thoughts on vonnegut’s the sirens of titan

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So much for reading one book every week. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut took over one month for me to get through. Not because it was a difficult read. I just kept getting distracted by other projects. Developing consistent, productive routines has proven to be much more difficult for me than I imagined it would be. But, y’know, there are worse problems to have.

But back to The Sirens of Titan and Vonnegut. I had only ever read one other Vonnegut book, Slapstick, and that’s been within the past year. I loved Vonnegut’s wildly imaginative writing and vowed to read more. When I saw Sirens of Titan at the bookstore with a tagline claiming that the author questions the meaning of life and attempts to answer what that is, I was sold. I mean, what human doesn’t want to explore the meaning of life at some point in their lives?

I keep wanting to detail the characters and storyline in this post and am working hard to keep that stuff out. I’ll just say that I loved his memorable characters, the technology described (ingestible ‘goofballs’ that allow humans to breathe on Mars!), and the message that no matter who or what is really calling the shots in our lives/planet/universe, we should love “whoever is around to be loved”. It’s a beautiful thought.

Right now, there’s one scene from the book that moved me the most. It centered around a robot who had been on a mission to deliver a sealed message across the universe. The robot had formed such an emotional attachment to its human companion on Titan, where they were both stranded, that it overrode its perfect programming to unseal the message at its human companion’s request. Then, it’s so distraught at having lost its friendship with the human that it disassembles itself.

I was touched by the fact that this robot has greater sensitivity and feeling than the human. The threat of losing love overrode its fundamental purpose and the loss of love destroyed it. Also the robot is from a planet of sentient machines who have been manipulating human history yet the manipulating robot becomes the target of a human’s manipulation. (Can I squeeze another ‘manipulation’ in there? Ahh…)

There’s so much I have to unpack with this story and not enough time and brainpower to do it right now. Maybe later. I’m going to enjoy thinking about this story for some time.

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