Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
It was a deadly mistake. Joseph Malik, editor of a radical magazine, has snooped into rumours about an ancient secret society that turned out to be still alive and kicking. Now his offices have been bombed, he’s gone 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.
Brimming 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 important cover-ups of our time – from who really shot the Kennedys to why there’s a pyramid on the one-dollar bill – and suggest a truly mind-blowing reality.
I can’t deny that The Illuminatus! Trilogy is an ambitious project. If nothing else, these books are a work of passion through and through. It’s all incredibly well-researched, and I think the initial draw of the books is that they’re a glimpse into a world that is shunned by the general public, and for good reason. But the books ask the audience to suspend disbelief for a while and ask, what if?
That being said, I found the concept of these books a lot more interesting than the act of reading them. Around half way through these novels, I started to notice how little must have been done in the way editing on them. Of course, I can’t know that for sure, but they’re so dense, so full of inconsequential descriptions and dialogue that it’s easy to imagine that they barely saw the inside of an editor’s office before being sent to the printer’s.
I was pretty impressed with the amount of character development in these three novels, but really, I think that’s the only thing it has going for it. A lot of the stuff which is supposed to be funny kind of falls flat, and considering the majority of the book was intended to be a comedy, I was pretty disappointed by it.
I can’t deny that this is an ambitious, passionate piece of work and maybe if I was another person, someone more interested in the idea of conspiracy theories, or if I could lose myself in them enough to find the novels funny, then maybe I would have enjoyed it more. But in the end, it just didn’t win me over.