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The Illuminatus! Trilogy

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The Illuminatus! Trilogy is a series of novels written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

The books are unashamed hippie paranoia, or perhaps a satire of such paranoia, including many references to Discordianism, the Illuminati, the ∴.∴., and various world domination plans, conspiracy theories and pieces of gnostic knowledge. Many of the odder conspiracies in the book are taken from unpublished letters to Playboy magazine, where the authors were working as editors while they wrote the novels.

The trilogy's rambling plot begins with the investigation by two New York City detectives (Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon) of the bombing of a leftist magazine and the disappearance of its editor. Discovering the magazine's investigation into the Kennedy and King assassinations, the two become drawn into a web of conspiracy theories. At the same time, the magazine's reporter George Dorn, turned loose without support in deep right-wing Texas after the bombing, finds himself dragged bodily into the hands of the same conspiratorial organizations. (...)

One of the most well-known conceits was the fnord, a word that the majority of the population had been trained since early childhood to ignore (and of course trained to forget the training, and the fact that that they are ignoring it) but also to associate with a vague sense of unease. Fnords are scattered liberally in the text of newpapers and magazines, causing fear and anxiety in those following current events. However, there are no fnords in the advertisements, encouraging a consumerist society. The interesting thing about this conceit is that it is not falsifiable.

The three books that make up the trilogy are

  • The Eye in the Pyramid
  • The Golden Apple
  • Leviathan

The trilogy was later republished in a single volume, minus the "what has gone before" introduction to The Golden Apple; some of the material in that foreword--such as the self-destruct mynah birds--occurs nowhere else in the trilogy and is irrelevant to the plot.

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