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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Illuminatus! Trilogy
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2010
A book that can go from being absolutely brilliant to boring and back to brilliant again in the space of one page.With better editing and a slightly more coherent narrative structure this could have been one of the all-time greats. As it stands it seems to be attempting more than it can grasp. The story is at once a detective yarn, a Lovecraftian doomsday scenario, a science fiction adventure, a conspiracy theory, a horror story and a bit of porn for good measure.

I have no doubt in my mind that Robert Anton Wilson was a complete genius and perhaps this book just isn't entirely for me. I read his historical Illuminatus chronicles and absolutely loved them, perhaps because the narrative was more straight-forward and didn't feel like a barely coherent, Americanized Ulysses on bad acid.

There are parts of this book that are hilarious too, I laughed out loud on public transport more than once reading this. There are some sections that are quite horrific and moving too. A great book that could have been brilliant...maybe. I'd recommend reading Prometheus Rising first.

Fans of American 1960's drug culture, Burroughs, Dylan, Hunter S Thompson, Alan Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, HP Lovecraft, Alleister Crowley, philosophy and the occult will all find something to like somewhere in this gargantuan tome. Sort of like Lou Reid's discography, you won't find many people who enjoy it all as a whole.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2004
I first read Illuminatus at age 18 in 1988. I bought it after reading an interview with KLF in a music magazine & did not know what to expect. At first I found it fairly heavy going - at that age I had never read a novel which 'jumped' aruond so much. I eventually got used to the style and started to enjoy the complex, intriguing & entertaining plot. Many of the references were unfamilier to me & I think much of it went over my head. I got to the end,entertained, if slightly confused.
I put it out of my mind then stumbled upon my copy again when I was around 25. I decided to give it another go - remembering my experience from my first reading & only slightly recalling the plot.
Another 7 years of life between first & second reading ensured
the text revealed more to me than on first reading. Just as entertaining as first read, but this time around more "oh yeah..I know what they're talking about... I think".
I read for the third time around 2 years ago - and got more out of the book on the third reading.
I will probably go back to it in another three or 4 years.
This is a huge(ish), dense, compelling & entertaining novel. As a result of this, it is one of the few books I have read that reveals more of itself each time you go back to it..........a highly recommended mind trip.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 1998
Illuminatus! is more than a novel; it's a head trip, a philosophy course, a mirror, a funhouse; a work that should be read at least five times, because every journey through is a different trip. Equal parts mock conspiracy story, detective novel, science fiction epic and hidden treatise, what you get out of it tells you more about yourself than about the authors. On top of all that, it's just plain old damn funny. Keep your eyes open for the parodies of James Joyce, Ayn Rand and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and avoid the fnords at all costs.
Whether you're nostalgic for the 60s or lost in the compassless haze of the 90s, you need to read this book, and get to know the philosophies of its authors. There's more education between these covers than between the start and finish of any university, but it's all achieved painlessly and, by the end, you'll look at the world and yourself in a different way.
Finally, this is one of those rare books that has become less satire and more prediction in the twenty-three years since its publication. What was once cynical wit is now sad documentary, and authors Wilson and Shea have nailed it. Approach with an open mind, abandon all preconceptions ye who enter here -- and then read it again and be surprised all over as you realize it's a different book the second time around. And the third. And the fourth. And the... well, you know...
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2012
This really is a classic.

Yeah, im another one who heard about the book through the KLF, but i also knew what the book was more or less about after hearing so much about it. I think i first read it 12 years ago, and again very recently.

The book is hilarious, Hagbard is the king of one liners, with an ace up his sleeve, i wont give the game away. The plot jumps around like crazy, often mid sentence, forwards and backwards in time, space, heads. It is a complex book and you do begin to wonder who all these people are, like Aleister Crowley, and John Dillinger, all real people, and real events, all tied in with believably wonderful conspiracy theories.

I do remember the first time i read it, i was a bit annoyed with the ending, but seeing as i knew the ending the last time i read it, i enjoyed it much more and the ending actually made sense to me, why not end it like that? Utter genius!

My last reading of it was done entirely in the bath, from beginning to end, which took a fair while i will admit, but the book is just so witty and clever that it is hard to put down, even if its been read before.

This is in my top 12 books of all time, just to let you know =o)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2014
a good book but total loonyville beliefs etc etc.. the world is not run by secret societies and ta warning DO NOT read this book if you suffer from paranoid delusions, your mental health will deteriorate rapidly and you'll be asking to be carted away rather than 'they'(sic) coming for you!
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2007
I first read this book in 2003 and was blown away by its brilliance. Then I read it again later on in the same year. Then I read it again in 2005. And now I'm on my fourth trip... and it's just a pure delight all over again. As much as I love William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski, this book established itself after the first reading as my most favourite book by a very long way.

Every page amazes and delights and amuses and makes you think. Some very, very profound things are said - amid the laughs and the dazzling invention - about societies, human nature, power relationships, human possibilities and much more. It's a constant source of amazement to me how incredibly well-written it is... 800 pages flow by with ease and you just don't want it to stop. And it just so happens to have the best [...] scenes ever written in a novel.

My gratitude to Shea and Wilson for writing this profound masterpiece is boundless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 1997
It is seldom that anything actually makes us think in the entertainment industry today, but this book not only makes you think, it also alters your perceptions of reality. The story is so sompletely intertwined with truth and fantasy that by the end you cannot discern where the fact ends and the fiction begins. The Illuminatus challenges the very fabric of modern society and suggests alternate realities that are at times frightening, humorous and all too plausable. It is truly a modern masterpeice of American literature.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Well, how do you try to encapsulate this trilogy into a short review that gives someone insight and may sway them towards/away from purchasing it?

OK, heres an attempt;

Conspiracy upon conspiracy all uncovered/expounded/explained during the journey of a guy who is broken out of a southern US state jail in the presence of a Nemo like submarine commander(although he is not really because everyone is equal) as they head towards a conflict between two ancient warring groups of folk who want to rule the world, accompanied by a man who has several identities well known in US history and a sexy woman who is not all she seems, not forgetting a talking dolphin.

This trilogy is a real mind bending read, thought provoking on many levels, and contains scenes of sex and violence.

I reckon I would have to read it again in order to make better sense of it.
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I first read this book while working a night shift job on the banks of the Thames in London, which looking back, certainly added to the surreal, submerging & multi-versal world this text initiated me into.

If you have read any of Robert Anton Wilson's non-fiction - such as the classic " Cosmic Trigger Volume One, Final Secrets of The Illuminati" - and appreciated it, buy this book. For those new to the mind & writing of RAW, check out some of his many lectures on YouTube. Then, if you enjoy the way his neurons fired, reading Cosmic Trigger Volume One may be a good idea - in a sense it lays out the philosophical, artistic, anarchic, scientific, conspiratorial, magickal and supremely playful foundation underpinning Illuminatus.

You may love it from page 1 or you may wonder for the first 100 pages what is going on - I've read it several times and still wonder what "is" going on. For me that's the whole point. To me it feels like literary jazz. Always moving. Defying ultimate analysis. To be experienced more than understood. Buy a copy and if you don't like it pass it on.
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on 17 September 2010
Wow. What can I say about the Illuminatus trilogy? Okay, it is incredibly strange, hugely complicated and you never know where on earth you are meant to be but this book is without doubt one of the greatest and most rewarding novels I have ever read. The story centres around the elusive secret society known as the Illuminati, who allegedly secretly rule the world. The book tells the story of several characters whose life is turned upside down by a strange murder and who find themselves caught up in a battle between the illuminati and the Discordians. However for me it is not the storyline that makes this a must-read. It is the way the author gets your mind to expand to new levels and too think about new possibilities in life. They get us to challenge our very beliefs and blow away the ideologies we have based our lives upon. This book awakened the issues which face us all in life and showed me how naive we are to the world around us. Overall I urge all open minded, free-thinking adults to read this book as I truly believe you will find it a rewarding experience
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