The Illuminatus! Trilogy

Written by: Robert Shea, Robert Anton Wilson

The Illuminatus! Trilogy Book Cover
It was a deadly mistake. Joseph Malik, editor of a radical magazine, had snooped into rumors about an ancient secret society that was still alive and kicking. Now his offices have been bombed, he's missing, and the case has landed in the lap of a tough, cynical, streetwise New York detective. Saul Goodman knows he's stumbled onto something big—but even he can't guess how far into the pinnacles of power this conspiracy of evil has penetrated.

Filled with sex and violence—in and out of time and space—the three books of The Illuminatus! Trilogy are only partly works of the imagination. They tackle all the cover-ups of our time—from who really shot the Kennedys to why there's a pyramid on a one-dollar bill—and suggest a mind-blowing truth.
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The Illuminatus Trilogy Reviews

Sandy Bookwitch
Stream of consciousness style from hell! More decipherable than Finnegan's Wake, but how much does that really say?? Keeps switching tense, point-of-view, moves between first person perspective of multiple and conflicting characters over space and time. A real mind fuck and I'm only about 100 pages in... Still trying though. Fascinating actual historical stuff and actual conspiracy theory quoted documentation dating back centuries. The first fictional work, of which I'm aware any way, to tackle Stream of consciousness style from hell! More decipherable than Finnegan's Wake, but how much does that really say?? Keeps switching tense, point-of-view, moves between first person perspective of multiple and conflicting characters over space and time. A real mind fuck and I'm only about 100 pages in... Still trying though. Fascinating actual historical stuff and actual conspiracy theory quoted documentation dating back centuries. The first fictional work, of which I'm aware any way, to tackle the Illuminati theories etc. The authors do so *mostly* tongue-in-cheek.

02/22/2013 Still slogging through it, at about page 220 now. Some amazing research of conspiracy theories but the jumping back and forth between characters and points of view is still dizzying and confusing but so far worthwhile, if slow-going. I see that some of the research done for these books eventually also went into Shea's "All Things are Lights" about the Inquisition's destruction of the Cathars in Languedoc and Templars in the Crusades.

03/05/2013 Now up to page 350-ish and into the 2nd book. Found they had written their own mostly accurate but hilarious review of this triple volume within the first book as something for which the magazine that begins the whole tale is awaiting the submission by the reviewer.

"'It's a dreadfully long monster of a book,' Wildeblood says pettishly, 'and I certainly won't have time to read it but I'm giving it a thorough skimming. The authors are utterly incompetent--no sense of style or structure at all. It starts out as a detective story, switches to science-fiction, then goes off into the supernatural, and is full of the most detailed information of dozens of ghastly boring subjects. And the times sequence is all out of order in the very pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce. Worst yet, it has the most raunchy sex scenes, thrown in just to make it sell, I'm sure, and the authors--whom I've never heard of--have the supreme bad taste to introduce real political figures into this mishmash and pretend to be exposing a real conspiracy. You can be sure I won't waste time reading such rubbish, but I'll have a perfectly devastating review ready for you by tomorrow noon.'" At least somewhat accurate...

James
This book was important to me in high school, and I have fond memories of reading it, but I don't think as highly of it anymore. Although the RAW cult has done its admirable best to have this trilogy canonized as the masterpiece of paranoia, Pynchon got there first with The Crying of Lot 49 and especially with Gravity's Rainbow. Despite its immense humor and learning, the trilogy pales in comparison with Pynchon. Wilson and Shea strive for a "pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce," but the This book was important to me in high school, and I have fond memories of reading it, but I don't think as highly of it anymore. Although the RAW cult has done its admirable best to have this trilogy canonized as the masterpiece of paranoia, Pynchon got there first with The Crying of Lot 49 and especially with Gravity's Rainbow. Despite its immense humor and learning, the trilogy pales in comparison with Pynchon. Wilson and Shea strive for a "pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce," but they only reach the level of Mickey Spillane on LSD, an achievement of a kind. As an Anarchist, I am bound to admire the anti-authoritarian spirit of the book, and the name dropping of Proudhon and others, but Anarchism alone does not a great novel make.

My favorite part of the book is H. P. Lovecraft reminiscing with disdain about Hart Crane's behavior. The rest I can take or leave.
Michael
On one hand, I really dug this series the first time I read it. I've always been a fan of occult conspiracy, and lots of crazy stuff happens, and it IS pretty mind-bending.

On the other hand, when I tried re-reading the series about ten years later, I realised that it's pretty puerile. I probably don't do enough drugs to truly appreciate it.

fnord.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War :: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead :: Hook :: Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life :: Fog Magic
Brimley
I have been reading this book for the past...geez..15 years. Lucky for me I can put a book down, pick it up later and keep at it.

I swear on the eye on a dollar bill I will finish it in the next 15 years!
Valerie
I liked Robert Anton Wilson, he used to get coffee at the shop where I worked, he was addled but nice enough. I tried reading this book, and I didn't like it at all. If you want to read about quasi religious groups and conspiracy theories read Umberto Eco.
Justin
Sometimes it drags on a bit long. Also a bit too racy to read at night. Not particularly illuminating.
B. Rule
I think going back to revisit this book now would be inadvisable, but I'm rating it from the perspective of my teenage self and the influence it had on me at the time and over time.
Texasshole
Like reading LSD. Love it, love it, love it. If you don't love it then get the hell out of my office.
Mike Essig
Explains every mystery in history as well as a few no one has heard of. A conspiracy is just a question without an answer. The answers are all here, true or not.
Matt
Instead of reading this book, consider giving yourself a lobotomy. The result is the same and getting the surgery will be quicker.
John Byrnes
So - this is a bit of a drudge through by modern standards. There's a certain yellowed paperback, decay-smell rhythm to this books that reminds me of now-closed bookstores of my childhood. Borrowing ideas from the occult and secret societies, Robert Shea's Illuminatus Trilogy is pretty good. Not as fun as a Douglas Adams book, but it aged better than either Woody Allen's comedy novels or Dave Berry.
Martin O'
Fond memories of this in my twenties, off beat and humerous, got most of the references and read up on some I didn't. Similar reads, for me anyway, Carlos Castenada, Kurt Vonnegut, W.A. Harbinson Genesis, The Hiram Key Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas.
Derick Vollmer
23% from the end of the book in its own 23 words:

"And then the Hierophant entered and drove a nail of mystery into all their hearts, saying, "You are all elephants!"
Nobody understood him."

The Hierophant, a.k.a. the Pope, card 5 of the Major Arcana = The illuminated Robert A. Wilson himself, a.k.a. Pope Bob

2+3 = 5, the number of strife, chaos, and Discord

We are elephants and this book is not understandable.

5 out of 5 golden apples.
BoBandy
It's an ungodly mess, but a very enjoyable mess. Effectively captures the zeitgeist of the late 60s, early 70s, complete with an all-you-can-eat buffet of rebellion, paranoia, sex, drugs, and rock n roll.
John Robinson
I read my original copy of this so many times that it decayed and is now stored in a watertight box, all annotated and ancient...so I got another copy, and read that into nothing...the electronic version, however, doesn't decay (at least, not physically) and toting it around with you is much easier when it is in this little magic box with all of your other books that would also be taking up room in your bag or whatever you carry books in when you want to read them somewhere other than your libra I read my original copy of this so many times that it decayed and is now stored in a watertight box, all annotated and ancient...so I got another copy, and read that into nothing...the electronic version, however, doesn't decay (at least, not physically) and toting it around with you is much easier when it is in this little magic box with all of your other books that would also be taking up room in your bag or whatever you carry books in when you want to read them somewhere other than your library/book pile. Robert Anton Wilson was a genius who wrote this fucking masterpiece. Read everything he wrote, start with this. Ditto Robert Shea, who also wrote a bunch of historical fiction that is pretty good.
Read this and learn to see the Fnords all around you.
Ryan Starbloak
You can't simply read this book, you have to take it as you would a drug.

Maybe is this is not a book, but a drug you consume. At first it seems to be a detective story and you have no idea what's going on, it keeps shifting POV's but not chapters. Then slowly, it introduces to new ideas through myriad philosophical dialogues, unfolding into a zany plot. There's a non-duality going on here. It gets meta. The book refers to itself. The characters seem to be self-aware.

I didn't like every part of You can't simply read this book, you have to take it as you would a drug.

Maybe is this is not a book, but a drug you consume. At first it seems to be a detective story and you have no idea what's going on, it keeps shifting POV's but not chapters. Then slowly, it introduces to new ideas through myriad philosophical dialogues, unfolding into a zany plot. There's a non-duality going on here. It gets meta. The book refers to itself. The characters seem to be self-aware.

I didn't like every part of this book. But most of the parts I love and think any person who has ever exist should read. This is hilarious philosophy.

The premise is what if every conspiracy theory you can think of was actually true, even the ones that contradicted each other. An idea is presented then knocked down just as fast, but ultimately the author's message is clear in a vague sort of way. I still have some questions after having read it, but Discordianism is the closest thing to truth I've ever come upon, so thanks Roberts.
Sonya Solomonovich
There are many plotlines and characters, and the narrative constantly skips from one thing to another. I think every reader will find at least some plots/characters to like.
I agree with some of the points in this novel, such as the idea that humans are constantly and unnaturally forced into pigeon holes and labels. I like the way one of the main characters, Hagbard Celine, defines himself as neither conservative nor liberal but simply a human being. There is also a cool dolphin and a pint-sized There are many plotlines and characters, and the narrative constantly skips from one thing to another. I think every reader will find at least some plots/characters to like.
I agree with some of the points in this novel, such as the idea that humans are constantly and unnaturally forced into pigeon holes and labels. I like the way one of the main characters, Hagbard Celine, defines himself as neither conservative nor liberal but simply a human being. There is also a cool dolphin and a pint-sized anarchist, which are my favorite characters.
The thing I did not like, but I suppose it can't be helped since the book is somewhat dated, is that female characters had very little agency, aside from being wives or lovers of the male characters. Of course, there is a very important female goddess, but she too is sort of "created" by the male character who masterminds everything.
Aside from that, it's a really fun and crazy ride!
Aron
This book was more confusing than my Neurobiology and Organic Chemistry textbooks put together. While many of the parts were entertaining reading, the book really reads like the authors were taking every single recreational drug possible as they were writing it, with its stream of consicousness, time-traveling, too-long paragraphs/monologues/acid trips/conversations only a pothead could pretend to follow with any comprehension. The conspiracy plots in the book might have more significance for so This book was more confusing than my Neurobiology and Organic Chemistry textbooks put together. While many of the parts were entertaining reading, the book really reads like the authors were taking every single recreational drug possible as they were writing it, with its stream of consicousness, time-traveling, too-long paragraphs/monologues/acid trips/conversations only a pothead could pretend to follow with any comprehension. The conspiracy plots in the book might have more significance for someone who lived in the 60s and 70s as an adult, but they had little to no meaning for me as a child of the 80s and 90s. I wouldn't in good conscience recommend this book to anyone unless you can follow mishmashed plotlines and characters that blend together so much that you don't know which thread of the plot you are following half the time.
Markus Jevring
This is another one of those books you're "supposed" to have read. I made it through the first two parts, and part of the third before giving up. This book is written by an insane person. Sure, it's about conspiracy theories, the illuminati, that's the whole point, I get that, but it's still horrible. I'm just not articulate enough to express my disgust with this piece of crap. If I had to use a single word to describe it would be "exaggerated". Everything in it is just too much. It's like you'd This is another one of those books you're "supposed" to have read. I made it through the first two parts, and part of the third before giving up. This book is written by an insane person. Sure, it's about conspiracy theories, the illuminati, that's the whole point, I get that, but it's still horrible. I'm just not articulate enough to express my disgust with this piece of crap. If I had to use a single word to describe it would be "exaggerated". Everything in it is just too much. It's like you'd take a normal writer, with a normal conspiracy theory book, then lock him in a cell, keep him fed with LSD constantly, and deliver savage beatings to him over a period of ten years. Then you tell him to write the book he had an idea for, and you'll get this book.
Marc Childs
In the running for the best book I have ever read. It would be impossible to explain the book or why, so just pick it up and find out.

"Think for yourself, schmuck"
Steve
I love this book and it is one of those works that addresses itself to you differently at different ages. Contemporary with Gravity's Rainbow, it gives Pynchon a run for his money and covers many of the themes of that novel. It is experimental, shifting perspectives and structuring chapters along Cabalistic lines. It offers an abundance of references that, if run down, will lead to an eccentric Renaissance education. It is also a parody of the kind of conspiratorial thinking that peaked in the l I love this book and it is one of those works that addresses itself to you differently at different ages. Contemporary with Gravity's Rainbow, it gives Pynchon a run for his money and covers many of the themes of that novel. It is experimental, shifting perspectives and structuring chapters along Cabalistic lines. It offers an abundance of references that, if run down, will lead to an eccentric Renaissance education. It is also a parody of the kind of conspiratorial thinking that peaked in the late '90s. All of the fame that has gone to the worst popular writer of our time, Dan Brown, rightfully belongs to the late Robert Anton Wilson and his cowriter, the late Robert Shea. This is a very lysergic read which may not appeal to the more prudish. Can't recommend it highly enough.
Jeff Mayo
What is this? Post-modern science fiction? Satirical conspiracy theory? Both. It's a sex, drugs, rock and roll mystery. The timeline is non-linear. It is told alternately in first and third person narrative, giving you the thoughts, inner voices, and hallucinations of various characters. Those characters include NYC detectives, a reporter, an artificial intelligence, and even a squirrel. There are secret societies, the Kennedy and King assasinations, John Dillinger, Atlantis, numerology, a Cold What is this? Post-modern science fiction? Satirical conspiracy theory? Both. It's a sex, drugs, rock and roll mystery. The timeline is non-linear. It is told alternately in first and third person narrative, giving you the thoughts, inner voices, and hallucinations of various characters. Those characters include NYC detectives, a reporter, an artificial intelligence, and even a squirrel. There are secret societies, the Kennedy and King assasinations, John Dillinger, Atlantis, numerology, a Cold War standoff, a giant single cell sea monster, and history, both real and invented. Some of it is funny. Some of it is interesting. Mostly it is 805 pages of nonsense.
Alleyprowler
When I first read this book in the 90s, I would have given it five stars. It was transgressive, subversive, heretical, anti-establishment, and all that stuff you think is cool when you are young.

Now, I think it's gimmicky, cliched, dated, and rather embarrassing. It does, however, have one redeeming value: It has no good guys or bad guys. Or, rather, the good guys might be the bad guys or the bad guys might be the good guys. There are still no shades of grey (subtlety seems to be beyond Mr. Wils When I first read this book in the 90s, I would have given it five stars. It was transgressive, subversive, heretical, anti-establishment, and all that stuff you think is cool when you are young.

Now, I think it's gimmicky, cliched, dated, and rather embarrassing. It does, however, have one redeeming value: It has no good guys or bad guys. Or, rather, the good guys might be the bad guys or the bad guys might be the good guys. There are still no shades of grey (subtlety seems to be beyond Mr. Wilson's ken), but it does change your perspective enough times during the course of the trilogy that you might begin to question your own judgment.

This might or might not be a good thing. I'll let you decide.

Erik Graff
This trilogy was loaned me by my roommate along with a bunch of other distinctly odd materials. Unlike the others, however, this story is not serious, but plays off long-standing conspiracy theory traditions, primarily those concerning the Illuminati, a short-lived group of Bavarian liberals who attempted to start a progressive movement under the cover of their Bavarian lodges in the eighteenth century.

The story is pretty silly, the writing mediocre, but if you've been into this stuff, this, lik This trilogy was loaned me by my roommate along with a bunch of other distinctly odd materials. Unlike the others, however, this story is not serious, but plays off long-standing conspiracy theory traditions, primarily those concerning the Illuminati, a short-lived group of Bavarian liberals who attempted to start a progressive movement under the cover of their Bavarian lodges in the eighteenth century.

The story is pretty silly, the writing mediocre, but if you've been into this stuff, this, like Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, is a pay-off for all your study. Many of the jokes are arcane.
Dan Audet
I firmly believe (fnord) that this is the greatest book ever written. I have read it 3 or 4 times a year for the past 2 decades, and it never gets old. Every new reading reveals a new joke, a new nuance to the plot, a new parody of James Joyce's writing style.....it's endless fun. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, it'll make you ask questions, it'll give you dutch elm disease, it'll seduce your grandmother, it'll convince you to found your own religion, it'll make you think more than you I firmly believe (fnord) that this is the greatest book ever written. I have read it 3 or 4 times a year for the past 2 decades, and it never gets old. Every new reading reveals a new joke, a new nuance to the plot, a new parody of James Joyce's writing style.....it's endless fun. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, it'll make you ask questions, it'll give you dutch elm disease, it'll seduce your grandmother, it'll convince you to found your own religion, it'll make you think more than you thought you could.

My favorite pun of the book: a character named Joe Malik.
David Beers
Ridiculous, wonderful. This is a chaotic and esoteric book which is rooted in great characters that you will feel as if you know in real life. Seldom has there been a book that operates on so many levels... This book relates a lot of important esoteric knowledge, but never in a direct way. Many "ah-ha!" moments of understanding hide within this insane tale. Did I mention every conspiracy theory you've ever heard of is worked into the plot? Reading this book is essentially like dropping acid.
Albert
I discounted this book as a stoner joke in my youth, but after reading it fully, I've discovered the brilliance and wit that Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson pour forth in this incredible book. A must read for anyone who is asleep to their condition and needs a good laugh while being enlightened to the absurdities and double-binds all around us. Or just read it for fun.
Bill Reese
f'in incredible! can you take a joke? how about a cosmic joke where the joke is... on you? 803 pages and never once bored. i started this book well over 10 years ago but did not finish.. good thing too, as i had no idea how to deal with a guerrilla ontology then, nor would i have seen the humor in the absurdity of it all!
Anton
This compilation makes for one of my favorite books of all time. I read this book many years ago and every once in a while, I pick it up and turn to a random page, and get lost in it. The literary quality of this book is sub-par at best, but I appreciate it for many other reasons. It's guaranteed to open up your mind and cause you to look at the world around you in a different way.
Alex
I wouldn't recommend it and wouldn't read it again. A lot of the pop culture references have not aged well.

The best parts were the meta bits where a book reviewer is making fun of the Illuminatus books. I almost entirely agree with the reviewer. It's almost like they were trying to save the negative reviewers some time.
Chris Herdt
Don't let your friends talk you into reading this! Just because they all have it on their bookshelves doesn't mean it's good.

On the other hand, without this book I may not have become obsessed with flax. So I guess it has that going for it.
Bria
So I happened to read this right when I was developing schizophrenia and dismantling my entire system of belief, so it was pretty exciting and apropros for a while. But then I got laid and stopped caring about the secrets of the universe, so the last hundred pages or so were kinda a drag.
kit
classic RAW. A must for paranoiac social commentary fix.
Brendan
One of my all time favorites. If James Joyce had managed to stay alive well into the 1970s and got real into drugs, this is exactly the book he would write.
Paul
Never fails to entertain, even after multiple readings. The plot is always twisting; the reader is constantly confused and enlightened in turns.
Jeff
My personal bible. Best book I have ever read
Timm
some stimulants might help the reader get through this
Degg Schiller
A colossal mindfuck of a book. I went into this trilogy blind and ended up with a reading experience akin to dropping 10 hits of acid at an aquarium. This book is weird, and it keeps itself going by constantly pushing the envelope of the reader's disbelief. It starts off as a trippy detective story with some gimmicky narration, then snowballs into a all-consuming cosmological cycle that governs its entire universe by the end. To be able to even finish this book, you are tasked to think like a co A colossal mindfuck of a book. I went into this trilogy blind and ended up with a reading experience akin to dropping 10 hits of acid at an aquarium. This book is weird, and it keeps itself going by constantly pushing the envelope of the reader's disbelief. It starts off as a trippy detective story with some gimmicky narration, then snowballs into a all-consuming cosmological cycle that governs its entire universe by the end. To be able to even finish this book, you are tasked to think like a conspiracy theorist. You must see minute consistent elements between scenes that seemingly have no connection until suddenly you remember an offhand joke the narrator kept repeating in a section 200 pages earlier. You must be willing to do research outside of the book, as many critical references require an understanding of exposure to other authors to understand. Actual absurd historical events are mixed among the ones made up for the novel, requiring you to familiarize yourself with periods of history less well known than most.

This is all voluntary though. Because like a real paranoid, you want to see how everything fits together. As compensation for letting the author's go on several page long rants about politics (still somewhat entertaining), they take you on this wild psychedelic journey through space and time. While not extravagant, the writing of this doorstopper manages to flow in such a groovy, mesmerizing way that you soon find yourself experiencing all these crazy adventures alongside these characters. The characters are flimsy are cardboard, but do their job well on actors on the constantly evolving stage of the story. Illuminatus! as a whole amounts to a direct antithesis of Atlas Shrugged, and relentlessly mocks it and Randian philosophy throughout. It marks a distinction by actually making itself pleasant to read.

Because of the sheer size and extent of raunchy content, the few psychonauts who make it to the end of this trilogy rarely have the same conclusions. I actually remember two different elderly women coming up to tell me how it was their favorite book series. Personally, I feel like my own life experiences and previous reads had contributed vastly to what I got out of these books. It was almost like a final exam on all the reading I'd done (both fiction and non-fiction) about topics like fringe politics and economics including a huge chunk of classic science fiction.
Ursula Pflug
This is not so much a review of the trilogy (although it is discussed) as an article about Robert Anton Wilson upon his passing. Why Robert Shea and not RAW is listed as primary author is a deep mystery. The obituary-of-sorts is archived at The IROSF, which is now sadly defunct, although, happily for the reader, everything they published remains online.

http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/1...

March, 2007 : Obituary:

Robert Anton Wilsonby Ursula Pflug

Last year the dwarf planet UB313 almost succee This is not so much a review of the trilogy (although it is discussed) as an article about Robert Anton Wilson upon his passing. Why Robert Shea and not RAW is listed as primary author is a deep mystery. The obituary-of-sorts is archived at The IROSF, which is now sadly defunct, although, happily for the reader, everything they published remains online.

http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/1...

March, 2007 : Obituary:

Robert Anton Wilsonby Ursula Pflug

Last year the dwarf planet UB313 almost succeeded in demoting Pluto from planetary status. By September, in recognition of her boat-rocking character, she received the name Eris, after the Greek goddess. Around the time Eris was named, an aged Robert Anton Wilson was ill, unable to pay his medical bills or for much else. I hope the naming of UB313 gave him a much-needed smile. It is of course, from RAW that many of us heard of Eris in the first place. He popularized both the goddess of discord, and her religion/joke/religion, Illuminatus! Trilogy, co-authored with Robert Shea and first published in 1975.

Lovers of RAW's ideas might insist this was not coincidence, but a cosmic wink from the goddess herself.

He did that too, much before anyone else. The re-discovery of the divine feminine, which by now we�ve all heard so much about we wouldn't mind a change of topic.

But back then, it was new. Remember, this was before new age, and its many and varied re-visionings of the sacred. Wilson�s Eris, was, anyways, a pretty cool goddess, a bit of a brat, more than a little wild. Alanis Morisette�s highly entertaining portrayal of God in the 1999 film Dogma owed more than a little to Wilson's Eris.

It seems strange that there has been little or no mention of his death on any of the SFnal lists or blogs I frequent, for Illuminatus!, while hard to classify, definitely falls under the spec fic rubric. I learned about his death because of a bulletin posted on MySpace by Disinformation, where, as at Boing Boing, he is considered an influential hero. There was little or no mention made in the mainstream press either, beyond a brief New York Times obit. It is only at Boing Boing that there are several posts by Mark Freuenfelder about RAW's illness, his need for financial help (which came) and finally, his passing in January. Freuenfelder goes so far as to call him the patron saint of Boing Boing, and, indeed, RAW was a frequent contributor back in the day when it was still a print operation.

Illuminatus! is a conspiracy novel about, well, almost everything, and, unlike so many trilogies, actually fills its hundreds upon hundreds of pages, and not just with repetitions of what happened before, or pointless info-dumping. It's smart, it's funny, it makes you wonder whether even a few of its author's multitudinous tongue-in-cheek conspiracy theories might have some small basis in fact. Indeed, it was a book ahead of its time.

Science fiction writers are supposed to ask the next question. That's their job. Nowadays, so few do. This might account, partially, for the oft-bemoaned greying of the readership. Young people are young, lest we forget. They like asking difficult questions, not because they expect answers, but because the questions are, well, there. Will anyone write an Illuminatus! for today's kids?

And what is the question?

What is reality made of?

P.K. Dick asked this question over and over. So did Wilson. The trilogy was followed by the just-as-famous memoir, which apparently garnered Wilson more mail than all his other books combined. The Cosmic Trigger is irreverent, exploratory, sometimes embarrassing, sometimes hard to believe, in short all the things an honest exposition of spiritual adventure ought to be. And writers don't flock to it either, as they ought.

In Trigger, Wilson describes some very strange things that happened to him during the course of, and following the writing of Illuminatus! I've been at enough writers' gatherings where, late in the night, secret confessions come out. You write something and something an awful lot like it happens. If not to you, then to someone close by. You meet someone who resembles one of your characters too closely for comfort. There is this sense that, at times, writers are actually playing with causality.

Poking it, just a little, with a thankfully very long stick.

The strange things that happen to Wilson are particularly odd, which is not surprising considering his conjoined subject matter of conspiracy theory and spiritual quest. Trigger's premise is that reality is both mutable and plural, and that there are techniques by which the psychonaut is able to breach the boundaries between realities. Of course, the idea of a multi-verse has increasingly received more than a passing nod from science.

Most interestingly, in his introduction, Wilson points out that the content of Trigger is very similar to that of PK Dick's thinly disguised autobiographical novel Valis, as well as that of Doris Lessing's The Sirian Experiments, and that he discussed this synchronicity with both writers. I've meant to read Valis for at least a decade, and now have renewed motivation.

Just for fun, this excerpted from RAW's home page, under About Wilson's Works:

The Chinese lifeform seldom secretly admires a demon near the fairy. Wilson believes that the illuminatus about a movie theater knows the dystopian eggplant, but he also considers how feverishly another psychedelic subGenius hides. A homo Sapiens related to some geodesic dome, a radioactive CEO, and a non-chalantly temporal wife are the keys to illumination. When Wilson describes the grizzly bear of a wife, it means that a non-Euclidian Emotional Plague procrastinates. Wilson further extrapolates, the sexist dolphin takes a coffee break, and a subGenius usually buries a Catholic trickster.
And beneath it:

Reload this page to get a slightly different essay.
Eris would approve.
I repeat: Wilson died poor, having, in his final days, to appeal to his fans for help with the rent. Why is this still happening to once lionized writers? And especially, and most sadly, to writers as intelligent, funny and mind-fucking as RAW?

A memorial to the man's life and work was held on Sunday, February 18, in Santa Cruz. The money from tickets was donated to Amnesty International.

Good on ya, Bob.

Copyright 2007, Ursula Pflug. All Rights Reserved.

Ursula Pflug is author of the novel "Green Music" and the story collection "After The Fires." She is also a journalist, produced playwright and creative writing instructor.
Michael Cook Jr.
Wow. This was heavy. I came to RAW by way of Grant Morrison, who is one of my favorite writers, talking about his work in interviews. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was clear to me very early on that RAW is a visible influence on Morrison. From the integration of Lovecraft mythos into stories, the super non linear story telling, metaphysics, etc.

That said, this is was a fantastic book if not an easy read. Its funny as hell. I came to it with a pretty well rounded knowledge of conspiracy t Wow. This was heavy. I came to RAW by way of Grant Morrison, who is one of my favorite writers, talking about his work in interviews. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was clear to me very early on that RAW is a visible influence on Morrison. From the integration of Lovecraft mythos into stories, the super non linear story telling, metaphysics, etc.

That said, this is was a fantastic book if not an easy read. Its funny as hell. I came to it with a pretty well rounded knowledge of conspiracy theories presented as non-fiction, which Illuminatus takes the piss out of in a tongue in cheek manner. It was funny as hell. Some of the bizarre concepts had me laughing out loud, mostly because I know RAW was kinda trolling. In a 1970s way.

Once I got acclimated with the non-linear style, which took a while, the story flowed better, but the momentum would get killed out of nowhere...that's my only real criticism. You get invested in a character or plot thread, and then are immediately taken out of that moment and thrown elsewhere. I get it though. I think that was the point. For it to feel like an acid trip and/or space-time bending.

I'm going to Shrodinger's Cat next, but might need a more...regular book to come down from this trip with.
Geoff
Bit of an odd one, this. I have decades of experience of the books, just about everyone I know has read them and the themes are constantly quoted all around the place in half-joking asides, yet I never got around to reading them.

So, I figured it was about time I did. And I'm sorry to say they were a bit of a disappointment.

I think that had I read them when I was 18, I too would have been entranced and thought they were brilliant. But reading them now, I found the writing style extremely irritati Bit of an odd one, this. I have decades of experience of the books, just about everyone I know has read them and the themes are constantly quoted all around the place in half-joking asides, yet I never got around to reading them.

So, I figured it was about time I did. And I'm sorry to say they were a bit of a disappointment.

I think that had I read them when I was 18, I too would have been entranced and thought they were brilliant. But reading them now, I found the writing style extremely irritating.

In the end I just sort of settled in and let the story flow over me, but I suspect that in doing so I missed a lot of the cleverness and depth that is undoubtedly there.

Oh, well. Entertaining enough, but not the great work of literature I was expecting. I feel a bit mean giving it three stars, on another day I might have stretched to four, but there you have it.
Rick Bavera
I started this book, and got about 100 pages into it. I decided it was time to stop. To quit wasting my time. There are too many worthwhile books to read. Books that I will enjoy. Or learn things from.

This book is classified various places as science fiction. I don't see it that way, but who am I to say?

Book cover calls it "a designated underground classic." That should have been another sign for me. Classics and I very often do not get along.

The book is disjointed--it jumps around from place I started this book, and got about 100 pages into it. I decided it was time to stop. To quit wasting my time. There are too many worthwhile books to read. Books that I will enjoy. Or learn things from.

This book is classified various places as science fiction. I don't see it that way, but who am I to say?

Book cover calls it "a designated underground classic." That should have been another sign for me. Classics and I very often do not get along.

The book is disjointed--it jumps around from place to place, from time to time, from person to person or viewpoint to viewpoint. Other books do that. But this one does it in a way that makes any kind of sense or any kind of logical, understandable, follow-able story. At least for me.

It is NOT worth my valuable time. Nor of much of anyone else's. In my opinion, of course.
Eric Wojciechowski
Got to page two hundred or so and had to call it quits. Damn, is this a frustrating read. Seems a hundred characters are all talking over and through each other. I couldn't keep straight who was talking to who or in who's perspective. If there's a good story here, it's lost in the writing style.

Perhaps this was ahead of its time and I'm a late comer, already geared with some of the details, but every conspiracy theory and alternative fact that's been around for a hundred years is thrown in to th Got to page two hundred or so and had to call it quits. Damn, is this a frustrating read. Seems a hundred characters are all talking over and through each other. I couldn't keep straight who was talking to who or in who's perspective. If there's a good story here, it's lost in the writing style.

Perhaps this was ahead of its time and I'm a late comer, already geared with some of the details, but every conspiracy theory and alternative fact that's been around for a hundred years is thrown in to this novel. Combine this with the jumbled writing style and...sigh. Lost.
Andy
As much as an influence as Robert Anton Wilson has had on me I had never read Illuminatus until now. The problems I had with it in my 20's are the same ones I have here where the dialog is rambling and the book skips around to what feels like dozens of story lines at random. While there is a story here, the book it more a collection of moments narrowing down to paragraphs and sometimes sentences that stand along from the overall work.
Karen Sesek
I read the whole thing for our book club. I still do not get it. I think the humor was just very dated. It seemed very meandering. And the point at the end was still unclear. However, it has a great deal of fans who love this book and other writing by Shea, including a very intelligent friend of mine. But it definitely was just not my cup of tea.
Ian Ross
2 stars. Sometimes engaging, clever, and entertaining. More often nonsensical and indecipherable. Just not my kind of book. Satire I didn't always get. Endless avalanche of references I didn't have the interest to research and fully appreciate. Appendices may have tied it all together a bit, but it was hard enough getting through all 3 books.
Khaled Al-Khawaja
I've read this book once, and tried to reread it several times. It really is not a light read, until you decide that you're fed up with trying to figure out the reality or fiction behind every word and stop tryna memorize all the characters and events. It might help you tune into certain chaotic reality or illuminated tunnels.
Jacktastic
Skip it.

A gargantuan read, which can really be fun at its best, but, ultimately, is carrying too much irrelevant baggage and feels extremely dated in a "that didn't translate well" sort of way. You'll find yourself becoming quickly exhausted with the material. Also, the self-reflective, fourth wall-breaking humor in the book also comes across as random and sudden.
Matthew
This went from amusing to annoying really fast. I was already familiar with most of the concepts the book discusses and learned nothing new. Had I read this 25 years ago, I no doubt would have enjoyed it much more. Now it just seems dated and juvenile. There were some good moments but overall it was too muddled and corny for my taste.
Phillip Munoz
I've read everything Robert Anton Wilson has written, but none are as dear to my heart as the first in the series that will make a reader question the rope that hangs them. From the Golden Apple to the submarine to the acts of subversion, I loved this book wholeheartedly.
Urbain
Absolutely unreadable... I actually didn't finish it.
Tortilija
This book is a trip and not always a good one.

"Sophisticated readers will quickly recognize this monumental miscarriage as a fairy tale for paranoids."
Chris Starr
It's so bad I couldn't finish the whole trilogy. The first book was torture enough. So, while finishing "The Eye of the Pyramid", I simply cannot move forward to the other two books in the trilogy.
Samantha
It started off as being funny but within the first five pages, the point of view and narrative were all over the place. I'd rather read Terry Pratchett.
Matthew Thompson
we trippy mane

high concept, fun to read, mostly enjoyable, but i was very much left with a "nothing new under the sun" feeling...
Diana Trimble
This is one of the most profoundly influential books I've ever read, personally, and likewise its impact on post-modern pop culture cannot be overstated. I actually think this book should be required reading in high school, except then of course that would take all the subversive fun out of it. But at least it would help prevent people from jumping on bandwagons like David Icke's shape-shifting lizards and they would hopefully stop posting comments on Youtube about how everything from the stupid This is one of the most profoundly influential books I've ever read, personally, and likewise its impact on post-modern pop culture cannot be overstated. I actually think this book should be required reading in high school, except then of course that would take all the subversive fun out of it. But at least it would help prevent people from jumping on bandwagons like David Icke's shape-shifting lizards and they would hopefully stop posting comments on Youtube about how everything from the stupid UK royal wedding to Spears videos are really bloodletting rituals for the Illuminati. The vast majority of people out there have no idea that the only reason they have ever even heard of "the Illuminati" is because of this book!

I happened to have had an early start with it as my super-hip parents took me to see the live, 9 hour, stage production (featuring full frontal nudity) at the Roundhouse in London when I was about ten years old. Finding the paperbacks on the shelves 3 years later, I immediately decided to read the books which I found completely addictive and fascinating. Within a year I'd taken acid for the first time, featuring a Warhol-esque picture of Timothy Leary's lips, and it wasn't long after that I met Leary himself! I ended up knowing him right up to his death and even sang at his memorial service in SF. It was very apt to me that at Leary's LA memorial (he couldn't have just one) I ultimately met and shook the hand of Robert Anton Wilson, who was then quite ill himself. I wish I'd had a chance to tell him this:

My interest in psychedelia and research, which have led me into some of the most fascinating friendships, situations and discoveries, were both triggered by the Illuminatus trilogy as was my extremely robust suspicion of absolutely anybody who claims to think they REALLY know what's going on! This is a very healthy perspective to have by the way.

So as someone who has for over 35 years been in on the joke regarding seemingly odd appearances of the number 23, is long familiar with using the word "fnord" in conversation, has gleefully posted anonymous signs in public spaces signed "the mgt", fantasized about living on a yellow submarine with the Discordians, and even prayed to Eris; who fully understands where the entertainment world's seemingly random obsession with 6 foot tall humanoid rabbits comes from (now seen in everything from the film Donny Darko to UK TV shows Misfits and Utopia), and further understands the intrinsic connection of this book to the psychedelic visionaries of the 60s and 70s, I find it sad that so many people have a) not read this book and thus are unaware of the lineage of a phenomenal number of cultural signposts and reference points; and b) have not taken acid either.

Wilson continued his trend for bringing things out of his own subconscious and into popular awareness with his next masterpiece, Schrodinger's Cat, which I can guarantee is the number one reason anybody outside of theoretical physics knows what Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is.

Ignore any reviews written by people who admit they didn't finish the book.
Alan
‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’ is one heck of a difficult book to review. There’s really no other word to describe it than “insane”. Within the space of a single paragraph, it can go from “masterpiece” to “mess”, then back full circle. The writing style, which regularly changes timeframes and perspectives, sometimes even within a single sentence, is reflective of the mind boggling philosophy that the two Roberts who authored this book were trying to convey. If you have an open mind, it would be very ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’ is one heck of a difficult book to review. There’s really no other word to describe it than “insane”. Within the space of a single paragraph, it can go from “masterpiece” to “mess”, then back full circle. The writing style, which regularly changes timeframes and perspectives, sometimes even within a single sentence, is reflective of the mind boggling philosophy that the two Roberts who authored this book were trying to convey. If you have an open mind, it would be very difficult for you to be able to read this book without looking at life slightly differently by the time you finished.

The book begins innocuously enough as a detective story which soon plunges into the realm of conspiracy theory. Although such subjects have become common fiction motifs in recent years, with the likes of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ series dominating their respective entertainment spheres, the Roberts were the ones who paved the way. Robert Anton Wilson has said that the idea for this ‘Illuminatus!’ came about when he and co-author, Robert Shea, wondered what it would be like if every single one of these crazy, far out, contradictory conspiracy theories were actually true. The opening chapter suggests a conspiracy detective novel that’s knee-deep in facts and historical research, citing quotes and drawing on first-hand sources from the Bavarian Illuminati themselves and earlier. However, once the globe-trotting conservative bandits and their talking porpoise friends appear in the story, all bets are off, and you no longer know what’s “real” and what might be complete nonsense.

‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’ is highly entertaining and immensely thought-provoking. It’s a cult classic that truly deserves wider recognition. However, it isn’t perfect. It didn’t need to be as long as it is, and the Roberts do have a tendency to drag out the psycho-babble though, much to their credit, they’re also very quick to point fun at themselves along the way. Another slight glitch that I found with this book is that you shouldn’t really think of it as a “trilogy”. It was never actually designed to be released as three separate books, and reading it as such can be deceiving. I found this when I finished reading the first book, ‘The Eye in the Pyramid’, and decided to take a break and read something else before going back to the second book, ‘The Golden Apple’ (you can’t be forgiven for wanting a break after reading something so insane). On original publication, each book had a recap section at the start. Without these sections, I found myself completely lost coming back in. This is a minor problem, and one that was my own fault more than anything else, but it’s a fair warning for anyone coming to this series for the first time.
Van
Despite what some other people have said about this book, it's completely worth it. Obviously, if you're interested in reading it, you've decided to look up other people's reviews of it, and to see if that many people really think it's "life-changing" and as crazy of a writer as James Joyce was. I've never actually read any of Joyce's work, but I definitely will be soon, and primarily because of this book. I'd say if you're curious about religious or spiritual ideas like Kabbalah, anything perta Despite what some other people have said about this book, it's completely worth it. Obviously, if you're interested in reading it, you've decided to look up other people's reviews of it, and to see if that many people really think it's "life-changing" and as crazy of a writer as James Joyce was. I've never actually read any of Joyce's work, but I definitely will be soon, and primarily because of this book. I'd say if you're curious about religious or spiritual ideas like Kabbalah, anything pertaining to Aleister Crowley, H.P. Lovecraft, Joyce, William S. Burroughs, the stream-of-consciousness group like Faulkner, Woolf, Stein, Joyce, etc., enjoy being incredibly vulgar or ridiculous (and cunt is a commonly used word for you), or just really love learning then this book is for you. As other people have noted, it's also really fun to look up any combination of the various quotes, referenced characters, sayings, etc. because while I never would have heard of half of them (like a good portion of the people the Roberts list while describing the five stages of Discordianism and corresponding trips (to the book's structure)).

Primarily, I saw it as a primer for the Discordian way of thinking; primarily, to be skeptical of all things, not just what you are told, but also anything and everything you read, see, touch, feel, etc.-reality, as well as everything else. There was a certain point about 5 or 6 years ago when I realized that most great works of art-be they albums, books, movies, paintings, sculptures, poems, narratives, etc.-are achieved by blending the similarities between reality and surreality, and this book takes that point to an absurdity, as one would expect. The constantly shifting narrative does get a bit old after a while, mainly because it's incredibly difficult to follow at points, and I felt as though there were definitely reasons why the Roberts switched to different characters at different times that were mostly unknown to me. However, this book will definitely always remain as one of my favorites, due to the reasons previously listed, and also because things that I don't understand fascinate me, and I didn't understand a lot of this book, but it was incredibly great at most moments for its hilarity, vulgarity and generally as a giant informal encyclopedia of information.
Garrett Zecker
This book takes you into the paranoid world of a large cast of characters bent on rising up against the forces of the Illuminati conspiracy that surrounds us all. As a humming underground sect, fueled by endless money and drugs, the underground champions fight against them for the freedom of thought and action of every world citizen.
I read this heavy volume several times in my life, and every time I do, I realize something else about my world that is disturbing and troubling, and with good reas This book takes you into the paranoid world of a large cast of characters bent on rising up against the forces of the Illuminati conspiracy that surrounds us all. As a humming underground sect, fueled by endless money and drugs, the underground champions fight against them for the freedom of thought and action of every world citizen.
I read this heavy volume several times in my life, and every time I do, I realize something else about my world that is disturbing and troubling, and with good reason. The two authors of this text approached writing it while they were editors of Playboy. Uncertain of the implications of many of the letters asking about the truth behind conspiracies of the world, legend says one of the authors mentioned to the other that it would be really interesting if they wrote a book about one of them being true. The other, apparently with a stroke of genius, responded it would be really cool if they wrote a book with the stance that they all were true.
This book is an awakening experience that shakes the very foundations of our modern society (whether you believe any of it or not), calling into question religion, consumerism, public safety, government, and above all, freedom. The text accuses so many of so many things that, by the end, you are believing it yourself and wanting to engage in the resistance's acts of sex, drugs, and violence to finally set your mind free.
I suggest anyone read this book a few times in their life They may find it an entertainment once (as I did in Junior High School), an awakening another time, and a sarcastic rant of the absolute ridiculousness of society and its structure as a whole. Predating these questions far before the Matrix philosophy, this book is an intricate realistic view that so many writers have tried to tackle, from the greats that discuss it in books like The Chalice and the Blade (which is a testament to the book's well researched aspects), to the poor such as the DaVinci Code.
A great read, I recommend this highly, but give yourself a good month to digest it, and take your time. One reading is not nearly enough.
By the time you are done, you will see fnords everywhere, and grok them quite proficiently.
Sosen
The Illuminatus Trilogy is basically Robert Anton Wilson's philosophy of life, mixed in with absurd and hilarious conspiracy theories; graphic sex scenes; an epic battle between good and evil; and, to be honest, a lot of stuff that was so densely weird that I didn't understand it at all, but entertained me greatly. To describe The Illuminatus Trilogy in any less grand terms than that, would be to undermine its Pynchon-like scope and ambition.

The Illuminatus Trilogy consists of a broad mix of rid The Illuminatus Trilogy is basically Robert Anton Wilson's philosophy of life, mixed in with absurd and hilarious conspiracy theories; graphic sex scenes; an epic battle between good and evil; and, to be honest, a lot of stuff that was so densely weird that I didn't understand it at all, but entertained me greatly. To describe The Illuminatus Trilogy in any less grand terms than that, would be to undermine its Pynchon-like scope and ambition.

The Illuminatus Trilogy consists of a broad mix of ridiculous events (acid trips, sex scenes, sea monsters, fake deaths, etc.) with a moderate helping of philosophy--which, although quite bizarre and often a little too 1960's, is very thought-provoking. The scorching commentaries on government are still fresh almost forty years later.

More than being epic or deep, this book is silly. Anyone who takes religion, politics, or art seriously... Well, they should at least try to read it, to see if it helps them lighten up. My roommate, a faithful democrat and apparently believer in the U.S. government, was not amused by some of the quotes I read to him out of this book. (I'm sure he would enjoy it if he gave it a chance.)

The concept of the Illuminati doesn't appear to be something that the authors take very seriously; it's simply the engine that drives a fun story. The social commentary and philosophy aren't always a perfect compliment to the plot. But the anti-government diatribes are what the book really seems to be about. The story ends with about 50 pages left; the appendix is (what appears to be the author's) philosophy of government, and it is captivating; some parts, I would even call mind-blowing.

The writing isn't particuarly strong; in fact, it would be easy to make a list of flaws in this novel. But that would be missing the point. Wilson and Shea were aiming to be overwhelmingly weird and confusing and funny (and even scary, if you're gullible like me). It's much too enjoyable to worry about how well it's written.

Other reviewers have said The Illuminatus Trilogy has great re-read value. I don't doubt it one bit. I almost want to read it again right now; and I envy myself several years from now when I pick this book up again!
Bob German
This review references the audiobook version of this colossal piece of work. Virtually every conspiracy theory you've ever heard of, and many you haven't, is represented here. I missed having this book in my life. I read it back in the day, when I was young and impressionable (as opposed to now, when I am older and still just as impressionable) and it clearly affected me, flotsam and jetsam from it, as processed by my pineal gland, ended up in my own zine, which is now my own book. The zine surv This review references the audiobook version of this colossal piece of work. Virtually every conspiracy theory you've ever heard of, and many you haven't, is represented here. I missed having this book in my life. I read it back in the day, when I was young and impressionable (as opposed to now, when I am older and still just as impressionable) and it clearly affected me, flotsam and jetsam from it, as processed by my pineal gland, ended up in my own zine, which is now my own book. The zine survived my first marriage, but after the first marriage fell into the sea, the relationship which became my second marriage left little room for such things, and ... it's as if i went to sleep for a number of years. When I woke up, I was still married, but father to two teenagers, a bit creaky in the joints, and just beginning to gray. I started right where I left off so many years ago -- I took my ancient zine and published a retrospective volume, and then delved immediately back into Illuminatus! for guidance, direction, inspiration, fuel, and stimulation (law of fives).

Aside from being an entirely satisfying set of plots and subplots, especially for someone who's at least partly schooled in the many disciplines which are approached therein (conspiracy theory, religion, mythology, freemasonry, occultism, sex magick, psychedelic drugs, and much, much more), Illuminatus! can serve as a Herculean resource for further research. I don't remember whether the printed volume contained a bibliography, but if it does, one could create a perfectly valid education by simply following up on all of the works referenced in the book. Crowley, Lovecraft, Machen, Regardie, the John Birch Society, and so much more... A perfect starting point to the education of the well-rounded paranoid.

If you've dabbled, go back and start over. If you've read it, but it's been a decade or three, go back and do it all over again. If you're just starting out on your journey, don't forget the popcorn -- and a GUN. Strap in, it's going to be a hell of a ride!
Emerson
The 805 (805 divided by 23 equals 35--the significance is evident) pages from cover to cover are the most dangerous weapon in all existence, and only someone as irresponsible as myself should ever attempt to read it. It is clear that the book, like most large pentagonal structures, was not meant for what it looks like, but as a containment vessel for a terrible, arcane power.

That said, taking the following five precautionary steps will make reading the book more revealing and avoid an imminent The 805 (805 divided by 23 equals 35--the significance is evident) pages from cover to cover are the most dangerous weapon in all existence, and only someone as irresponsible as myself should ever attempt to read it. It is clear that the book, like most large pentagonal structures, was not meant for what it looks like, but as a containment vessel for a terrible, arcane power.

That said, taking the following five precautionary steps will make reading the book more revealing and avoid an imminent eminent Immanentization of the Eschaton:

Step one: Write a letter to 23 American senators of your choosing, notarized and sent in penticate, urging them to pass unto law the flax standard over the current currency standard.

Step two: Procure a large chalkboard. There are two reasons for this. The book will be best understood if you annotate the timelines and characters as you go, which is a lot cheaper and easier than wearing three separate watches. Also, it provides a reason to procure and a place to store chalk.

Step three: Never whistle while you're pissing.

Step four: Before beginning the days reading, warm up and stretch accordingly. Draw a pentagram on the floor with a piece of chalk and place the book in the center. Following the left-hand path, begin by standing on one leg with your right foot on the bottom-most point of the pentagram. Evoke Goddess with the phrase "Hail Eris, All Hail Discordia!" or an appropriate substitute phrase, and then hop anticlockwise, crossing your left foot over and in front of your right foot, landing on the next point of the pentagram on one leg. Repeat in this fashion the whole way around. Should you lose your balance and touch the ground with anything other than one foot at a time, retreat to a safe distance and try again tomorrow. Should you succeed, assume the lotus position in the center of the pentagram with the book on your lap.

Step five: Imbibe the appropriate amount of LSD and begin reading.
Linda Isakson
This is one of the messiest pieces of whatever I've ever attempted to read! I've read "The Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy" and did not find it to be nearly as unintelligible as this trilogy. I couldn't get beyond "The Eye in the Pyramid" before having to simply give up altogether. If it takes a certain type of brain power to follow the chaotic narrative, then obviously I lack that particular gift. The narrative not only switches between characters without warning, but flashes back, forward, to the si This is one of the messiest pieces of whatever I've ever attempted to read! I've read "The Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy" and did not find it to be nearly as unintelligible as this trilogy. I couldn't get beyond "The Eye in the Pyramid" before having to simply give up altogether. If it takes a certain type of brain power to follow the chaotic narrative, then obviously I lack that particular gift. The narrative not only switches between characters without warning, but flashes back, forward, to the side, goes on a drug-induced hallucination, then flashes back to the present. I swear I got whiplash because I was always a half-step behind the text trying to figure out what's going on while the rollercoaster keep pushing forward without showing the curves ahead.

As far as I could understand, this story is about some cops trying to investigate the bombing of a conspiracy-theorist magazines' headquarters. The editor of the magazine is missing and one of the reporters was arrested on drug charges. They find various memos with information about different organizations and their relationship to history. Whatever happens after that, I have no idea. Simply couldn't follow. Perhaps if I were drunk it'd make more sense.

I wanted to read this because it's listed on various sites as the precursor to "The Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy" and because it is supposedly the ultimate conspiracy book...of course I couldn't let a little gem like that pass without investigating. But, I didn't realize this was a Joyceian stream of consciousness narrative with punctuation. Maybe I'll wait until they make a translated version for the lay people.
Cranky Dragon
I have been slogging my way through this one for nearly 2 months. I made it about 250 pages and just the thought of trying to keep going through all 800 pages is frankly exhausting.

I can sort of see why people consider it a cult classic. It has a ... Let's go with "unique" style, but maybe I don't do enough drugs to appreciate it. It seems like a book that would be a lot more profound when you're high.

In the 250 pages I did read, I could not keep any of the characters straight. They all seemed I have been slogging my way through this one for nearly 2 months. I made it about 250 pages and just the thought of trying to keep going through all 800 pages is frankly exhausting.

I can sort of see why people consider it a cult classic. It has a ... Let's go with "unique" style, but maybe I don't do enough drugs to appreciate it. It seems like a book that would be a lot more profound when you're high.

In the 250 pages I did read, I could not keep any of the characters straight. They all seemed interchangeable and I had no sense of them as individuals. Only named cut-outs to make it easier to convey the weird ideas. I have no particular interest in conspiracy theories, so that aspect of the book was lost on me. I knew the book was heavy into the conspiracy theories going in, but I thought--hoped that the story might carry me through. I couldn't really say there was a "story" to follow either. It seriously felt like a really random and disjointed lecture on conspiracies.

Oddly enough, the abrupt jumps in character, timeline, plotlines, and tangents didn't bother me at all. I could follow the jumps in topic pretty easily, but perhaps this is just how my disjointed and random mind operates normally.

My final verdict is: *sigh* if you're into conspiracy theories, then you might want to give it a shot. If you're into really bizarre science fiction, then you might want to give it a shot. But as with most cult classics, it's a matter of taste. I'm not going to waste anymore valuable reading time on this one.
Dana Jerman
The most challenging and pervasively perverse and hilarious 800 page treatise I've the pleasure of engaging in (relatively blindly) in a while. I feel like, if I can read this and stay along for the ride, even if I didn't "pick up" everything along the way, then I can definitely read joyce's Ulysses, (which I wanted to read anyway, and is referenced in the trilogy.)

Wilson's death just preceded my reading of the book, (the best of which happened when drunk, obviously enuf, being a drug-infested O The most challenging and pervasively perverse and hilarious 800 page treatise I've the pleasure of engaging in (relatively blindly) in a while. I feel like, if I can read this and stay along for the ride, even if I didn't "pick up" everything along the way, then I can definitely read joyce's Ulysses, (which I wanted to read anyway, and is referenced in the trilogy.)

Wilson's death just preceded my reading of the book, (the best of which happened when drunk, obviously enuf, being a drug-infested OUI volume) and as he was (and I presume his family also) relatively poor in his old age (not sure what he died from) I hope then the purchase of the copy I currently own (and am somewhat relictant to lend out for whatever reason) went to covering his burial/medical costs.

As for the book, its a little bit Pynchon (who is also mentioned: "DEATH: Don't ever antagonize the horn" in crying of Lot 49) in that there really isn't a mystery at first so much, except for a missing detective, then the end offers up the potential for discovery of further conspiratorial dealings and further reading if one is inclined (great index they have at the end.)

Lots of sex and sex magic and the numerological implications of everything (5=6) esp. as regards time and space and traditional modes of intergalactic transport (more drugs to be sure- advocating peyote and LSD... I am natch more intrigued now with the idea of consuming these narcotic/psychologically altering substances.)
Mortalform
A trip of a book, really enjoyed the first half of the Eye in the Pyramid and then it was a bit much. May revisit one day.
"Libertarian women are good fucks, because they know what they want, and what they want they like a lot." p79

"If you work within the system, you come to one of the either/or choices that were implicit in the system from the beginning." p86

"This was a public park until they changed the definition. Now, the guns habe changed the Reality. It isn't a public park. There's more th A trip of a book, really enjoyed the first half of the Eye in the Pyramid and then it was a bit much. May revisit one day.
"Libertarian women are good fucks, because they know what they want, and what they want they like a lot." p79

"If you work within the system, you come to one of the either/or choices that were implicit in the system from the beginning." p86

"This was a public park until they changed the definition. Now, the guns habe changed the Reality. It isn't a public park. There's more than one kind of magic." p150

Consciousness is present in the living body, even in one that is apparently unconscious. Unconsciousness is not the absence of consciousness. but its temporary immobility. It is not a state resembling death, It is not like death at all. Once the necessary complexity of brain-cell interconnections is reached, substantial energy relationships are set up. These can exist independently of the material base that brought them into being. p242

"To arrive at a cultural turning point were you decide that all human conduct can be classified in one of two categories, good and evil, is what creates all sin - plus anxiety, hatred, guilt, depression, all the peculiarly human emotions. And, of course, such a classification is the very antithesis of creativity. To the creative mind there is no right or wrong. Every action is an experiment, and every experiment yields its fruit in knowledge..." p 248
Oswaldo The
It was decent. The sense of humor in the book was its best attribute. It made me laugh more than most books do and that's what kept me reading. The philosophy expressed was also more complex and meaningful than I would have expected, the themes worked well and it is a good example of how to write on a large scale.
That said, it was extremely painful to get through. The book is narrated by an omniscient spire of intelligence in a fractured style, moving from thread to thread sometimes in the middl It was decent. The sense of humor in the book was its best attribute. It made me laugh more than most books do and that's what kept me reading. The philosophy expressed was also more complex and meaningful than I would have expected, the themes worked well and it is a good example of how to write on a large scale.
That said, it was extremely painful to get through. The book is narrated by an omniscient spire of intelligence in a fractured style, moving from thread to thread sometimes in the middle of paragraphs. There are also a LOT of characters, which, when combined with the style of writing, make it difficult to keep up with. For a book I figured would be a fun, lowbrow summer read, it took a lot of attention to keep up with. To a certain extent, the style of narrating added a little to the humor and would have been perfectly fine in a much shorter book but it was mostly just a hindrance for an 800 page one like this. The way they fit all of their themes together with the conspiracies they were building and the interweaving of the two was well done, the reading experience is my only real complaint.
I would recommend it if you liked the Hitchhiker's Guide and were looking for something similar but harder to read or if the idea of a stream of consciousness fantasy novel intrigues you, or if you are looking for some hippie/stoner philosophy that doesn't make you role your eyes. Expect a hard time slogging through hundreds of pages sometimes though.
Ed
I think calling this my favourite book might be a bit of a step too far, it's not critically acclaimed or even particularly well written, at least apparently. It's not really a book it just wears that to fool you.

I was struggling as what to put in the review space and i see that other people have had trouble too. It's not necessarily that the narrative is difficult to follow, or that there are too many characters or organisations, though a pen and paper may come in handy. It's more that each cha I think calling this my favourite book might be a bit of a step too far, it's not critically acclaimed or even particularly well written, at least apparently. It's not really a book it just wears that to fool you.

I was struggling as what to put in the review space and i see that other people have had trouble too. It's not necessarily that the narrative is difficult to follow, or that there are too many characters or organisations, though a pen and paper may come in handy. It's more that each chapter seems to take the story in a different direction and not some kind of Dan Brown new direction but much more feeling like the state of play has changed.

As a bit of background I understand the two Roberts (authors)got hold of a load of letters that conspiracy theorists had written into their magazine and attempted to write a novel in which all of them are true. Even the contradictory ones and that is where the door is opened to a health dose of discordianism - a sort of parody religion but with it's own merits, the belief in chaos and contradictory ideas, which is referenced heavily in the book - along with JFK, numerology, MC5, lovecraft.

So you have something silly & ridiculous, which is made up of individual sections people believe in, with the message that things aren't necessarily wrong just can be looked at in two ways. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but can see that it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea.
Aydin Mohseni
The "Illuminatus! Trilogy" lacked two of the qualities which I love most in any book, or work of art for that matter - simplicity of form, and mastery of craft. The style of the book was campy, it's general exploration of depth superfical, it could have stood to be an order of magnitude more tightley constructed in both plot and prose, Shea and Wilson likely wrote it once through intoxicated a goodly portion of the time, and I absolutely loved it.

I loved it because it's a book that is laughing a The "Illuminatus! Trilogy" lacked two of the qualities which I love most in any book, or work of art for that matter - simplicity of form, and mastery of craft. The style of the book was campy, it's general exploration of depth superfical, it could have stood to be an order of magnitude more tightley constructed in both plot and prose, Shea and Wilson likely wrote it once through intoxicated a goodly portion of the time, and I absolutely loved it.

I loved it because it's a book that is laughing at its self the whole way through,
and because it's laughing at and playing with you the whole way through,
and because I believe it accomplished its intended goal beautifully.

That is, behind and between the stream of conciousness writing in near style-less prose,
frantically knitting together rococco collages of various esoteric world-views,
and the rampant name-dropping Joyce, Lovecraft, Pound, Crowley, Leary, etc.
...it poked at, and stretched some of my conditioned associations,
and genuinely worked as an articulation of a mind-space of generalized agnosticism.

If you find yourself revolted by the shallowness of some of the philosophical, ontological,
psychological, or political explanations -
don't worry, the book has never loses the wisdom of laughing at itself,
and remember:

Everything is in some sense true,
in another sense false,
and in another sense absurd.

Nick Vandermolen
I had always been interested in government consperisies, aliens, and other occult like literature. Mostly the zany aspects of it, the David Icke type occult. So, when I read, it usually was from this genre, and thus I usually read poorly written works. By the time I got to college, and was forced to read tons of books for my English degree, I simply gave up on reading entirely. Insubordination and stubbornness I'd chalk it up too. When I finally BS'd my way to my college degree and wasn't forced I had always been interested in government consperisies, aliens, and other occult like literature. Mostly the zany aspects of it, the David Icke type occult. So, when I read, it usually was from this genre, and thus I usually read poorly written works. By the time I got to college, and was forced to read tons of books for my English degree, I simply gave up on reading entirely. Insubordination and stubbornness I'd chalk it up too. When I finally BS'd my way to my college degree and wasn't forced to read, I decided it was now safe to read. At the time I was obsessed with the television show LOST. I was reading in the forums one day that this book was somehow related to LOST, so that's where I started. It was the perfect choice. It helped me find my love with literature from that era, and revealed to me how much I love drug induced stories. Something about people freak'n and tweek'n on LSD makes me love a story that much more. It even had tons of references to conspiracies and crazy occult things that I loved reading about, but cranked up the obscenity even more. It was the first book I read where dudes were peeing there pants and having wet dreams, and it justified all the ridiculous writings I had been doing for years. After reading this book, I realized I could be as out there and wild as I wanna be, and it'll all be ok.

Also made LSD seem cool.
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