Narrative[ edit ] The plot meanders between the thoughts, hallucinations and inner voices, real and imagined, of its many characters—ranging from a squirrel to a New York City detective to an artificial intelligence—as well as through time past, present, and future , and sometimes in mid-sentence. Much of the back story is explained via dialogue between characters, who recount unreliable , often mutually contradictory, versions of their supposed histories. There are even parts in the book in which the narrative reviews and jokingly deconstructs the work itself. Kennedy , Robert F.
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Shelves: science-fiction , humor , philosophy , novel , reviewed , america , spy , supernatural-horror A sprawling, many-faceted, satirical series, Illuminatus! Some parts were better than others, but there are many parts to be A sprawling, many-faceted, satirical series, Illuminatus! Some parts were better than others, but there are many parts to be considered.
Unlike other reviewers, I did not find the numerous asides and allusions to be distracting. If one piqued my interest, I looked it up and more often than not, learned something entirely new. The sheer volume of research behind the book is an achievement in itself, sure to keep the attention of detail-obsessed trivial pursuit players of the internet generation. Others have also complained about the structure of the book, switching as it does in place, time, and character with no forewarning, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph.
The authors could have put more line breaks in, it would be a minor change. So minor, in fact, that I find it difficult to take seriously any claim that the lack of such breaks somehow ruined the story. It was a deliberate effect by the authors, meant to impart information realistically and force the reader to take a more active role.
In life, we are constantly inundated by information and it is up to us to decide what is important and where to make strict delineations. Likewise, in this book, the authors want us to take responsibility for our own parsing of data, refusing to spoon-feed it to us like so much propaganda.
The authors, themselves went through huge amounts of data to combine all of these conspiracy theories into a grand ur-conspiracy, too large and detailed to be believed and too ridiculous to be doubted.
This book is, at its heart, a chronicle of a certain point in American history, a certain mindset, a baroquely detailed conglomeration of the writings and ideas of the raucous sixties.
The book is at its least effective when it is taking itself seriously, particularly in the appendices. It is at its best when it takes nothing seriously, least of all itself. The authors were involved in the flowering of the Discordian Movement, which has been described as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion. The movement plays a large role in the text and is analyzed from all sides, but basically boils down to religion as imagined by Mad Magazine.
The revolutionary thing about Mad was not that it undermined authority, but that it simultaneously undermined itself. Its humor lay in the insight that only a fool would believe any one thing to be the source of wisdom, but that you were perfectly justified in mistrusting everything. There is even an overt parody of the Bond franchise running through the books. Though it switches between narrators, all of them are men, and the focused sexuality of the book is usually aimed at women. There are moments where bisexuality, homosexuality, and feminist sexual power dynamics are explored, but these tend to be mere intellectual exercises while the hot, sweaty moments are by and large men taking their pleasure from women.
I can enjoy porn, but I wish it were as balanced as the rhetoric to which the authors pay lip service. Many male authors have shied away from writing female characters from the inside, despite having no compunction about getting inside them in other ways.
It was a disappointment to see Shea and Wilson so fettered by gender while simultaneously spouting the latest feminist sound bites. In many ways, Illuminatus provides a bridge between the paranoid, conspiracy sci fi of Dick and the highly referential, multilayered stories of Cyberpunk.
The writing is quite good: crisp, witty, evocative and mobile. There certainly are those aspects which are inspired by psychedelic culture, including the free-wheeling structure. The authors invite comparison between moments, events, and characters which, in most other books, would be separated by the strict delineation of the page break. But then, the surest sign of genius is the ability to synthesize new data from the confluence of apparently disparate parts, as Da Vinci did one day while studying the eddies in a stream for a painting, finding himself suddenly struck by the notion that the heart would pump blood more efficiently by forming such swirling eddies in its chamber instead of working as a simple pump.
In the the past decade, internal body scanners have proven the accuracy of his small corner sketch. By inviting you to make such comparisons and synthesize your own conclusions, the book respects the potential intelligence of its reader. But it is not all such conceptual exercises, and the lesson Cyberpunk authors learned was that a fast-paced, flashy shell can sugar even bitter pills. Outside of Lovecraft and Howard, very few of the stories set in that universe are even passable, but this one comports itself ably, taking to heart the notion that an overabundance of data can break the human mind, which dovetails nicely with the cautionary lesson of conspiracy theory: it seems vast, inexplicable beings of unimaginable power can also be human, and have cults just as Unaussprechlichen.
Overall, the series is interesting, unique, informative, humorous, and entertaining. There are moments where it bogs down, but overall, it is well-structured and well written.
But this book is not designed to be easy to digest. You are not meant to internalize its message thoughtlessly. I could say this book deserves to be more than a cult classic, but at its heart, this book is a cult classic, and its cultural influence will continue to seep with or without grander acclaim.
The Illuminatus! Trilogy