Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
This was a lot better than SlaughterHouse-Five, perhaps because it didn’t jump back and forth chronologically. I also got a lot out of the text too, though its hard to describe it completely. Vonnegut touches on themes of Omniscience and Freewill in very comical terms. It was such an interesting read because of how absolutely ridiculous some of scenes were. But in an odd way, he gave each scene and section a very ‘human’ touch so while it was ludicrous, it was also extremely believable.
It was just a bit hard to actually get into the book. After the first chapter or two, it really picks up. I nearly gave up on this book but knowing Vonnegut’s reputation for good books, I powered through and was not disappointed. I find that this was also true for Cat’s Cradle and Slaughter-House Five. The background takes a while to construct but good books will always need that time in the beginning I guess. It makes me wonder if I should try and give the other books that I gave up a second chance again.
There’s so many different themes in Sirens that its hard to pick out one in particular. A cool one was the unity of the human race when the ‘Martians’ invaded. Suddenly all of the humans banded together against a common enemy. It’s the type of thing that the Watchmen pulled off but Vonnegut used such a ridiculous plot to set it up that it was considerable more entertaining. He also explores luck, and how Malachi Constant and his billionaire fortune from his father was entirely based off of the Bible’s random letters.
Vonnegut’s depiction of omniscience and freewill was most powerful part of the book.
"Look," said Rumfoord, "life for a punctual person is like a roller coaster." He turned to shiver his hands in her face. "All kinds of things are going to happen to you! Sure," he said, "I can see the whole roller coaster you’re on. And sure — I could give you a piece of paper that would tell you about every dip and turn, warn you about every bogeyman that was going to pop out at you in the tunnels. But that wouldn’t help you any."
"I don’t see why not," said Beatrice.
"Because you’d still have to take the roller-coaster ride," said Rumford. "I didn’t design the roller coaster, I don’t own it, and I don’t say who rides and who doesn’t. I just know what it’s shaped like."
Reminds me of the Matrix actually. Everything that’s supposed to happen in the Matrix is, and always will happen. In fact, everyone knows this. But the reason why they still have to go through it is to understand why they made those certain decisions. Even the omniscient Winston Niles Rumfoord was a just a simply pawn and part to accomplish a trivial task. There is no ‘greater good’ or ‘ultimate role’ that anyone is filling. In the end, everything could just be a funny joke, a project that someone or something is playing.
I felt empty at the end of the book – like there was no meaning to life but a silly explanation. What the hell are people doing all the things that they do for? No purpose….