it didn't click for me.
A fable, a satire, a story about a war between Mars and Earth and a fake messiah creating his own religion, an indictment of mindless obedience to the military, even commentary on racism, The Sirens of Titan is also an ironic morality tale about free will and whether mankind has any.
Unfortunately, it just really seemed like a book that would get nominated for a Hugo in 1960 when science fiction was very small and niche and nerdy compared to now. I don't think most Vonnegut fans would find him nearly as appealing if he were writing today. I think his female and black characters would be mercilessly dissected for their cartoonishness and poor old Kurt would be roasted on Twitter. Of course, Kurt was pretty smart so maybe he'd do fine on Twitter. But this book was very much a product of the 60s and its sensibilities.
I know people who love Vonnegut, and I'm afraid he's just one of those authors who's never going to be one of my favorites.
My experience reading to this was similar to reading Philip K. Dick's Ubik, the feeling that this classic work of genius was something written for a different audience than me, and I was just missing what it was that made the author such a big deal.
Sorry, Kurt. It's not you, it's me.
Also by Kurt Vonnegut: My review of Slaughterhouse-Five.
My complete list of book reviews.