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Thread: Illuminatus! trilogy

  1. #1
    Registered User Ubercritter's Avatar
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    May 2011

    Illuminatus! trilogy

    I wan going to do a review of eachbook in turn, i decided against it, and did a less detailed review of the whole trilogy.

    I discovered this book while searching for another book, namely 'Schroedinger's cat' by John Gribbin. I entered the title and Robert Wilson's Schroedinger’s cat came up, I had little browse through the reviews and thought that it sounded interesting. but, instead of ordering this title, (I did what I always do with fiction writers) I went straight for the first published book.

    I never did read Gribbin.

    The book is a humorous, intelligent satire of American paranoia set in the 70s. complete with MAFIA bosses, anarchist gorillas, paranoid politicians, talking dolphins, a Giant one-celled Organism called leviathan and many unbelievable conspiracy theories.

    The authors use a lot of techniques in the book, the one which readers will noticed immediately is the use of a strange type of narrator:

    "I beg your tolerance. There is nothing I can do to make things any easier for any of us, and you will have to accept being addressed by a disembodied voice just as I accept the compulsion to speak out even though I am painfully aware that I am talking to an invisible, perhaps non-existent, audience."

    The narrator, being disembodied, can take the form of characters within the story, this allows the authors to show the same events from different perspectives, while also giving insight into characters motives, without the need of an "omniscient narrator".

    "For instance, right now, I am not at all whimsical or humorous. I am angry. I am in Nairobi, Kenya, and my name is Nkrumah Fubar. my skin is black (does that disturb you? It doesn't me) and I am, like most of you, midway between tribalism and technology[.]"

    Another technique is what I like to call the framing technique, it is similar to the storeys within storeys technique to be found in 'The Thousand and one nights" but instead is used to amplify certain themes in the main narrative because of this the narrative often jumps around in space and time, I found this technique sometimes amazing sometimes confusing, but overall it is a sleek way to show coincidental events, and to outline themes that occur in different events that are separated in time and/or space. this book is a mystery, not only does it have mystery in it, the book itself is a sort of puzzle that you have to investigate. sometimes the narrative jumps are red herrings, sometimes they are unmistakable clues, as to the "real" time line of the book.

    one of the most enjoyable of all the techniques is the use of monologue style. there are two monologues at the end centred around the word "no", one by a female and the other by a male, that are integrated into each other, this is achieved by the framing technique. the monologue is an exposition of the characters relationship with each other at a point in the book where everything is in turmoil and the monologue beatifully the tension and parellels between the two characters different lives and how they are dealing with the situations, the monologue also shows the view they have of eachother.

    every chapter is integrated into one context and then deeper into another, the first contextual apparatus is the illuminati's ages of civilization and the deeper one is the sephiroth. some of the events are retold in two different parts of the book, and have symbolism derived from the sephira or "age" in which it is set. it would be useful for a first time reader to not get bogged down in all the terminology, concentrate on the narrative , (the rest will just confuse you). this technique with sephira was later used in 'Foucault s pendulum" but I think with less playfulness and also less pleasing integration of the symbols into the narrative. the way Wilson and shae integrate the symbols is smooth and if you work with it enlightening.

    the book (I later learned from an interview) before being published, was larger and more meticulously well structured. Dell ordered 500 pages cut, and the authors did it randomly (RAW has an excuse for this but I put it down to laziness and maybe he (and she) meant it as big "f&^k you" to dell, but really only upsets the readers enjoyment; why would dell give a F*&k if they cut it randomly). The structure might have suffered a little (I can't know this for certain obviously because I have never read the original cut).

    I found all of the characters interesting, and the way they interact, even in some of the most absurd situations given in the book, believable and entertaining .The two main characters are George Dorn and Hagbard Celine. though this is a massive simplification, I would warn anyone that if they get confused about any other part of the book, especially as you get into the second and third part. always keep an eye open for the narrative involving these two characters. it is an important thread for all other events. they intertwine beautifully in space and time with each other and mosbunall other characters in the book.

    Now we get to the philosophy. don't take the book too seriously it has been accused of solipsism, relativism, narcissism (and some people have believed all of it outright) etc. these are all value judgements, based on a misapprehension of the book itself (this is not a case of "you think it is s$%t, because you don't understand it, even some people who have liked it, I think, have misunderstood it's basic philosophical premise). she and Wilson wrote this with the intent to throw in all theories they could get their hands on and/or fit into the book: conspiracy, science, philosophical; absurd, surreal, plausible to emphasize the confusion that the increase in access to information had on American culture during the sixties and seventies and how this was fertile ground for paranoia. it seems childish, yes, in parts because some of the rubbish in the sixties and seventies was childish. the basic philosophy behind the book is "Question ALL Authority" even the authority of your own convictions (convictions make convicts of us all). it has no "solipsist" messages no "relativistic" messages. "solipsism" and "relativism" are propounded by characters in the book, if you read this and think oh, see that is Wilson’s/she’s true motive, you are burning a straw-man.. I’ll just say this one thing, I was made aware of many of my own childish convictions.

    I see the main influence of this book as deriving straight from h.p lovecraft, with smatterings of philosophy, politics, science, all with a lovecraftian touch. though the writing and ideas are more robust, and it has Wilson’s typical playfulness. the book even features a fictional interview with H.P. Lovecraft.

    The book is an enjoyable read, if you read it all through once, you will definetly want to come back to it.

    I would recomend this book to anyone who is into Pulp fiction (detective, horror, conspiracy etc.) and surrealism.
    Last edited by Ubercritter; 05-19-2011 at 10:53 PM.

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