book-reviews

Sirens of Titan

by Kurt Vonnegut

Rating: ★★★★

The thing this novel most reminds me of is Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (no accident, that, this was an influence on Adams). If you haven't read either this or that, then your task for the immediate future should be fairly clear. Both are examples of clear, strong writing with plenty of surreal humour, underlining with poignancy how entirely insignificant all of mankind's troubles are.

The plot is riddled with twists and revelations, so it's somewhat hard to summarise. Suffice to say that the luckiest man on Earth's luck turns bad, and he is sent on a journey which involves siring a son, training with a shambolic Martian invasion force, spending several years on Mercury being mocked by mindless luminescent wall-frogs and returning to Earth only to be exiled to Titan. In following this arc, he coincidentally fulfills mankind's true purpose.

The central theme as I saw it is that the big question - 'what is the point of any of it?' is one which we might well not like the answer to. While that message crops up several times, the book's not particularly preachy or heavy-handed, and plenty of smaller philosophies show themselves here and there.The writing is excellent, very clear-cut and easy to grasp, while being whimsical in style and tone. Vonnegut doesn't shirk from describing the horrible and cruel, but there is a deadpan humour throughout which keeps you smiling.

Really, I can't think of anything else to say. It's very good, you should probably read it.