The Sirens of Titan

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Sirens of Titan Book Poster Image
Great intro to Kurt Vonnegut for teens.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence

A strangulation, battle massacres (not described).

Sex

A prostitute; a reference to how babies are made, and to an erection.

Language

"F--k" used once, but since this book was published in 1959, that's exactly how they write it.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to drinking, drugs, and cigarettes.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhacker49 April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written bykkzozo987 April 9, 2008
Kid, 11 years old August 8, 2009

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate