There are three main characters in The Sirens of Titan: Malachi Constant, Winston Miles Rumfoord, and Rumfoord's wife, Beatrice. Vonnegut builds up all three characters and then uses that build up to tear them down. (Who does he think he is? God? Hey, maybe this plays into the story. Hmmm ....)
Rumfoord is a bit of a prophet figure. Beatrice made me start thinking about Dante's Divine Comedy, but I'm not really sure where my brain was trying to go. Let's just say there might be something to that. Or not. 'The excesses of Beatrice were excesses of reluctance." Maybe that is why I was thinking of Dante. That and the name "Beatrice." And I'm not sure what was up with poor Malachi. I'm sure he is a type ... or ... a type of a type .... (Oh Vonnegut, you REALLY messed with my mind in this book.)
There is also an alien. A machine alien. With inflatable feet. His name is Salo. He's got a missing part that plays a big part in the novel. To tell you more would be spoilerish. So, I won't. "The machine is no longer a machine. The machine's contacts are corroded, the bearings fouled, his circuits shorted, and his gears stripped. His mind buzzes and pops like the mind of an Earthling - fizzes and overheats with thoughts of love, honor, dignity, rights, accomplishments, integrity, independence." Aliens in science fiction are often foils to humanity and help us define our human nature, and so Salo fills this purpose. I think.
The Sirens of Titan is a morality tale. It is satire that is somewhat humorous, but ultimately sad and depressing. The characters are powerless. I think they are powerless. I think I'm supposed to think that. Yeah, kinda bleak.
The central idea of the book is: What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of human existence? I won't tell you how Vonnegut answers these questions, but if you've been paying attention at all here you can probably guess.
Some random thoughts because, honestly, I don't know how to incorporate these into a review:
- Vonnegut smacks down organized religion yet honors personal belief.
- The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent (I'm sure there is a whole theological discussion just in this name.)
- Free will: Yes or no? (Not really answered and kinda argumentative loop-ish, just like in real life.)
- Earth as God's spaceship (I'm telling you, there is some whacked stuff here people!)
- I'm pretty sure Douglas Adams was influenced by this novel.
If you find Vonnegut's satire and humor tiresome and/or depressing, you might find that you like (can tolerate?) his writing in short bursts; try his short stories in Welcome to the Monkey House.
Edited to include a link to my video review on YouTube > http://youtu.be/toXsf2f93h0