I finished this book on Saturday, and yes, it’s crazy.
The basic premise is that the Illuminati are staging a Cuban Missile Crisis-like event in Equatorial Guinea in order to come one step closer to total world control, and it’s up to the Erisian Liberation Front (yes, Discordians) to stop them. The book is all over the place, mixing up the 60s attitudes towards sex, race, and government in a whirlwind of confusion where John Dillinger never died and JFK was actually assassinated by three different people at the same time.
Beneath it all though is some biting social satire that, in light of partisan politics today, is surprisingly relevant given the 35 year age of the trilogy’s omnibus. With 9/11 conspiracists, Birthers, and other wackjobs getting increasing amount of exposure, a book about the Illuminati, as crazy as it is, almost hits too close to home. Two detectives, Goodman and Muldoon, find a series of increasingly revealing memos about the Illuminati, including an organizational chart which highlights The John Birch Society, the Federal Reserve, the Council on Foreign Relations, both the Democratic and Republican Parties, the UN, the Masons, and the Elders of Zion, among others. Upon seeing the Elders of Zion, Goodman quips “there’s no way the Jews are part of a conspiracy to rule the world. If they were, my rabbi would have told me about it by now.” From there, all bets are off.
The book ties in virtually every major conspiracy theory one could think of into a crazy ride through counterculture, Discordianism, and the Cthulu mythos. In the end there’s a plot twist, but it’s overshadowed in the last ten pages where a few of the characters suddenly realize they’ve been characters in a book all along. The Illuminatus! Trilogy is the literary equivalent of an acid trip, and though I know there’s probably interesting details I missed in its 700 or so pages, I’m going to need to come down and sober up before I can try reading it again.