The Sirens of Titan was one of the first Vonnegut novels I ever read, but this is the first time I’ve read it since. I had forgotten whole swaths of the plot, though the central moral has remained burned in my mind ever since: “I was the victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.” But other than that, I found the whole book quite a surprise.
While I was reading, I was constantly reminded of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This novel has the same loopy, irreverent sense of humor as Douglas Adams’s series. It stands out from Vonnegut’s later novels in that it feels less focused on satirizing politics, science, and America and instead pokes fun more broadly at humanity.
The novel is basically a tale of two rich men and the different ways they view the world. Malachi Constant inherited his father’s vast fortune, a fortune which was made by a series of blindly lucky investments. He believes that “somebody up there likes me” and that he was born lucky. Winston Niles Rumfoord comes from old money, but ever since a space accident left him materializing all over the universe on a repeating schedule, he has developed some grand theories about society and the ways in which it could be better.
It all results in a new religion, the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, which requires its members to wear handicaps to even out their God-given advantages. Along the way, there’s a lot more deeply-serious silliness of the Vonnegut-Adams variety.