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His Insanity Vs. Ours

  • Jul 23, 2006
Rating:
+3
Two years after the Soviets launched Sputnik, nearly twenty years before Elton John recorded "Rocket Man," and three decades before President Reagan unveiled SDI (his version of "Star Wars,") Kurt Vonnegut's 'Sirens of Titan' was published. Not simply a satire of the "Space Race," Vonnegut's first novel brings it all back home to earth all the vanity of vanities that spring from mankind in every civilization.

The book focuses on the lives of two people: Malachi Constant, a frivolous millionaire who puts much of his time and energy into space travel, and Winston Niles Rumfoord, an intellectual developer who entices Constant to go on a far-away journey at his own expense. Rumfoord is the founder of a sect called The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and the author of several staple near-future books, including 'The Pocket History of Mars'. He is plotting a scheme to program all Martians (earthly human transplants) to make a futile attack on our home planet. His intention is to make war so disastrous that man will abandon it on earth (not unlike Alfred Noble's inventing dynamite with the idea of making war so horrific, it would become obsolete). Once Malachi is programmed as his alter ego, Unk, he awakens and tries to reunite his family and escape to earth...

To go on with the development would be a spoiler, for the reader should curl up and read this piece of lit candy and revel in the story's unfolding. The atmosphere is nearly perfect: The novel is undoubtedly the most cartoonish of all of his books, yet the detailed development is realistic enough to transport us through space and time. He makes the ridiculous plausible and the plausible ridiculous. He has some of his most concise renderings of the folly of the human being and our history--as well as a good, solid-ground antidote to all of our foolishness. Eventually, Malachi Constant does find out what's important in this life,...and, then, so do we. How much is life determined by effort or by luck? How much do God and man have a hand in human events? Vonnegut may not give us all of the answers, but his observations are satisfying enough.

(It's interesting to note, that having read 'Slaughterhouse Five,' arguably his best work, "Trafalmadore," a distant planet in a distant galaxy is introduced here before his later classic.)

(Reading Vonnegut brings to mind comparisons. I think of Vonnegut as being influenced by the same pessimism as William Golding or Sartre. Vonnegut seems as terse as Sartre, except fiercely funny. Reading 'Sirens' also brings Ray Bradbury to mind. Bradbury is grander, but Vonnegut makes tragedy into a farce.)

(*"Vanity of vanities...All life is vanity..." Ecclesiastes.)

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More The Sirens of Titan: A Novel reviews
review by . September 16, 2010
This is one of Kurt Vonnegut's most ambitious and most convoluted books. It is essentially a social and political satire dressed up in a guise of science fiction book. It contains some of his favorite fantastical themes that have been recurring in many of his other works, such as pliability of time and malleability of personal identity. Most of the characters are over-the-top caricatures, and for the most part they don't seem to be individuals in their own right, or serving the purpose of …
review by . September 15, 2010
This is one of Kurt Vonnegut's most ambitious and most convoluted books. It is essentially a social and political satire dressed up in a guise of science fiction book. It contains some of his favorite fantastical themes that have been recurring in many of his other works, such as pliability of time and malleability of personal identity. Most of the characters are over-the-top caricatures, and for the most part they don't seem to be individuals in their own right, or serving the purpose of plot development. …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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Wiki

“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
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Details

ISBN-10: 0385333498
ISBN-13: 978-0385333498
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
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"His Insanity Vs. Ours"
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