The Sirens of Titan is an outrageous romp through space, time, and morality, and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Kurt Vonnegut had the courage to tell.
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©1959 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
"I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all... "
One of my favorite Vonnegut. Top-shelf. Snug and warm next to Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, & Mother Night. The magic of Vonnegut is he develops an idea to the point where -- just as you start believing it::just as you are comfortable in his absuridty -- he kicks you down another Martian rabbit hole.
He doesn't want you sitting and enjoying yourself. He wants you constantly bubbling with that 'da Fu?' look on your face. He wants you to think -- goddammit. He wants you to understand and that means he has to first confuse the hell out of you. But that doesn't mean his rollercoaster ride has to be boring. No no. He is going to zip you forward and sideways so fast you are going think you are close to sickness, except his funky humor and biting satire seems to balm all nausea ad absurdum. Incredible. Genius.
There are points in this book where if Vonnegut had said he was forming a church, I'd join. If he said he was God the lawgiver, I'd reverently lower my eyes. If he said he expected a tithe, I'd buy Vonnegut book. Yessir, I'd go door-to-door seeking converts to his form of absurd and giddy Humanism. Amen, pass the snuff-box.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
For me, Sirens of Titan was about as good as it gets. Okay, so it's only been out there what, 50 years? How'd I miss this thing. I thought I read it as a kid and kept blowing past it on lists to read. Did I say it's as good as it gets? Who cares if a few things here and there didn't make any sense. It was funnier'n shit. What praise could I possibly add that hasn't already been heaped on and said in the last half century. How 'bout a few memorable quotes:
Let's get the Fundamentalists out of the way:
‘The flag of that church will be blue and gold,’ said Rumfoord. ‘These words will be written on that flag in gold letters on a blue field: Take Care of the People, and God Almighty Will Take Care of Himself.”
“To us of the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, there is nothing more cruel, more dangerous, more blasphemous that a man can do than to believe that - that luck, good or bad, is the hand of God!”
"There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia."
How 'bout one for the minimalists:
"Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules— and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress."
A couple of classic Kurt that I hope will live forever:
"I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."
"Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!"
I thoroughly enjoy Kurt Vonnegut's humor but I love him for his humanism; humanism that comes through on almost every page.
The narration by Dennis Boutsikaris did justice to the book and given what I just said about the book, that kind of says it all. Did I say this book is as good as it gets?
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
If Mark Twain wrote science fiction, it might resemble Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s The Sirens of Titan (1959). The novel is narrated by someone living nearly a century after our own time of "gimcrack religions" and exploration of outer space at the expense of inner truth, an exploration that yields only "empty heroics, low comedy, and pointless death." To illustrate what people were like before becoming able to find the meaning of life within themselves, the narrator tells a "true" story "from the Nightmare Ages," which took place between the Second World War and the Third Great Depression.
In the story, Winston Miles Rumfoord is a Newport, Rhode Island millionaire who, nine years ago in an act of upper class "gallantry and style," accompanied only by his dog Kazak ("the Hound of Space") flew his private spaceship into a "chrono-synclastic infundibulum" near Mars. As a result, master and dog became scattered through space and time as wave phenomena, pulsing from the Sun to Betelgeuse in a spiral that overlaps the earth for a few minutes every fifty-nine days. In addition to no longer being "punctual" (that is, no longer existing moment to moment like normal life in the universe), Rumfoord has become able to read minds and see the future (because for someone like him everything that has ever happened, will happen, and vice versa). During one of his "materializations" on earth, Rumfoord gives some unpleasant news to the richest man in America, Malachai Constant: in the future he will mate with Rumfoord's wife Beatrice on Mars, producing a son called Chrono, and will end up living on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Needless to say, neither Beatrice (a woman who strives to remain cleanly aloof from life) nor Malachai (a hedonistic womanizer who because his name means messenger expects to bear a message from God to someone equally distinguished) want to make a baby together on Mars! But will they be able to do anything to avoid Rumfoord's future? And could Rumfoord be masterminding a "series of accidents" to bring about that future? And if so, to what end? For that matter, what is the purpose, if any, of life?
The Sirens of Titan is a strange novel: comic, tragic, horrible, beautiful, silly, philosophical. . . Although probably the meaning of life comes down to "some people are lucky and some are not," although probably we are just victims of a series of accidents as we go through our lives, although, who knows, perhaps an ultra-advanced civilization of machines 150,000 lightyears away from earth has been warping every human action in history, although surely the universe is "not schemed in mercy," and although, generally speaking, humanity "is a scummy thing" (people being superstitious, selfish, violent, and ignorant), Vonnegut, Jr.'s novel does offer some truths to cling to: it's better to be used by somebody than not to be used by somebody, and human life has a purpose: "to love whoever is around to be loved." Despite its mockery of humankind (particularly its religious, martial, and business aspects), Vonnegut Jr.'s novel is also infused with his love of "lucky" losers (like Malachai, Beatrice, Boaz, Salo, and even Rumfoord), with his fertile imagination (like the machines of Tralfamadore, the harmoniums of Mercury, and the bluebirds of Titan) and with his knack for witty, vivid description, like the following:
"Bobby Denton spitted his audience on a bright and loving gaze, and proceeded to roast it whole over the coals of its own iniquity."
"There was no sign in the face of any intermediate stages in the aging process, no hint of the man of thirty or forty or fifty who had been left behind. Only adolescence and the age of sixty were represented. It was as though a seventeen-year-old had been withered and bleached by a blast of heat."
"The Wilburhampton Hotel was a frumpish, three-story Tudor structure across the street from the Magnum Opus Building, standing in relation to that building like an ummade bed at the feet of the Archangel Gabriel."
"The child's hair was jet black, bristly--and the black bristles grew in a violently counter-clockwise swirl. . . . And his eyes were luminous under their black-thatched eaves. They glowed with an unshared rage."
Jay Snyder reads the audiobook well, especially Rumfoord's "genial and yodeling" voice and that of Salo, the machine from Tralfamadore.
The Sirens of Titan is science fiction, but, despite the "appallingly beautiful" rings of Saturn ("dazzling bands . . . forty thousand miles across and scarcely thicker than a razor blade"), the Tralfamadorians, the harmoniums, an interplanetary war, and a 36-million-year space voyage mission, it is about exploring the human mind more than about exploring outer space. As Constant puts it (in reference to the shrines of Saturn and its moons made by his son Chrono), "It was all so sad. But it was all so beautiful, too."
I work full time in Financial Services, teach part time, listen to music (a lot) and love Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction.
I think the quality for most of the Audible Books I listened to are very high. I would rate this behind Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse 5 in the Vonnegut series. Those 2 were spectacular (Tony Roberts and Ethan Hawke). This was great, but the competition is pretty tough. Vonnegut himself rated this an A while the other two were an A+, I tend to agree.
The Harmoniums. Not only were they intriguing in the plot line but served as Vonnegut's touchstone for how societies can work together, while at the same time are used like the rest of us. Brillant.
No but he was great. Terrific job, and he did several voices from time to time that added to the overall production value. No complaints and I would gladly listen to him again.
Rumsford...I mean his character is a classic in the Vonnegut cannon. A bon vivant with style who changes the course of the universe. Not only is he memorable but he delivered the overall philosophy in in the book in a way that is clever and subtle.
The Vonnegut series is fantastic. I would put this at the top but not the very top. But a must read for any Vonnegut fan, classic stuff from a writer who has yet to be replaced in literature. Fantastic stuff and well done by Audible.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, A hoper, a pray-er, a magic-bean buyer. If you're a pretender come sit by my fire
This is my favourite Vonnegut novel -- very classic Sci-Fi, though that's not what Vonnegut always did. The story is compelling and wacky and thought-provoking and uniquely unexpected. The narration isn't phenomenal, but it doesn't detract from the story. I would totally recommend this book for any Vonnegut fans, any Sci-Fi fans, or any mid 20th century lit fans.
Being a sci-fi fan, I don't really know why I haven't read this book earlier. It's a classic one.
The Sirens of Titan is very well written, I enjoyed the unmistakable style of Vonnegut. His satiric voice is famous, and is a trade mark of his stories. His choice of words is very good.
Using important subjects, for example religion, the book mocks at the human nature, which sometimes can take strange curves.
The story is funny, and often surprising. Vonnegut don't spare the characters, he gives them hard time.
I suspect that there were more hidden messages behind the front story, which I couldn't really grab. By one hand because I'm not good in deciphering symbols, sometimes I have trouble finding the hidden message between the lines. And by the other hand because the book was written in 1959, in a completely different era, with different problems, different world and all.
Still, there is something strange about the Sirens of Titan I cannot put my finger on - is it intentional? - so I gave four stars.
Many other reviewers have done justice to this book, singing its praises. I can only second that. It is clever, thoughtful, intelligent, funny and just incredibly well done. Jay Snyder does his usual incredible job as a narrator.
I wanted to note that audible is listing an incorrect narrator at the moment, though I am sure they will fix that. The narrator of this work is Jay Snyder.
Overall, if you like science fiction, you can't go wrong with this.
Don't know if everyone will love Vonnegut's writing as much as I do. He has a style that I just love. He does have a style very much like Douglas Adams ( or should I say Douglas Adams has Vonnegut's style -- cause Vonnegut was first). He has great explanations for the most ridiculous things. Absurd!!
Very interesting idea.
it just goes on for to long stretching the same things out again and again.
I felt no I treat or connection with any of the characters.
The performance was good and the story was pretty classic Vonnegut. Maybe not the dimensionallity of character we expect from great modern authors but full of creativity, wit and ideas far ahead of his time. I find a lot
Of great classic sci fi impossible to read because it's so stuck in the social times
In which it was written (the tech is futuristic but the sexual, racial, religious politics are super backwards) but I did not get a lot of that from this book. Some of the tropes are from a world that is gone but the personalities do not seem alien. Well with the credits and the time for a classic that would stand up if released today.
"Gave up in Chapter 9"
If it hadn't been written.
NOT Kurt Vonnegut.
He got me as far as chapter 9. Without him bringing some kind of life to the 'story' I would have given up much sooner.
Anger at having wasted so much time, forcing myself to listen to it.
I picked this book out at random from a SciFi list. I'll do some research in the future.
I love Kurt Vonnegut and his books work really well for me on audio. This one is fantastic!
Inventive if improbable parable of meaninglessness and ridicule in riches, commerce and war. Anticipates Douglas Adams by 20 years, robbing him of any significant claim to originality. Has something Adams lacks: the bitter, casual cruelty of someone who has been betrayed in life. Winston Niles Rumfoord's wilfully ill-conceived and ill-starred Martian invasion of Earth prefigures every Western war since the book was published. A compelling read, like licking a sore tooth.
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