This is Kurt Vonnegut's second novel, and a sign of things yet to come. Upon first reading, The Sirens of Titan appears as pure science fiction, a tale of Martian invasion and inter-planetary missions. But upon closer review and inspection, this piece reveals a deeper and very unique vision of human purpose, life, and thought. This story is told in the form of a flashback to the "Nightmare Ages...between the Second World War and the Third Great Depression", a time when people had yet to explore their own souls. We find the world's richest and most immoral person, Malachi Constant, visiting a man caught in a Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum. This man sends Malachi on a journey that will make of him an example of what human life should not be. Many points are made defining human significance; in fact, the first two pages summate the history of Earth, in terms of exploration for knowledge of a greater purpose, and our subsequent failure to find meaning outside ourselves.
Winston Niles Rumfoord, stuck in Chrono-Synclastic Infidibula, has a great scheme, a plan to aide and enlighten humanity. As he says: "Any man who would change the World in a significant way must have showmanship, a genial willingness to shed other people's blood, and a plausible new religion to introduce during the brief period of repentance and horror that usually follows bloodshed". He trains an army of earthlings on Mars, shaving their heads and implanting radios in their skulls to make them a mindless mass of killers who simply follow orders. Sounds familiar, no? Their attack on Earth is futile, and is made meaningful to Earth's people because "Earth's glorious victory over Mars had been a tawdry butchery of virtually unarmed saints, saints who had waged feeble war on Earth in order to weld the peoples of that planet into a monolithic Brotherhood of Man". During this time of understanding, repentance, and horror, Winston Niles Rumfoord introduces The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. A religion that can be accepted by anyone, it teaches that puny man can do nothing at all to help or please God Almighty, and Luck is not the hand of God. Finally, war, fear, hate, and envy in the name of religion shall die. Because there is truth in your soul, a meaning within yourself, rather than some phenomenal plan uncontrolled by people. There is no Great purpose for human life, and the only thing close to it is the delivery of a missing piece from a Tralfamadorian's ship. So, in light of our virtually meaningless existence, there is but one purpose a human can act upon singularly and individually: to love and to be loved.
If Vonnegut's goal was to answer this question that many are afraid to ask, I feel sure that he achieved it. A philosophy few may agree with, it is plausible nonetheless. This is a powerful novel, pointing out the futility of war, the evil we do to create an army of "one", mankind's dependence upon finding meaning any way he can, be it in religion or space, and that "everything that ever has been always will be, and everything that ever will be always has been". Reading this will make you think, about purpose (or lack thereof), about love, about all the things that define our existence.