Written by the same author as "The Illuminates Trilogy" this is a fantastical look at our recent past seen through a fun-house mirror. It is a satire on our violent, inexplicable world and a trip inward to expose our deepest hopes and fears.
This is not a book you can just read, your really need to pay attention to what is going on and try to understand what is happening. I found this book hilarious. The concept behind this book, as far as I can see, is like the Schrodinger's Cat Theory - which is this: if you are to place a cat in a box / room / enclosed space and put an element in the same enclosed space that could kill the cat in an hour and leave it (for an hour), several universes branch from that point - one in which the cat lives, one in which the cat dies, and an infinite amount of others where other occurances happen (such as the cat escapes or grows wings and turns into a bird - these universes are just not probable). In the same sense, a lot of the characters from the orginal Illuminatus! Trilogy are in this book, but with different personalities - where one universe broke off to create the Illuminatus! Trilogy, another broke off where the characters are totally different and the world is affected by disasters and terrorist groups that aren't even mentioned in the original. I highly reccomend reading this, but as I said - you WILL be lost if you don't pay attention. Very stream of concious, many random occurances (to give you an idea - one of the characters is a midget named Markoff Chaney - for those of you who don't know, a Markov Chain is a randomly occuring set of events - the book is a veritable Markov chain, jumping from character to character on a whim), and a tendency to switch universes mid-paragraph. I would reccomend reading the Illuminatus! Trilogy first, but this should definitly be on your list.
The Strange Changes of Schrodinger's Cat2002/8/23
J. C. Smith
When I first encountered the Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy, it was in the form of the original Bantam paperbacks, now out of print. The first volume I saw, "The Universe Next Door," scared the bejeezus out of me with its quirky way of seeing reality, so badly that I hastily put down the book and did not explore the works of that author again for at least five years more. The second encounter I had was with the paperback "The Trick Top Hat," which I bought from a used book store. It opened me up philosophically AND sexually--it had some very explicit erotic references. Sadly, though the full text of "The Universe Next Door" seems to have made the journey from 3-volume paperback to 1-volume Dell softcover intact, the same cannot be said of the erotic passages in "The Trick Top Hat." Additionally, a great deal of the material in the original paperback "The Homing Pigeons" does not appear in the Dell softcover . . . although Wilson had abandoned much of the frank eroticism of the "second" book by then. The disappearance of these words from the newer edition, and the subsequent ventures of Wilson into being published by other, much less well known publishers, are as mysterious to me as the enigmas of Rennes-le-Chateau and the life of Sir Francis Dash- wood. The Dell trade paperback version does not really suffer in its creative genius by losing those many passages. But it is simply inexplicable to me why they are not there.
Operation MF continues...2006/3/2
After reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy, I stared at my copy of Schroedinger's Cat and wondered how the hell Bob could top the 800-page work of lunacy he had created with Robert Shea. Of course, I shouldn't have doubted Bob; anyone who has read his books knows how he can construct the most meaningful anecdotes and stories from seemingly random and uninteresting information. This book is no different.
When I started reading this book, I assumed that the story would have to do with Schroedinger's Cat (obviously), but I didn't understand the novel's structure until I reached page 80 and the book ended, only to start again in a different world (which I know sounds strange; read it if you want to understand). The plot of this novel seems entirely random, and up to a certain point it is, but it has more structure than would seem at first glance. Like Illuminatus!, it would require a great deal of analysis and scholarship to unravel the ever-knotted threads of Schroedinger's Cat, and I know few who have the time to do that. Still, it's quite an enjoyable read, even if you never know fully what the hell is going on.
As is usual for Robert Anton Wilson books, Schroedinger's Cat is side-splittingly funny. Perhaps the funniest part of the book is how characters change from world to world. For instance, in one world, Epicene Wildeblood is a debonair ladies' man. In a different world, Epicene is now a she, Mary Margaret Wildeblood, after a sex change. Even historical figures in the novel change depending on the world. James Joyce, in one world, was a minor composer. In another, Ezra Pound was not a famous poet; he was a famous folksinger. In yet another, Aleister Crowley was not an infamous occultist, but instead a British general who was the first person to reach the North Pole, which he claimed was inhabited by little green people when he got there (if you laugh at that, you will appreciate the book's humor).
It's hard to put together a review of this book, because there's no continuous plot (at least not in the ordinary sense). Characters disappear for (sometimes literally) hundreds of pages, then reappear as if nothing happened. It's very disorienting and why I waited several months after reading the book to actually review it. I thought that "sitting on my thoughts," allowing them to formulate, would help. Instead, I find that I've forgotten half of what went on in the book. Oh, memory, how thou hast robbed me!
Anyway, before I start to ramble, let me say that this is a good book for all science-fiction fans to read, since it is actual SCIENCE fiction (i.e. it involves quite complicated issues of quantum mechanics). I would recommend it to anyone with an IQ of 250 or a Ph.D. in rocket science. If you're like me and have neither, it's still a great novel. It just won't make full sense until you understand Bob's philosophy of neurological model agnosticism and quantum mechanics.
The carnival of weirdness continues2002/5/13
Robert Anton Wilson, the "last Scientific shaman of our age" provides us with a guide to illumination in this series of three books that are one book. Each volume here collected is a different view of the same world, a ride through the most radical theories of modern physics. Many characters from the Illuminatus! Trilogy reappear, including Simon Moon and the midget Markoff Chaney. They all take slightly different forms, except for Chaney, who appears as the ever constant Random Factor. And when Ulyses return to Ithyca, we get a peak at what Wilson's imagination is capable of. The book may be slightly perverse. But then, he's writing about the state of the human race. I assume that it is only Wilson's positivity that keeps him from writing us all into a novel that would make Sade cringe. The point here is to enjoy, observe, and learn. Readers of Illuminatus! will certainly enjoy this book. Moralists, of course, will weep in their beds. But that's the best part of all...
James Joyce + Quantum Physics + Homer = A Joyous Read2005/11/23
In speaking about this book, Wilson said "Like Ulysses, it's a parallel to Homer's Odyssey but it's all from the point of view of quantum mechanics; there isn't one universe, but many," Wilson said. "Schrodinger said that the only way to understand quantum physics is in terms of the Upanishads, with the concept of unity, that everything, no matter how different it seems, it's all aspects of one hidden thing we don't see.
"I think the dominant tendency in physics is to say that we shouldn't ask questions about the objective universe. All we can talk meaningfully about is the experimental universe, which involves us. Any method of observing imposes upon the thing the structure you're observing It through; your eye, your microscope, whatever. You can't leave the observer out."
In the book, Wilson uses the fundamental ideas in Quantum Mechanics, and Joyce's literary techniques, to craft a complex and subtle story that expands beyond the scope of the normal novel. He creates a world that is made of both fact and fancy, blending them so that the reader's certainty about reality begins to erode. While it is true that it lacks a standard narrative quality, it more than makes up for it with the lovingly detailed segments that, ultimately, fit together into an illuminant masterpiece that I found to be deeply satisfying.
One could argue that this work is analogous to Pointillism. Each part is a dot that, when seen as a whole, creates an amazing, funny, and beautiful picture.