Oct 13, 2016

Thoughts on The Sirens of Titan

I finally had a chance to finish up The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut on the tail-end of my trip to Scotland. I had started the book back in September and struggled to get absorbed by it. A few other books came up in between and Sirens languished. Fortunately, I had abundant free time on my flights and in the airports back to the US, so I finished it up.

I became a Vonnegut fan back in high school upon reading "Harrison Bergeron", likely his most famous short story. I read Slaughterhouse Five a few years back, but I didn't really get the same kind of feel from it that I remember from high school. I came to The Sirens of Titan looking for that feeling, and I did eventually find it.

The book is an interesting one. Set in what I take to be the last quarter of the 20th century but with technology that won't exist for another hundred years or so. The plot doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, to say nothing of the "science" that underpins it. But that's not really the point. It's a story about the futility of everything: human civilization, the best laid plans of superhuman forces, individual will. Everything. I suppose it may be a reach, but the lesson is that the real value in life comes from the struggle against that futility (alternatively, there is no value to life).

The book explores a number of other worthwhile themes in its own bizarre way. I don't have the attention span to pick them apart with any level of detailed insight. Suffice to say that it scratched in itch that's been bothering me for over a decade.