A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book was originally written for adults in 1959. There are mild sexual references, a bit of language, and some references to drinking, smoking, and drugs -- much less than you'd find in any young adult novel today.
What's the story?
Plot is not what this is about, but here's an attempt at it. Wealthy Winston Niles Rumfoord, flying in his private spaceship with his dog, Kazak, accidentally flies into an uncharted chronosynclastic infundibulum, which scatters his particles through space and time. This gives him the ability to see the future, and to appear at set intervals on various planets as they intersect the orbit of his particles.
Malachi Constant is the richest man in America, an amoral lout until he is kidnapped, has his memory wiped, and becomes a cog in the Army of Mars that is planning an invasion of Earth. Salo is a robot from the planet Tralfamadore, whose ship crash-landed on Saturn's moon, Titan, 200,000 years ago. His fellow Tralfamadorians have manipulated human history ever since in order to get him the spare part he needs to repair his ship. And all three of these unusual lives are about to intersect.
Is it any good?
Many would argue that THE SIRENS OF TITAN was Kurt Vonnegut's greatest work; it is actually that and more. It has all the elements we've come to expect from a Vonnegut novel: biting satire, bizarre imagination, dry comedy, plus rich layering of commentary on philosophy, religion, humanity, and more. But this book adds an emotional depth, a wry warmth and kindness, and a fondness for his characters that is often lacking in his other works.
Vonnegut had a knack for sweetly melancholy humor, and he gives it free play here. Forget that it's science fiction, and forget the strange synopsis -- this story will draw you into a lovely and poignant rumination on the meaning of existence. If you were to cross Mark Twain in his bitter old age with Harper Lee you might get something like this -- biting humor and cynicism crossed with loving wisdom, delivered with the gentlest, most understanding, touch. Though written for adults, this is completely accessible to teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the views of the universe that the author expounds here. What do you think of ideas such as the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent? The use of the human race by aliens? The randomness and purposes of existence? What do you think of the reasons for the earth invasion?