Book Review of "The Sirens of Titan"

I recently finished Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan. I picked up the book at a used book store near Harvard Square called Raven's Used Books. It's interesting that the book store is open fairly late on weekday nights, around 9pm some nights. The selection had immense depth and breadth for a small, 1-story storefront. I will likely return after I finish a few other titles I have sitting on the lower shelf of my coffee table.

(Spoiler Alert: No major plot points will be revealed but certain character aspects will be considered.)

Sirens of Titan (SoT) is a short planetary epic about how we are all "the victim of a series of accidents". One of Vonnegut's early novels, it yields a number of questions related to free will and all-powerful forces at play in and around our lives. The main two characters are Malachi Constant (MC) and Winston Niles Rumfoord (WNR) who participate in the main subject matter of the story. Both characters are incredibly wealthy in a way which defies normal society motifs. One throws parties to the greatest extent they can while the other uses their wealth to fly privately owned spacecraft. In part, SoT is an experience in Vonnegut's approach to human experiences of inequality. While reading the first part, before matters turn to the planet Mars, I found the way characters express emotion to be incredibly robotic.

I'm intrigued what influences Vonnegut had which helped them create the WNR character. In other Vonnegut titles, characters have been exposed as people Vonnegut may have met in real life brought to some extreme of their personality. I ask myself whether Vonnegut wanted to poke fun at the actions of someone in power in society when the book was being written. Published in 1959, the title was released in a time of transition past the 'post-war' period strongly into the cold war mindset.

Returning to the story, I do not see WNR as a protagonist, many readers could say that there is no protagonist in the novel, similarly in many other Vonnegut novels. MC is most certainty not a protagonist as they do not seek to act altruistically during much of the story, however that's somewhat out of their control in some aspects...

What is interesting in the book are the differences between WNR and MC and how they interact. I would recommend this book purely based on examining how the two main characters interact. Given the large plots at work that happen throughout the book, it is interesting to see their relationship as one of necessity. WNR needs MC, their goals are strictly aligned against the action of MC. Some readers, myself included, do not truly understand the motivations behind WNR as it is intentionally vague in some ways; but WNR chooses MC and we see an interesting story based on one powerful person's reliance upon the seemingly organic actions of another person.

Quite a good read and I found myself turning back to this novel multiply times during the night to read passages I passed. I'd rate it 3/4 or something equivalent.



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