Monday Night Book Club: The Sirens of Titan

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By Abigail Fisher 

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sometimes it’s difficult to find a happy medium between a book that makes you think and one that’s philosophical mush. In my humble attempts to become well-read, I try to challenge myself with books that boast academic tones. Unfortunately, I almost always end up feeling unfulfilled as I turn the last page. I think it has something to do with the fact that the books marked ‘scholarly’ by our culture necessitate discussion. It’s difficult to read Socrates without a professor gently guiding your thought process or a discussion group to bounce ideas off of. Most of the time, the complex rhetoric is really what’s keeping us from grasping and enjoying these philosophical texts. What I really love about Kurt Vonnegut is that he produces thought-provoking novels with philosophical questions hidden within an page-turning plot. It’s readable and enjoyable academia, something I never thought was possible.

I devoured The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut in a day. I never thought that a book about a Martian invasion would captivate my attention so intensely. Surrounding the story of Malachi Constant, a man whose incredible luck goes on the fritz, The Sirens of Titan calls into question the concept of free will and it’s interaction with religion. The plot begins when space explorer Winston Niles Rumfoord and his dog Kazak enter the “chrono-synclastic infundibulum” in their spaceship and their place in the space-time continuum is altered. Rumfoord’s unique existence leads to a disastrous war between the Martians and Earthlings, and the eventual settlement of Malachi Constant on the planet Tralfamadore.

The plot may seem to determine that The Sirens of Titan be considered science fiction, but I stand by my description of Vonnegut’s work as philosophical.  All of the strange occurrences in The Sirens of Titan bring into question basic contemplations every human being has about the afterlife, god and our place in the Universe. It’s less about sci-fi, more about one man’s observations on existence. Read The Sirens of Titan for a book that will make you think without feeling like you’re doing a required reading.

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