Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy, by Robert Anton Wilson, is quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. I can say this with reasonable certainty because any other books that might have qualified for that distinction (anything Hemingway, Joyce’s Ulysses come to mind) I would never have finished. I’ve reached a point in my life where my time is too valuable to waste on stupid things. If I’ve gotten all I can out of a book, or all I expect I can get, then there is no point reading further. And this book gave me all I was going to get in the first 30 or so pages.
Unfortunately, I had to finish all 545 pages for several reasons:
1) I needed to see for myself how his fiction related to his non-fiction (nearly indistinguishable, and that’s not a compliment – actually, his non-fiction is better written)
2) I wanted to see if he had anything of value to say (sadly, no)
3) I wanted to see if he managed to tie things up (again, no)
4) I needed to read the entire trilogy in case my initial assessment would change (it didn’t)
5) I read his “Quantum Psychology” (nonsense) and am plowing through his “The New Inquisition” because I have to finish it to give it a complete review, and somehow this is tied to those.
In short, Wilson is pretentious, absurd, a bit obscene, not funny at all, not anywhere near as clever as he thinks (thought; he died in 2007), and wrote bizarre surreal text that Vonnegut did better. He got cute at one point, knowing that critics would pan it as drivel, an inserted a comment that implied that anyone reading his work (or the work of a character that was his mirror) wouldn’t understand it, and would necessarily dislike it. We always hate the things we don’t understand, I guess. He’s that arrogant.
Well, I didn’t “get it” because there was nothing to “get”. 545 pages of nonsense. And I have a problem calling this science fiction. Fiction, yes. Fantasy, maybe…probably. But inserting a couple of references to quantum physics does not make it science fiction. Mumbo jumbo. And the fans who read more into it than is there I liken to the caricatures of pretentious art admirers standing in a museum and pretending to “see” what the artist was trying to “convey”. Hogwash. Wilson liked his LSD and it showed through in this mess. Sprinkling a few parrot droppings from a reading of Niels Bohr does not a physicist make. And John Gribben, former editor of New Scientist magazine thought his was the most scientific of science fictions? Please.
Now, in the Dell rollup, on page 225, Wilson relates a story of a character, Hugh Crane, who at age ten watches a Mysterious Tramp who keeps asking people questions, all of whom shook their heads and walked on. Hugh couldn’t understand why if the Tramp got his answer, he kept asking. “Didn’t he believe the people who already answered the question?” (The Tramp, unbeknownst to the ten year old, was begging for food or money.) I got a kick out of this, because at age five, I determined that the job I would have when I grew up would be that of the guys directing traffic on the side of the highway (they were hitchhiking and pointing the way for the cars with their thumbs!)
Some reviewers called it “hilarious”. I did find one line funny: on page 396, James Earl Carter in that particular universe was a physicist, and said, “Ah don’t understand politics. […] Ah’m a scientist.” Not hilarious. Not even funny. But one line was.
And on page 478, I found one passage prophetic (okay, I don’t believe in that crap, but it sure foreshadowed the 2001-2009 administration): “The President in Leary’s book, called Noxin [Nixon], was a monster. He got the country into totally unnecessary wars without the consent, and sometimes even without the knowledge, of Congress. He lied all the time, compulsively, even when it wasn’t necessary. He put wiretaps on everybody – even himself.”
If you like Vonnegut, you might like this. I’m not a Vonnegut fan – Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five were enough for me. If you like Adams’ Hitchhiker, you might (probably not. Adams was funnier, even though I don’t find any of his stuff “hilarious”.)
As for me, I’ll never again get back the time I lost being stubborn enough to finish this junk. But then, Wilson may be right and in his quantum world, I will.