Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

In the classic manner of Vonnegut, Sirens, defies genre labels and is inherently difficult to describe. There is science fiction, there is morality, there is religion, there is war, and there is love and loss. But I am not sure that Sirens could be called a novel of any of these (although it was nominated for a Hugo in 1960).  The primary characters are Winston Niles Rumford and Malachi Constant. Rumford, an intrepid man that got stuck in a chrono-synclastic infundibulum. This means he appears, at regular intervals, on Earth and other planets dispensing prophetic proclamations while accompanied by his dog, Kazak. Constant is incredibly rich and sybaritic, but suffers a number of interesting turns. Malachi is told by Rumford that he will have a son with Beatrice, travel from Earth to mars to mercury and to Earth again before finally ending up on Titan, a moon of Saturn. The subsequent plot defies summary nearly as well as Sirens defies categorization. But each step of Malachi’s journey is filled with that odd, poignant mixture of humor and tragedy that Vonnegut can do so well.


An aside note: I picked up this title for two reasons. First, both Vonnegut and Sirens are frequently mentioned in The UniverseVersus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence, the book for October’s meeting of Uncorked. Second, I was making a weekend trip to Indianapolis, Vonnegut’s hometown, and was planning on stopping by the Vonnegut Memorial Library. In the midst of prowling the streets of Indianapolis for some pizza, I came across this huge portrait of Vonnegut by Pamela Bliss it was pleasant and unexpected. Anyway, I can recommend pretty much everything mentioned in the previous two sentences in addition to Sirens

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