A good analogy for this book is it's like one of those paintings that looks great at a distance but when you look at it up-close you can see all the brush strokes. In this case the more distant Vonnegut is from his characters the better because up close the characters come off more as cartoonish props than real people.
The story details the lives
of three people who are moved by forces beyond their control. William
Niles Rumsfoord set out into space with his dog and now through a
strange phenomenon I won't try to spell he has become unstuck in time
and space (take that Billy Pilgrim!) so that he appears on Earth at his
house every 59 days. His wife Beatrice Rumsfoord wants little to do
with him. Then one day Rumsfoord calls his cousin Malachi Constant for a
visit. Constant is a billionaire playboy who inherited his money from
his father and has done nothing with his life. Rumsfoord tells Constant
that he will roam the Solar System, first to Mars, then Mercury, then
back to Earth, and finally to Titan, where he will meet three beautiful
women, the sirens of the title.
Well this does happen but none of
it goes as Constant thought it might. Beatrice gets swept up in it as
well. Meanwhile Rumsfoord seems to be pulling the strings of everyone
in the Solar System but who's pulling his strings?
As I said at
the start, Vonnegut is at his best in this novel when he deals with
broader issues, like the history of Mars or the lives of tiny insects on
Mercury. Those moments called to mind Douglas Adams and the
"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" books where too the broader issues
were often better than the up-close ones. The characters of Rumsfoord,
Beatrice, and Constant aren't all that interesting and as I said none of
them seems all that REAL. Vonnegut I don't think was interested in
making real, sympathetic characters so much as in making his points
about religion, Fate, and so forth.
The last 15% or so almost
makes up for the book's deficiencies. Whereas Douglas Adams seemed to
back away from providing the answer of life, the universe, and
everything, Vonnegut tackles it head-on. Though in both cases, Earth is
little more than a pawn in someone else's game; or perhaps not even a
pawn; Earth might be more like a bit of dust that gets blown around when
someone else moves the pieces.
I don't think this is one of Vonnegut's best, but it wasn't a waste of time either.
a special note, I noticed quite a few typographical errors in this
edition. In part I think it might be from digitizing this to the
Kindle. Or perhaps not. It was a little distracting at times.
That is all.