Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy – review

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.

Yeah, right.


9 responses to “Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy – review

  1. Pingback: On Robert Anton Wilson | Jim Razinha's Random (and not so random) Opinions

  2. This is possibly the most dickish review of any book I have ever read. I won’t stoop to the authors level and say it was a waste of my time though. For someone who refutes wilson’s claims that skeptics can be dogmatic ( I myself am a skeptic who loves sagan and randi among many others and disagree with wilson on many issues, but I do find merit and humor in his lectures and literary works) the author sure does dogmatically profess how stupid, silly and beneath him the book is, without providing any real evidence for these claims. Also for someone who found wilson to be arrogant the comment that the author has so many important things to do “stupid” things like this are a waste of his time seems quite arrogant to me. Wilson said in one of his lectures ( I’m going to paraphrase) that what he didn’t like about most books he read is that they came from such an authoritative perspective. And that he structured his works to be such that they questioned themselves throughout so one couldn’t truly be sure what he believed. I personally think wilson was a great skeptic, because he was a skeptic of skeptics. And anything but a waste of time.

    • Add one to the cult tally. I had forgotten about Wilson, and these blog posts. As Eeyore said, “Thanks for noticing.”

      Wilson really had an irrational and unjustified hatred of Gardner, Sagan & the Catholic church, and an odd love for pseudoscience. You are right in that one couldn’t be sure what he believed, but that his writing was consistent and his hatreds also consistent, either he had everybody fooled or he actually did believe his stuff. And he was quite arrogant and authoritative in his two other books I read (I assume you’ve read my other Wilson posts, but in case not: Quantum Psychology and The New Inquisition)

      In retrospect, I was pretty harsh. He was not a waste of time, as I did have some fun poking holes, but to spend any more time on him would be a waste. Life’s too short and if I’m going to pursue nonsense, at least it will be nonsense I like.

  3. Ps I don’t think many authors would mind having their works grouped in with hemingway and joyce.

  4. Rigoberto Schaad

    There is a great deal of misunderstanding about what that particular branch of literature called “Science Fiction” actually consists of. Is it space-ships and monsters? Time machines? Galactic empires? Well, its all of those things, and often none of them.Science Fiction, broadly speaking, is story-telling that deals with the impact of organized knowledge on human beings. Usually, this means technology, and the way it changes us.’

    Look at our new webpage as well

    • A great deal of misunderstanding for the general public maybe, but I’ve been reading science fiction for more than forty years. All types. Many, many authors.

      Broadly speaking, Wilson’s story-telling was disorganized knowledge. And for whatever reason, Wilson keeps people coming to my blog, though I’ve moved on long ago.

      I’m not sure if I’m thanking a person or a bot with that web link you added.

  5. Pingback: Wilson! | Random (and not) Musings

  6. Wow. Talk about someone being an arrogant ass.

    • I love Wilson fans. They bump the traffic numbers to my off the beaten path blog into double digits during the long period between posts, and they troll leaving lovely sentiments like this on reviews there.

      I left RAW in the rear view mirror some time ago after deconstructing Quantum Psychology and The New Inquisition, but he as a search term keeps bringing people here. ‘Sokay by me.

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