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The Sirens of Titan
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PAST Group Reads 2018 > Sirens of Titan- August- SPOILER THREAD

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message 1: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
This is the SPOILER THREAD for Sirens of Titan. You can freely discuss any topics on this book, including the ending, interpretations, connections to similar books, etc.

SPOILERS AHEAD. If you don't want to read spoilers, go back to the other thread, and come back when you finish the book. Thanks!

Bruyere is facilitating this discussion. Thanks Bruyere!


Jacinta | 70 comments Wow. This book has and does a LOT for such a short read. It's dark and funny and absurd and terrible and uplifting and satirical. I can't decide what it is most (or which it suggests humanity is most). Looking forward to talking about it whenever anyone else has read it!


message 3: by J., Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 3 stars

J. (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
I've read it! It does have a lot. One minute you're laughing, the next you're horrified.


message 4: by Heather (last edited Aug 06, 2018 09:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Heather (bruyere) I feel like the common theme in the books I have read of this author is the lack of human free will. It seems like the characters in this book just didn't really have much control over what happened to them.

I kinda like that about this book. I tend to personally feel overwhelmed by the many decisions in life and the idea that it's a crap shoot is rather enticing.


message 5: by J., Your Obedient Servant (last edited Aug 10, 2018 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

J. (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Bruyere wrote: "I feel like the common theme in the books I have read of this author is the lack of human free will. It seems like the characters in this book just didn't really have much control over what happene..."

I thought it was interesting that at the beginning of the book Rumfoord made it seem like he could control what happened and then later we discover he didn't have any control.


Heather (bruyere) I can't help but think that the fact that the soldiers of Mars are all being controlled must be some viewpoint of the author on military life.

Yes, Rumfoord was just taking advantage of his situation to act like he was in control. He is so hilariously annoying.

The parts with the preacher totally crack me up.


message 7: by J., Your Obedient Servant (new) - rated it 3 stars

J. (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Bruyere wrote: "I can't help but think that the fact that the soldiers of Mars are all being controlled must be some viewpoint of the author on military life.

Yes, Rumfoord was just taking advantage of his situa..."


Or humanity in general? I read a lot of the book as a rebuke on needing/wanting to fit into society and what does that look like if you take it to it's most absurd outcomes.

This book ended up being a lot funnier than I expected.


Heather (bruyere) I wonder if Rumfoord just wanted to punish Malachi because he was jealous of him. Malachi, due to not skill of his own, was very rich and lived a fabulous life. Then he ends up as a grunt and then basically being a mountain man who lives to serve Rumfoord's wife. I thought it was kinda a nice character arc, but seems like someone was trying to teach him something....


message 9: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Aug 17, 2018 01:50PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
I still have the last chapter to read, but this question has been in my mind the whole time. Is what happens to us in life determined by our own efforts and actions? Or is it determined by luck, or change, or God, or powerful people in your life?

There is a concept called Locus of Control that explains our own assumptions about this.

If you have an internal locus of control, you believe that you control your fate. Your effort, ability, talents, thoughts, choices and of course actions determine what happens. Good or bad.

If you have an external locus of control, you believe that you have little control. It's all up to chance, luck, pretermined fate, God, or powerful others in your life (parents, teachers, bosses, government, "the man"etc.).

Bruyere, you said if it's all a crap shoot, that's kind of appealing. It could take the pressure off, particularly when things aren't going well, right? Do you think this is an attitude you lived by so far?

What do you think influences our attitudes about this?


message 10: by Court (new)

Court Hanner | 2 comments My book called ‘Inside My Soul’ by Court Hanner answers this precisely. The answer is “both”. We do control our own fate but their are parameters that God has set and he controls the rest. If you picture yourself in middle of a circle within a larger circle. The inner circle is your free will. However, you are still inside the latter circle and God is creator of these rules.


message 11: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
I finally finished. I had up and down moments with this book (just as the characters did I suppose). Overall I'm glad I read it. Some parts just stretched logic too far for my tastes, but he did eventually pull most of the threads together at the end, which made it more satisfying. The ending was overall more coherent than I thought it might be.

I really loved the epilogue. This final ending was more satisfying emotionally. It seemed perfect given all the crazy stuff he went through.

I'm having a hard time deciding on a rating. There are many really creative ideas and insights in the book, but parts of it seemed too arbitrary and disjointed. But I suppose that's the point.** I tend to read a lot of historical fiction, but little sci-fi, so this was outside my comfort zone. It was like a roller coaster ride. I'm used to a lot more logical coherence. If I find myself thinking about it a lot over the next few weeks, I'll likely end up giving it a higher rating than if I quickly forget about it. I think this is the type of book that really improves with discussion or deeper thought.

His satirical takes on religion are fascinating. There are a lot of biblical references, probably a lot more than I noticed. There were many tidbits that I would have loved for him to explore more deeply. I liked the sections about Titan and Tralfamadore. (When I was young, I used to go to concerts in a venue called Tralfamodore Cafe -"The Tralf". I guess they took the title from Vonnegut.)

I also liked the character Salo, though he was very emotional for a machine! The history of Tralfamadore was one of my favorite parts. It involved issues of automation and a sense of purpose in work. We know that people are more motivated when they have a sense of purpose. Simple repetitive tasks don't satisfy our needs, and they are more likely to be automated. In Tralf, they took this to the extreme, and gradually automated everything, until there was no more purposeful work for Tralfamadorians to do. (I guess they didn't have art, music, teaching, service, and other purposeful pursuits for their organic beings.) Machines eventually replaced all the organic beings! (Vonnegut must like the word Tralfamodore because he used it again in Slaughterhouse five, but the beings are different in that book.)

** I found some background information on Vonnegut and learned that just prior to, and while writing this book, he experienced some huge unexpected losses and changes in his life. So I suppose that pushed him to believe in fate or chance, and reject the idea that you have much control over what happens in your life. If you have a "belief in a just world" - Karma, heaven/hell, etc.- but awful things happen to you, that's an unbearable load to carry. (Why do bad things happen to good people?) People with a strong internal locus of control are generally more motivated, but when things go wrong, they tend to blame themselves (or God), and get depressed and/or angry.


Mandy | 41 comments Greetings. ;)

Nancy - I’m like you and normally read historical fiction or history/biography. I enjoyed this small taste of sci fi. For me a big theme was the importance we have of the stories we tell ourselves. Those are what determine our happiness. Rumfoord needed to create a negative demeaning story of Malachi and Beatrice to try and improve his own story. Malachi died happy because of a story Salo programmed for him to think about himself - that someone outside himself liked him enough to have him go to paradise.

Salo was a wonderful character!


message 13: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Aug 19, 2018 03:56PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Mandy wrote: "Greetings. ;)

Nancy - I’m like you and normally read historical fiction or history/biography. I enjoyed this small taste of sci fi. For me a big theme was the importance we have of the stories we ..."


That's a great observation. We always have these stories we tell ourselves or others about our lives. But they're always incomplete, and you can find an alternative true story.

There is something is a book by Shawn Achor that talks about, though in perhaps different terms. I use it in one of my classes. Let's say someone is feeling really discouraged (and useless) on their job. Ask for 4 true statements about themselves that cause this feeling (a true story). Then ask for 4 equally true statements about themselves that might suggest they have a bright future(a different true story).

When a pessimist (or a critical boss) says he's just being honest or is facing reality, he's only seeing one of the several alternative realities. In interviews and performance appraisals, when managers get a first impression, they need to look for opposing information in order to avoid bias.

I remember a part where Bea adjusted her story and her attitude towards Malachi. I think they all found different ways to view Titan, and they became happier.

I agree about Salo. I wonder if the Tralfamadores were ever able to use that part. I still don't know how they got it to Mars, and why they couldn't send it Titan directly? That part of the story was hard to swallow.


message 14: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
I just remembered that the author threw in a strong insult to Public Relations people. I think it was in relation to the memory stripping. When people had too many of the procedures they became useless and could only be used for public relations. That seems an odd group for a new author to insult. They could really help him. I think it's funny (but unprofessional) when authors make cracks about people or professions and you know it's meant for someone he knows.


Heather (bruyere) NancyJ wrote: "I still have the last chapter to read, but this question has been in my mind the whole time. Is what happens to us in life determined by our own efforts and actions? Or is it determined by luck, or..."

I think I'm mostly an internal locus of control person in regards to my own life. I can directly correlate bad things that happened to me because I did dumb things or good things all were because I tried hard to get there. It's complicated for me because I'm actually a Christian but I see very few positive things in my life that I didn't have to fight tooth and nail for. This leads me to believe that God either has it out for me or there is no god.

On the other hand, though, I see a lot of wonderful positives things happen for others who don't seem to have tried very hard at all and that makes me suspicious that life is a crap shoot.

I think it's easy for people who have had a mostly chill life to believe in a god. If you've struggled a lot, it makes it feel less possible that anyone is in charge out there.


Heather (bruyere) I guess one theme I got out of the book that I liked was I felt like it showed that you can be equally happy being a professional with lots of money or with living off the land and having a less professional career. I've always felt that that is true for many people.


Heather (bruyere) I think one of the interesting things to me in the book that left very timely to now is the idea of handicapping. It seems like in current culture in the US - this would be a very popular idea. I saw that NancyJ talked about this part in book review.


message 18: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Aug 21, 2018 10:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Bruyere wrote: "NancyJ wrote: "I still have the last chapter to read, but this question has been in my mind the whole time. Is what happens to us in life determined by our own efforts and actions? Or is it determi..."

I agree. Research supports that kids are more likely to develop an internal locus of control, and related traits like persistence and willingness to delay gratification (the marshmallow study) when they see evidence in their life that hard work leads to good things. But if your role models work hard but are still facing hunger, dangerous work, or random violence, then it's hard to believe that your effort truly matters.

But if someone's going through a new challenge like a major health scare, they are more likely to turn to God to pray or seek comfort. High internal people who get really sick, may turn to prayer, but at some level they will still blame themselves for not doing more to prevent it, or even for not laughing enough.

I have a relative who has had good long term success with alcoholics anonymous, and he said that he didn't stop relapsing until he truly let go and gave control to God. He has a strong ego and an internal locus of control so that was a hard step for him. If you believe that someone is watching us (God, or in this book, the Tralfamodorians) you might believe that they can help keep harm and temptation away from you.


message 19: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim (skullfullofbooks) I never read Vonnegut before this, but I find him to be a darker Douglas Adams. It was a fuj romp in space that took a turn for the worse as time flies.

Boaz was the saddest character for me. Poor guy never fit in and decides to shirk humanity altogether for fear of rejection. Though seeing Constant's continual hope to find Stoney only to find out that the worst had happened was heartbreaking.

I like the futility of the message that was being delivered. Everyone woukd think that expending resources on that scale to deliver a message would mean something profound aas being said. I wonder if Salo aas actually considered the best, or if he really was a throw-away. Why wouldn't they have someone with technical skills do a repair? Why did it take a weird, broken in a specific way piece to be the one piece being delivered after crazy wars to do the trick? If they controlled the humans, couldn't they influence them to make milions of those pieces? It all just seems like so much for so little payoff.


message 20: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Aug 22, 2018 11:37AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "I never read Vonnegut before this, but I find him to be a darker Douglas Adams. It was a fuj romp in space that took a turn for the worse as time flies. Boaz was the saddest character for me.

If they controlled the humans, couldn't they influence them to make milions of those pieces?
."


Interesting! Yes, I was thinking there had to be a better way. I guess part of it was getting the piece to Titan. It seems that earth must be just as close to Tralfamadore as Mars, so why even bother with Mars? Rumsfoord apparently couldn't bring anything with him in his travels, but they could have sent anyone. When Rumsfoord had his visions of the way things would happen, do you think those visions were planted by Tralfs? He realized he was betrayed by them, but I'm not sure if that was part of it. If anyone COULD predict the future, didn't they see the part about Salo? If so, sending the message might not have been their real purpose.

Here's a thought. The Tralfamadorians are always watching earthlings, kind of like TV. Maybe there was no goal in mind for any of this. They manipulated a lot of events, just to see what they could make happen. Maybe it was all just a story for the entertainment of the tralfamadores (or us). When you think about it, a lot of the challenges faced by characters in books are rather pointless in themselves, but it's how the characters deal with it that's interesting.


Heather (bruyere) So, Earthlings were kind of on a scripted reality show. ;)


message 22: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Bruyere wrote: "So, Earthlings were kind of on a scripted reality show. ;)"

LOL Yes!


message 23: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim (skullfullofbooks) That is an interesting conclusion! That also further cements the Douglas Adams vibes I got while reading this.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Vonnegut was an atheist, and he clearly said many times he disliked religious cant and disliked beliefs in Faith in an omniscient being or in a any kind of Omnipotence, or in a purpose to Life. His mother turned into a bitter complaining cold bit*h after the family became poor. Bee was obviously based on Vonnegut’s mother. His mother committed suicide on Mother’s Day. His father had been wealthy, but lost it all. Vonnegut clearly said Rumsfoord was based on Franklin D. Roosevelt.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_...

There is no space between Vonnegut’s intellectual thought and mine. I interpreted this book to mean that Humanity is easily satirized because of our illusions, and how sad that is.


message 25: by Kirsten (new) - added it

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Vonnegut is always a treat. The problem with many religious types is they take offense too easily.

His work is alway original and delightful, but I always feel I am missing something. Some of his satire, I think, goes clean over my head. But I don't have to understand everything. Too many people think they need to understand all.


message 26: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Sep 01, 2018 05:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) The name of Malachi from Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malachi:

“The Prophet Malachi...was the writer of the Book of Malachi, the last book of the Neviim (prophets) section in the Hebrew Bible.

Opinions vary as to the prophet's exact date, but nearly all scholars agree that Malachi prophesied during the Persian period, and after the reconstruction and dedication of the second temple in 516 BCE (compare Malachi 1:10 ; Malachi 3:1, Malachi 3:10). The prophet speaks of the "people's governor" (Hebrew "pechah", Malachi 1:8), as do Haggai and Nehemiah (Haggai 1:1 ; Nehemiah 5:14 ; Nehemiah 12:26). The social conditions portrayed appear to be those of the period of the Restoration. More specifically, Malachi probably lived and labored during the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. The abuses which Malachi mentions in his writings correspond so exactly with those which Nehemiah found on his 2nd visit to Jerusalem in 432 BCE (Nehemiah 13:7) that it seems reasonably certain that he prophesied concurrently with Nehemiah or shortly after.

According to Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, "Malachi describes a priesthood that is forgetful of its duties, a Temple that is underfunded because the people have lost interest in it, and a society in which Jewish men divorce their Jewish wives to marry out of the faith."”

Malachi means “messenger of YHWH”. YHWH is the word for the Jewish god.

I have no doubt this book was satirizing religious faith among other things.


Heather (bruyere) That is interesting! This all makes me almost want to read it a third time to see what I pick up. I sure got more the second time. I agree with the sentiment that it's not important to pick up everything. I "got" this book a lot more than Slaughterhouse, for sure.

I'm somewhat religious but probably in the minority in that I can totally see how it could be a total scam. It's too bad people can't step outside their head and see other ideas.


message 28: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Bruyere wrote: "That is interesting! This all makes me almost want to read it a third time to see what I pick up. I sure got more the second time. I agree with the sentiment that it's not important to pick up ever..."

I heard this, but I don't know if it's a solid finding: Apparently there is a gene that is linked to the feeling of spiritual awe, and people with the gene are more likely to feel a connection to a higher being (e.g. when praying) than people without it. It doesn't explain why people feel that "their" God or religion is better than someone else's.

Research on babies suggests that human beings are hard wired to see people as part of "us" versus "other." Perhaps it had an evolutionary advantage, to help us bond with a group for mutual safety.


message 29: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Sep 21, 2018 05:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) There is such a thing as DNA mutations. They occur during egg/sperm interactions and growth, they occur because of toxin exposures, they occur because of physical damage (cold, heat, starvation, injury, etc.). These changes could end up in viable births, who then pass on the damage to their offspring.

Just because 'everybody does it' or 'everybody has it' doesn't necessarily mean it was an evolutionary 'advantage'. Just that whatever tic or poor trait, tendency or trait we have wasn't serious enough to impede its being passed down to our children before death. I have read of many traits and diseases which are terrible but they don't show up until people are in their 40's. Parents often say, "if I had known I possessed one copy of this gene and my husband also has a gene, we never would have got pregnant" and other variations on this theme.

A feeling of religious or numinous awe could be simply an accident of DNA mutation. It didn't hurt enough people to stop it from being passed down, although it happens (Jewish genocide by Nazis, Rohingya genocide by Myanmar Buddhists, Tutsi genocide by Rwanda Hutus, Muslim genocide by Serbian Christians). Politicians take advantage of the tendency of the masses to be religious, inciting feelings to do genocides against others because they worship a god wrong - which they wouldn't be able to do if our trait towards ecstatic god worship didn't exist to be manipulated and stroked, like an erection.

A DNA mutation may simply be not harmful enough to be bred out of an organism. Of course, people are breeding harmful DNA into animals all of the time for monitory reasons. Pug dogs are now so pug they can't breathe, but so darling to many buyers. Who cares if they constantly gasp short of air? And so on.


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