Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Sirens of Titan

I went back in time a bit to Vonnegut's second book, and was impressed by how clear his vision was even then, still in the beginning of his career. Titan starts off fairly normally, but gets weird as its protagonist Malachi Constant travels all over the solar system against his will. The book covers a variety of ideas as he loses his memory, is programmed to be a soldier, is manipulated by forces he doesn't understand and finally is allowed to live his life. It's sort of a mix of whimsical adventure and some pretty harsh views of humanity. A scene later on where most of Earth has taken to a new religion is basically the genesis for the story "Harrison Bergeron" which we read in school a good ten years ago (Jesus, really?), and while less developed actually comes off a bit more dystopian.

There's no Kilgore Trout in this book, although Tralfamadore does return in another capacity. I wasn't really paying full attention to that aspect for a while because it only seemed tangentially related to what was going on, though it was later actually responsible for one of the best bits in the story, and a lot of what the whole thing was about. It really is classic Vonnegut, with a mixture of crackpot science fiction ideas that actually make a little sense if you let them; bizarre, often dark humor; and a few dark things to say about life. One of my favorites of the few novels of his I've read, though to be honest I think they're all pretty awesome. I might as well call him my favorite author at this point, at least within the realm of what's considered literature.

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