sirens of titanIn case you didn’t know, I’m a huge nerd.  How big a nerd? Well, remember those summer reading lists from when you were a kid? I’ve assigned myself one and it’s a doozy.  I want to be able to say by the end of August that I’ve read all the novels of Kurt Vonnegut.  I subtracted the few that I’d already read and am crossing the rest off one by one.  I’ll post reviews as I go and you can track my overall progress here.

My second entry, The Sirens of Titan, was also the author’s second novel to be published. It’s classic Vonnegut through and through, or at least what I think is classic Vonnegut: futuristic science fiction with a humorous slant, some anti-social moralizing, and a decent helping of sex.  Set in the 22nd century, the plot follows Malachi Constant, the richest man in America, who is billed as the luckiest person in the world (because it was purely by chance that he was born so damn rich) as he bounces around the solar system—going from Earth to Mars, Mercury, Earth again, Saturn’s moon Titan, and once more back to Earth.  Along the way he becomes entangled in a war between Mars and Earth, is recognized as a major figure in a new religion, and learns the truth behind the driving forced behind all of human history.

The main tension of the book comes from Constant’s interaction with Winston Niles Rumford and his wife, Beatrice.  Rumford had been wealthy adventurer whose run in with a space phenomenon known as the “chrono-synclastic infundibulum” has left him (and his dog) in wave form and thus periodically materializing at various spots throughout galaxy as well as aware of the past and future.  There’s also the appearance of a Tralfamadorian, which you may remember is the alien race in Slaugterhouse Five (No? Trust me).  In regards to the titular Sirens of Titan, without giving much away I can tell you that like most Sirens, they’re total teases.

While Mother Night deals with the identity that we give ourselves and present to the world, Sirens of Titan explores the identity that the world gives us.  The major plot points of the book are given in a sort of prophecy in the first chapter and most of the characters follow the direction that is destined or fated for them.  Scenes featuring large crowds depict humanity, in general, as stupid and excitable (you’ll notice I offer nothing as a counter-argument to this) with most accepting whatever lot in life they are given.  And the question arises: why is it only a few of use can move past our intended providence and make our own destiny?  And if we don’t create our own fortune and simply reside in the designated path that the universe give us, does that make us any less human? Even if we can find happiness there?

[Pic via]