Vintage high sci-fi is science fiction that is geared to a cannabis culture, whether it's written for that culture or about it. And like any other genre it's got its share of good books and its share of cliché-ridden sci-fi pulp. We've got one of each; a three volume set called Illuminatus by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, and The Crack in the Sky by Richard Lupoff.
Illuminatus is a trip and a half. A three volume epic science-fiction conspiracy. The conspiracy connects the Illuminati (an ancient Organization trying to take over the world), John Dillinger, a radical paper called Confrontations, the French Revolution, Watergate, Atlantis, a European Woodstock, LSD, George Washington and his hemp crop, Linda Lovelace, Thomas Jefferson, a tough N.Y. cop, the Order of Assassins, The Dealy Lama (who lives in the sewers under Dealy Plaza, Dallas), a computer that throws the I-Ching, Eros, goddess of discord, a midget who is disrupting the systematization of society, a golden submarine, a talking dolphin, the Mafia, and probably anything else you can think of.
Actually, it's very hard to explain Illuminatus. Like telling someone who's never been high, what being high is. You have to do it yourself to know.
What I can tell you is that the book is hilarious in parts, scary in others. You think, "Could this really be true?" a lot. The author's' documentation is superb, with quotes from articles in Playboy, The East Village Other and Encyclopedia Britannica. The way the 1970s originated genre painted society today and in the near future, and their reasoning behind important events in history, is humor of the blackest degree, and pre digital age ideology.
Shea and Wilson put together a novel that's almost impossible to put down, even though it's over one thousand pages long, it has become a big cult favorite trilogy.
Illuminatus works as vintage high sci-fi for the cannabis intellect, while The Crack in the Sky by Richard Lupoff feels more like a book stoners take on vacation. More trashy like the Real Housewives on Bravo. Illuminatus is not even close to the more predictable, The Crack in the Sky. Illuminatus always brings in the unexpected plot twist and new characters, the likes of whom you've never seen before.
The Crack in the Sky is full of clichéd situations and sci-fi stereotyped characters. Stop me if you've heard this before: Doomed cities; polluted atmosphere; no drug restrictions; easy sex; communal marriages; overpopulation; total equality for all races and sexes. Again it is not a bad read for a pool side Vegas vacation. If you are heading to the fields of Colorado, grab the first book of Illuminatus.
Now don't get me wrong. You can get away with clichéd situations and/or stereotyped characters if you use them minimally or have something important to say. The irony of The Crack in the Sky is just how wrong it was about the 2000s. But perhaps its vision of the future is still on the horizon.
By switching the establishment and the counterculture in the year 2000, Lupoff tried to show that the counterculture is as bad as the establishment and won't work any better.
The book is very fast moving. But you know that because of overcrowding in the dome, there's going to be trouble. You know that because the counter-culture evolves into the accepted norm that the radicals, the Order of St. Jerome, are going to be people who support two-person marriages, no birth control, and no drugs. You know that when two people in a four-person marriage are black and Asian, that the other two will be white and Hispanic.