THE SIRENS OF TITAN
by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Although The Sirens of Titan contains many of the tropes common to science fiction, it is not actually a science fiction novel. Vonnegut's Mars, Mercury and Titan could just as easily been Italy, Vanuatu and Brazil. His use of them has little basis in anything known about the planets. However, Vonnegut's overriding purpose in The Sirens of Titan was to provide a social satire in which he could poke fun at the military, religion and the stock market.
The opening of the novel, in which Vonnegut explores Malachi Constant and Beatrice Rumsfoord and their respective rises and falls in fortune is the most interesting and target portion of the novel. The two are thrown together by Rumsfoord's
One element which forms a minor part of The Sirens of Titan was also used as the basis of his short story "Harrison Bergeron" in 1961. The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent (CGUI)believes in handicapping individuals according to their strengths. Whereas their would be shown as an element of fascism and tyranny in "Harrison Bergeron", in The Sirens of Titan it merely is a quirk of a strange religion.
Because of the central role Rumsfoord takes in the lives of Malachi and Beatrice, there is a strong element of determinism running through the novel. Until close to the end, none of the major characters have any real decisions to make regarding their lives. In the first couple of chapters, Rumsfoord tells Malachi and Beatrice their life stories and no matter what they do, they are unable to break the cycle he related. Even the words Malachi says when he first is greeted by the CGUI were foretold by Rumsfoord. Despite his omniscience and creation of a religion, Rumsfoord continously denies he is any sort of God.
Eventually, Rumsfoord leaves the solar system and no longer has influence on it. In this way, God (despite Rumsfoord's protestations to the contrary) has been overthrown and humankind (at least in the persons of Beatrice and Malachi) must learn to live without their God.
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