The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan was clever, fun and charming, as is everything by Vonnegut that I’ve read. And it also says a lot about how the world works.

The plot centers on Malachi Constant, son of the luckiest man on Earth, who invested in the stock markets using the Bible as a guide telling him what to buy or sell, and when. Malachi continues his father’s system and with it, his luck. Until during a month-long bender he gives away most of his wealth in a drunken haze, and with nowhere left to turn he joins the Martian army, has his memory wiped and an antenna put in his head… and that’s just the start of the story.

I enjoyed this a lot because the innocence of the characters really seemed out of place with what was going on around them, and that made them all the more likable. Malachi, or ‘Unc’ as we come to know him, really has no idea about anything that is going on, and is an almost literal pawn in giant schemes he can’t conceive of. Yet he still retains goals and ideas of his own, even with no memory to speak of.

Something about the bluntness and simpleness of Vonnegut’s characters has always made me enjoy them. Not to say that they are simple, but their thoughts are simple, their way of seeing and understanding things are simple, every day, identifiable. A simple understanding of complex things as are found in sci fi novels can be very entertaining.

The over all theme of this book seems to be ‘we have no control over anything that happens in life, and we shouldn’t pretend we do’. Or something like that. The characters often seem to be out of control, that is to say, they are being lead by someone or some outside force, and have no real influence on their own lives. They are always being used by someone for this or that. By the end of the book it seems that humanity itself has had no control over the direction it took. I’m not sure what commentary the author is trying to make on this other than ‘that’s just how life is’. Maybe he’s saying that in a sardonic tone.

A lot of crazy stuff goes on in this book, and all of it loads of fun to read (or listen to, in my case). I very much recommend it to any sci fi fan. Check it out!


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