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The Sirens of Titan [Kindle Edition]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)

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Product Description


“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist.”—Time

“Reading Vonnegut is addictive!”—Commonweal

“His best book . . . He dares not only ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it.”—Esquire

Product Description

The Sirens of Titan (1959) is Vonnegut's second novel and was on the Hugo ballot with Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers but lost in what Harlan Ellison has called a monumental injustice. Sirens of Titan is a picaresque novel which almost defies being synposized; it is an interplanetary Candide (lacking perhaps Voltaire's utter bitterness), the book follows lead character Malachi Constant, a feckless but kind-hearted millionaire as he moves through the solar system on his quest for the meaning of all existence.

Constant is aided by another tycoon, Winston Rumfoord, who with the help of aliens has actually discovered the fundamental meaning of life (the retrieval of an alien artifact with an inscribed message of greetings). With the assistance of Salo, an alien root and overseeing the alien race, the Tralmafadorians (who also feature in Slaughterhouse-Five), Constant attempts to find some cosmic sense and order in the face of universal malevolence. Together Constant and Rumfoord deal with the metaphysics of "chrono-synclastic infundibula", they deal with the interference of the Tralmafadorians; the novel is pervaded by a goofy, episodic charm which barely shields the readers (or the characters) from the sense of a large and indifferent universe.

All of Vonnegut's themes and obsessions (which are further developed and/or recycled in later work) are evident here in this novel which is more hopeful than most of Vonnegut's canon. It is suggested that ultimately Constant learns that only it is impossible to learn, and that fate (and the Tralmafodorians) are impenetrable, unavoidable circumstance.

On the basis of this novel, Vonnegut was wholly claimed by the science fiction community (as witnessed by the Hugo nomination), but Vonnegut did not likewise wish to claim the community for himself and the feelings were not reciprocal. He felt from the outset that being identified as a science fiction writer could only limit his audience and trivialize his themes. His recurring character, the hack science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout (who also features in Slaughterhouse-Five), represented to Vonnegut the worst case scenario of the writer he did not wish to become.


Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels - Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan - were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1215 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (June 30 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XREM5G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,727 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Vonnegut novel I have read July 17 2004
This is my fifth Vonnegut novel (I have already read Player Piano, Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions) and I can say with confidence that The Sirens of Titan is the best in this group.
It is neat to see Vonnegut's novels evolve over time: Player Piano, while still a masterpiece, is a very conventional novel without a lot of the craziness that is so evident in his later novels. Breakfast of Champions is the most unconventional novel I have ever read, its like the two books were written by two totally different authors.
The Sirens of Titan, on the other hand, is somewhere in the middle. There is a clear plot in the story, much like Player Piano, but it is not as structured as the former. We begin to see the early beginnings of what would later become one of Vonnegut's trademarks: unrelenting sarcasm and irony.
What makes The Sirens of Titan my favorite Vonnegut novel? Everything comes together at the very end. Throughout the novel, there is a clear question looming over the reader and the characters in the book: the purpose of human life. Vonnegut answers this question (or Malachi Constant, rather) in the last few pages of the story, and it is absolutely brilliant. The fact that the author even dared to ask such a question and then answer it, is extraordinary.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To love and to be loved... May 11 2004
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?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I guess that someone up there likes me May 30 2004
This was one of the better books that I have read. Vonnegut is one crazy cat. I loved the whole church of God the utterly indiferent concept, it rocked my world. This was the second Vonnegut book that I have read and it won't be my last
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5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Excellent! June 21 2005
The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions), tells the story of how a lucky only son, Malachi Constant, gains extreme wealth, travels to Mars, Mercury, and Titan, loses his wealth, fulfills prophesy, continues his name, and, ultimately, is a victim of "somebody up there."
This is a difficult novel to summarize, as it is largely told in science-fiction form, involving interplanetary travel, robot aliens, and, of course, the chrono-synclastic infundibula. The protagonist is my Constant, whose name changes as his identity and role changes. Another key character is Winston Niles Rumfoord, the first man to fly into the chrono-synclastic infundibula between Mars and Earth. In the infundibula, Rumfoord is trapped in the light rays of the solar system and appears in various locations at regular intervals, as the rays come into contact. Hence, the novel has heavy sci-fi characteristics.
What sets this aside from much of the genre, though, is Vonnegut's focus on message through the medium of the protagonist, instead of through plot-heavy development.
The plot is loosely a parody/parallel to Old Testament characters involving Job, Jonah, and Noah. The book of Job rings the clearest of these. In fact, there are several rather blatant biblical motifs such as Rumfoord's revised edition of the Bible itself, with several passages quoted throughout the novel.
As the novel is following Constant's life, Rumfoord himself is heavily shaping the Earth's activities, as being in the infundibula not only gives him knowledge of foreign planets, but also of all solar system time.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love me some Vonnegut
Vonnegut, amazing as always.
Published 2 months ago by aholman
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh.... I expected more from such ...
Meh....I expected more from such a prestigious name. This book just did not do it for me.
Published 12 months ago by Ken Barker
4.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut finds his stride
Sirens of Titan marks the second book of Vonnegut's career. It's the book that started Vonnegut's career. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2011 by SBuckle
3.0 out of 5 stars It has its moments
I liked the first few sentences and that's why I bought it. I imagined it would be a reflective read. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2008 by ocean being
5.0 out of 5 stars Titanic
I've read all of Vonnegut's novels and I think they are best categorized under three different kinds. Read more
Published on Sept. 18 2006 by Karnel P.
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy
Whilst growing up in England you are taught that the best sci-fi book in the world is Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, and how funny it is etc. Read more
Published on July 10 2004 by Mr Stuart A Woolgar
5.0 out of 5 stars More than corn in Indiana,
    Vonnegut's gift of visualization weaves us another reality.  This book is absolutely addictive.  In fact it left me jonesing so bad for more, that I read it in about four or... Read more
Published on April 29 2004 by Jean Doe
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hilarious Satire
Science fiction fans will appreciate this novel filled with Martians and spaceships; and yet readers of other genres will find themselves quickly enchanted by the mystery Vonnegut... Read more
Published on April 29 2004 by K. Bergherm
5.0 out of 5 stars Title
Kurt Vonnegut has always been a writer way beyond his time. When
"The Sirens Of Titan" was published in 1959, its blend of dark
humor, social satire, and... Read more
Published on April 6 2004 by alex black
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