Return to index of reviews

Poker Without Cards:
A Consciousness Thriller
by Ben Mack
Lulu Press, 2005
Review by Jim Walker

Normally I do not review books of fiction but this one contains so much information that falls into the non-fiction category, that I reviewed it anyway. Although the author claims himself as Ben Mack, it reads a lot like Robert Anton Wilson. If indeed a Ben Mack did write this, then he caught Wilson's style to a tee. His topics describe subjects that Wilson has extensively written about in the past: R. Buckminster Fuller, James Joyce, Philip K. Dick, Aleister Crowley, Illuminatus Trilogy, fnord, magick, the number 23, etc., all Robert A. Wilson trademark topics. The book even includes a letter of introduction by Wilson claiming that if he should die suddenly, he wanted to inform us of the extraordinary importance of this novel! (hee-hee) The novel also mentions a Dr. Christopher Hyatt (underlined and written in large font) as if to give a clue. As a long time reader of Wilson, I have a 1989 book titled, "Undoing Yourself," by a Christopher Hyatt, Ph.d, also uncannily written in Wilson's style. Just how many pseudo-names Wilson has used over the years remains open to debate.
Perhaps I have already given away too much information, and I don't even know if he (they or it) wants me to review this book. The book came to me through an anonymous email with only the word "ideas!" and a web address to a free pdf file (I don't think the free file exists anymore).
If you like conspiracies, then you'll love this book. Although I always take Wilson's words (excuse me, I mean, Mack) with a grain of salt, (something the author wants the reader to do, I suspect), this book fucks with your mind (in a good way). After all, this does pretend itself as a novel, right? Poker Without Cards, according to its glossary, means magick. Magick (also according to the glossary), represents a science that confronts the church's propaganda. Magick aims to give you paradoxes, confrontations, and illusions to make you doubt what you believe and to teach you how to think for yourself instead letting others think for you.
The novel unfolds a transcript of psychiatrist Dr. William Fink's taped interviews with Howard Campbell, a friend of the doctor's patient, Richard Wilson (Bucky) who admitted himself to the doctor's hospital and who fell into a catatonic state. Campbell talks to the doctor about Richard Wilson (his friend), the ideas of Buckminster Fuller, the media and advertising's influence on culture, world politics, religion, questionable psychiatric treatments, and lots more, forcing the reader to examine his or her beliefs and to question the difference between fact and fiction.
Although I found the conversations between the psychiatrist and Campbell a bit contrived, the topics that they cover give us the interesting questions. Did pirates of the past (and present) control governments? Do memes control our minds? Did the Catholic Church invent propaganda? Did Christian Huygen coin the term entrainment? Did a Dr. Ash perform the Longer Line experiment? Does Howard Campbell really exist? To find out, you can't rely on a book of fiction, you have to look it up and even then you may never find out.
The Huygen claim caught my interest. Apparently Wilson (DAMN IT, I mean Mack), intended the reader to look things up on the internet (the novel mentions Google, several times). So when I read that Christian Huygen invented the idea of entrainment, naturally I typed it into Google. And what did I find? Sure enough, an article about Huygen's entrainment under the heading of "Corporate Social-Engineering." But on the left side appears a blurb about Benjamin Garth, the magician name of Richard Wilson, a character in the novel! Note that the date of the article occurred well after I got the book. Weird synergy. Did the author of this novel plant a false fact (or Truth) on the internet? I did find other articles about Huygen's entrainment but it makes you wonder if those articles did not derive from planted information in the past. Why not? How would you know? How can one ever feel certain that any information represents fact? Like I said, this novel makes you think. It makes you look things up. It makes you suspicious. Some things appear as fiction, others as fact. It turns you into an investigator, a scientist, and a doubter, and with doubt, you lose beliefs.
Other mysterious links if found include these: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3
I won't reveal anything more but you will find lots more if you look hard enough. Indeed it grips you like a good game (like the Myst games).
Warning: this book represents intellishit (look it up).
I feel so confused.
Have fun!
Note: also visit the web site:

A few quotes from the book:

"Psychoanalysis is the disease it purports to cure."
--Karl Kraus

One of the reasons I find the Bible incredulous is that when god speaks to people, nobody ever really freaks out and questions their sanity. I find that awfully convenient. Or, when these preachers on TV say god spoke to them, what the fuck? Shouldn't this be front-page news? Either god is speaking to them and we have a modern day prophet and the newfound words should be published everywhere, or they are criminals for swindling their donations.

It occurs to me that the primary agenda of the powers that be is to induce FAITH. Faith means you are obligated to not think stuff through-- whatever they tell you not to think through.

I like capitalism. What other form of economy allows a person to leverage their common sense for great rewards? More than any economic system I've seen, capitalism allows for the individual to stand on his own merits. One is still pushed or pulled by social advantages and political influence, but your own merits contribute more than any alternative systems I've seen. Money, connections, and charisma open doors, but it's your character and wits that take you to the top. Knowledge is the application of character and intelligence. Character is the greater part of knowledge.

Relying too heavily on intelligence is a sign of immaturity. Young people are eager to show off. They flaunt what they know and what they think. They can't resist. While brilliant observations may help get the attention you need for early opportunities, the urge to share these observations must be tempered to rise to a higher level of management.

The Catholic Church was the first organization to recognize that gamering consensus was an effective path to ruling people. The church was the first to employ this tactic. Using this tactic means that they recognized that if you seize the mind, the body will follow.

Bucky thought that the downfall of contemporary America was a failure to understand the implications of the words of Godel, Einstein and Kuhn.

The word "propaganda" is cited as first used in 1622 within the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, which was commissioned by Pope Gregory XV.

Foucault asked if the legal ramifications of insanity was just a device that society could use to discredit and invalidate minds that didn't think according to the society's ordained patterns. Is there must of a difference between a jail and a hospital if they won't let you leave?

Traditionally, criminology explores what's contained within one set of laws, and what's outside the law isn't within criminology's scope of inspection. "History is written by the victors" also means that the victors create the laws. If Hitler had won World War II, the biggest post-war crime would have been a Jew, or a homosexual, or holding just about any non-government-sanctioned belief or perception.

Secrecy was the pirate's strongest defense. If the other powerful pirates didn't know where you were going, when you'd gone, or when you were coming back, they wouldn't know how to waylay you.

Centuries ago, Christian Huygen noticed how separate entities will fall into rhythm with one another. Specifically two pendulum clocks placed in close proximity that began to keep the same time. In 1665, he coined the word "entrainment" to describe this phenomenon.

Most people entrain with the masses. This binds the illusion of free will.

Cosmography [Buckminster Fuller's last book] begins: "The dark ages still reign over all humanity, and the depth and persistence of this domination are only now becoming clear. This Dark Age's prison has no steel bars, chains, or locks. Instead, it is locked by disorientation and built from misinformation..."

You should know things or not know things, but what benefit has believing?

To obtain this book, click below:
Poker Without Cards