I have a subscription to Audible. They do not sponsor this blog, I am not important enough for that, but I do use them and will probably review a book I get from them every so often. I did it before with “Miss Peregrine’s Home…” and now I am doing it with the first ever book by Kurt Vonnegut that I have ever read, “The Sirens of Titan”.
The story starts out as a somewhat low key sort of science fiction, there are spaceships and humanity has done some activity in space, but have decided not to do anymore because there exists a special anomaly in our solar system that has a funny name. The funny name is said often and it is a running gag. The main characters are all deeply flawed, even the time traveling mind reading billionaire who sets the plot into motion.
The story is pretty grounded initially, as most of the action takes place on Earth but takes an abrupt turn into Crazy Town in the second act as the main character joins a militia on Mars that is hell bent on invading Earth. The third act has a bigger twist about the underlying motivations of the plot, so much of a twist that it kind of makes the rest of the story feel a little like a cheat. The story end on a real downer. No other way to put it.
I like half of the underlying philosophy, as a big thrust of the story seems to be that you should not attribute to god that which is just luck. That the universe is guided by chance and some people get advantages that they don’t deserve and they should not rub other people’s noses in it. The other half of the thing seems to be about how free will is mostly a crock, that we are guided by impulses and machinations well beyond our perceptions and even if we could perceive them we would not be able to understand them. I suppose there is some charm to that idea too.
Overall the story has some funny wordplay and solid characters, I could see this being adapted into a movie or mini-series and am surprised it hasn’t been, the main character at times resembles one of the most egotistical people in America and it would work to lampoon them. I am also a little taken back by some of the fan art I have seen of the character of Salo, whom I pictured so differently from everyone else that I think I must have missed a big percentage of his physical description, or I just subconsciously ignored and chose to do something more interesting.
There are parts that will be a little slow and a little too out there for many people, the entire section on Mercury felt like a big waste of time. It is a good story but hard to recommend.
I "read" this by listening to it as an audio book, and I think that might have elevated it a bit. The narrator is best known as Dan Green, the voice of "Yu-Gi-Oh", and he has a range of voices that do a good job of differentiating the characters. A good performance can do a lot.
Maybe I will get another Vonnegut title in the future but I am trying to get a few titles by classic science fiction authors and he was just the first. I am currently listening to “Stranger in a Strange Land” and am so far liking it a great deal more.
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