Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

How does one even begin describing this book? Can you even sum up the plot and do it justice? Talk of Malachi and his adventures/mishaps or Beatrice… To we follow Roomford as he appears and disappears as the earth rotates? To we talk about the invasion from Mars? Or the years spent on Mercury? How to we discuss the plot when in reality the plot is only a vehicle to get the reader to the destination, the realization that Vonnegut is trying to make us come to. The best summary that I can come up with is that we follow Malachi/Unk through the end of his life… starting from his receiving a prediction that he would go to Mars, Mercury, back to Earth, and then to Titan… and ending at the end of his life and his journeys.

So what is this book even about? Well there’s religion, and the sense that God is not responsible for us, or our futures, rather we survive in a series of random accidents. Then there is the meaning of life, and the futility of the search for it. We have the satirical take on family, business, politics, and war. Then we have the long and involved satire of our purpose, and being used as humans toward a purpose that is both completely beyond our mental grasp, and not something that we would be happy to know about in the first place.

I personally cannot stand sci-fi so I put off reading this book for quite a while, even through I LOVE Vonnegut. In the end, the Sci-Fi aspect did not bother me because Vonnegut never spent all that much energy on that aspect. Sure they were on Mars, and Mercury, and Titan… and there was an alien life form or two and some spaceships… but as with the plot, the sci-fi aspect of this book is merely a vehicle to drive the reader to the proper conclusions. People are often upset that one cannot classify a Vonnegut book into any one genre; I find that this is because he is a philosopher who is wiling to take you to any extreme in order to open your eyes to what he views as reality. And what is Vonnegut’s reality? Simple – Life is a series of accidents, both good and bad. The Creator is off doing what he does best – Creating, not guiding our every movement and desire. And finally, that we shouldn’t put too much stock into our purpose, instead focus on just being nice, and being happy in the life that you have.

Even if you are not a fan of Sci-Fi I highly recommend this book. True it is not Vonnegut’s seminal work, nor is it his most humorous, but it has so many important themes running through it that it should be required reading in school. The number of discussions that can be had after reading and truly dissecting this book are amazing. The Simple line stated by Boaz on Mercury when he makes his decision, the true purpose of the Martian attack, the over all meaning of life. The ending of this book is a truly joyous, utterly ridiculous and yet so profoundly meaningful revelation that the reader cannot help but sit back and shake their head in both disbelief and astonishment, both appalled and amused, and most of all, completely unable to keep from wondering… is that what it really IS all about? Something so….. Now I don’t want to spoil it for you!

Though this book is only just over 300 pages, it took me longer than normal to read it, because you really don’t want to skim. The language is brilliant, and the satire is sometimes so deeply laced into what is being said that it can be easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. As I said before, I highly recommend this book.

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