Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Sirens of Titan by author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, (1959)

The Sirens of Titan was a novel that was nominated for a Hugo Award, published in 1959. It is acknowledged to be one of the best books by Kurt Vonnegut, even though he has several other famous books such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions. The book is not actually true science fiction in the mould of books by writers such as Asimov or Arthur C Clarke, more in the lines of satire, a satire on humanity. The book is especially critical of concepts such as religion, treating religion as a concept that can make its followers do weird acts, as well as how these concepts are used as a powerful weapon to influence people, and equally and weirdly, how people allow themselves to be influenced by such use of religion.

This novel was controversial, given its treatment of religion, and churches, and how the fervor of the book was seen to be almost similar to Marxist disdain for religion. At the same time, there are a huge set of fans of Vonnegut, who cannot understand the controversy about the book. The book should be seen as a funny and humorous look at overall society, and this book is indeed pretty funny.
The novel is supposed to be about the richest man on Earth (in the 22nd century), Malachi Constant, who is extremely rich, but whose life is mostly stagnant. In actuality, the novel seeks to portray the entire human existence, its civilization, its development, all this as something that was necessary only to help an inter-galactic traveller. This traveler, called Salo, from a place called Tralfamadorian, is a robot meant to carry a message to another galaxy. However, his ship breaks down, and needs a new part. And this is where the meaning of humanity takes on a different air, since the entire human existence and development was meant for the level of civilization to reach a point where this part can be manufactured and given to Salo.
Constant is actually manipulated by a strange set of events, manipulated by Winston Niles Rumfoord. Rumfoord is a person who knows the past, present and future, and can appear on different planets, primarily because his ship entered a strange phenomenon called 'chrono-synclastic infundibulum', something not defined, but which gives him strange powers.

The Sirens of Titan by the author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, published in 1959

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