Robert Anton Wilson
Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy

By Discord

The ageing American oddity known as Robert Anton Wilson is perhaps best known for the Illuminatus trilogy which he co-wrote with Robert Shea in the mid 1970s. This book, a vast compendium of conspiracy theories old and new, displayed excellent underground credentials and later achieved commercial success. However, despite Illuminatus' status as prime review tackle, his lesser known work from 1979 – the Schrodingers Cat trilogy is in our (my) opinion shorter, funnier, less dense, more readable and ultimately much more satisfying than Illuminatus.

The trilogy consists of three books (!) – Part One – The Universe Next Door, Part One – The Trick Top Hat, and Part One – The Homing Pigeons. This unusual literary demarcation is here for a reason – this is not a linear novel. Unlike most books the events do not unfold slowly and logically over the 500+ pages. Instead we are witness to (according to Wilson) the world’s first quantum novel, in which the story or rather sequence of events takes place in a number of parallel universes, some like our own, some very different. Each of these universes are populated by a cast of characters who we encounter in similar situations throughout the book, only sometimes they aren’t quite feeling themselves. For example, in the opening chapters we observe Benny ‘Eggs’ Benedict, popular columnist for a New York daily newspaper, sat working at his typewriter. A sample of Benny’s work reveals him to be a paranoid and pessimistic fellow and it soon becomes apparent that his gloomy outlook on life is due in part to the death of his mother at the hands of a mugger. 200 pages pass and Benny is sat before his Mac seemingly much more at ease. This time his column is a sublime piece of Zen Haiku. After completing his work Benny decides to visit his mother, even though the old lady had been a bit neurotic ever since she was ‘knocked on her ass by a purse snatcher’. 200 pages later and we (re)join Bonita ‘Bonny’ Benedict, columnist for a New York newspaper, busy at her typewriter. Her mother is not mentioned. And thus is the style of the book...

It would be wrong to say that the whole book is completely non-linear. There is still a trace of slow revelation and a definite story does unfold – it’s just that the multitude of cops, robbers, drug barons, and political activists frequently change sex, occupation, and general relevance to the overall picture. The only consistent character appears to be Dr Dashwood over at Orgasm Research, who desperately tries to remain the impassive scientist as he watches his machinery research the lovely Rhoda Chief with a variety of attachments.

While we observe this legion of polymorphous protagonists stumbling around the planet Wilson frequently digresses into fascinating asides concerning, among other things, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, and er... quantum physics. But don’t let that put you off, this is not A Brief History of Time. Wilson leaves out the complicated equations and gets straight to the conclusions of quantum theory, which have much more relevance to daily life than you may at first suppose. According to partner in crime Robert Shea, Wilson speaks ‘for that tiny but indispensable minority who are changing our world by changing the way we think about it’. In short, this book is designed to give the reader a new perspective on, firstly, the ‘hackneyed novel’ and, secondly and slightly more ambitiously, the whole of objective reality. However, we are not talking ‘change my life dawning of a new era’ type shit (like The Raw Food Diet) but rather a calm discussion of human evolution welded to a sci-fi crime flick. I enjoyed it and maybe you might too.
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