The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 22 review #WarOfTheEncyclopaedists

I’m currently reviewing chapters of War of the Encyclopaedists by Gavin Kovite and Christopher Robinson. As a Dune novel it’s pretty awful. This is pretty great reading material if you want to start writing fantasy novels. I feel like I’m learning a lot about the craft of writing just by obsessively pouring over these chapters.

Look forward to my own upcoming novel tentatively titled Dragones and Other Monsterers.

Chapter 22 continues the Adventures of Montauk in Baghdad.

After his deployment was over, when he would have plenty of time to think about it, Montauk would remember urban bomb-attack scenes as a particular kind of tableau.

I feel like I vaguely recall a Bostonian guy and something about how memory is malleable. Like, Montauk remembers something, but all that means is that this is the story he chooses to tell himself?

Also this chapter is interesting because it’s kind of representing Montauk’s view after the fact. So we know Montauk makes it back from the war and reflects on his journey. I don’t know what’s the cause of this shift other than Montauk is a pretty cerebral guy. So obviously he would think about things a lot after the fact.

The Anti-Iraqi Forces apparently had this thing where they would detonate one bomb and then wait for rescue services and people to arrive before detonating another one. That’s. Fucked. Up.

A weird thing about this chapter, something I don’t think I’ve seen in this entire novel, is that the authors use an acronym (QRF) before actually explaining what it was (Quick Reaction Forces). This entire chapter is kind of filled with firsts.

Montauk was lacing up his boots and buttoning his uniform blouse in the controlled panic associated with waking up late on the morning of a final exam.

It’s funny that Montauk’s comparison point is academia.

A bomb goes off and Montauk’s platoon are the QRF and so quickly react.

He would lead the convoy in the Millennium Falcon, his preferred Humvee; it wasn’t uparmored like the other Humvees–it had just a few scraps of welded-on sheet metal–but it was fast.

It’s like Millennials are so inundated with pop culture references it’s hard for them to divorce themselves from it. At least, that’s how I read this.

Montauk goes out and gives orders and warns his guys about possible snipers or bombers. He wonders why people are smiling.

Montauk turned around to find that Aladdin had snuck up behind him and was standing there giving him a pair of bunny ears, statuesque, waiting to be discovered. Montauk laughed, shaking off his anxiety.

I think this hints at the true nature of Montauk and Corderoy’s relationship, or rather what Corderoy brings to it. I suspect Montauk brings stability and street cred (he’s actually in the military after all), but Corderoy (much like Ron Weasley from a series of British wizard novels) brings the fun. Without the fun Montauk is probably too serious for his own good.

Montauk tried to scan over his left shoulder, but his body armor made anything beyond a forty-five-degree turn impossible. He thought of Keaton’s Batman.

You can think of yourself as not a nerd, but traditionally nerd-ic culture has been so assimilated into mainstream culture that even a not-nerd like Montauk still makes comparisons to Batman.

“Shit, man,” Monkey muttered in English as he walked along the part of Palestine Way that could still pass as a sidewalk.

Man, I love Monkey. Just wandering around Baghdad muttering English obscenities. He’s drawn to the explosion but his barber uncle Omar drags him into the shop and away from the Americans.

Montauk, Aladdin, and others head to the source of the traffic congestion that’s blocking their column. It’s basically two guys and a car accident, one on a cell phone, the other yelling at the guy on the cellphone.

Montauk tells Aladdin to tell the Opel driver to go, but the Opel driver is intent on getting an accident report from the police.

“He says he waits for police to fill out accident report,” Aladdin said. “Maybe he thinks Saddam is still in charge. Hah!”

So Montauk pulls his sidearm and tells the guy to move.

Apparently, what he’d heard was true: pistols scared Iraqis more than rifles; something about how, in the old regime, Ba’athist officers carried pistols and only officers had the authority to shoot people who pissed them off.

The Opel driver thinks Saddam is in charge and Montauk uses the methods of that former regime to get what he wants. It makes me wonder about language again, and probably the adaptability of Montauk over Corderoy. Corderoy can’t speak Boston cool. Montauk can speak Baghdad intimidation.

“It’s called menacing, sir,” Thomas said as he started to move the Falcon forward again.

“What?”

“When you stick a gun in someone’s face, that’s menacing. It’s a crime back in Cali.”

Whereas it sounds like it used to be the norm around Baghdad. I like this scene and things like it because it really fleshes out the feel of an alien world for me.

Montauk and crew get to the scene of the explosion and set up a perimeter. Someone takes some shots at them and then nothing comes of it. There’s a car on top of the department store building.

“How’d that get up there?”

“How indeed,” Montauk said. The physical explanation for such a thing was within his grasp. Blast velocity. Inertia. Projectile motion. But the psychological explanation was beyond him.

The how is easy but not the why. Luckily, Aladdin knows why.

I know this man, sih. He’s a Sunni, from Baquba. His name is Fayed, or Amr. Maybe Amr is his friend. He works in his father’s print office. He and Amr, they are both losers. Until Amr become a hero of Islam. Fighting the infidel. Now everyone is best friends with Amr. Who is dead. And Fayed become jealous. He thinks about watching at his own funeral, how sad everyone is, hearing them say they don’t know him really, until now, until his glory. Hearing the pretty girls say that. And so Fayed parks his car on the roof. He wasn’t even that serious before. About Islam.”

“Shit,” Montauk said. “Was he your friend?”

“No,” Aladdin said. “I do not know him. But I know many people like him. The story is always the same.”

For some reason this is where I realized that Millennials, though obviously probably only an American phenomenon, kind of exist elsewhere. You have people of the same age group looking to find a place in a world where there doesn’t appear to be anything for them. Montauk joined the military to connect to the glory of his family’s military history, Corderoy went to Academia to find his glory there, and Fayed parked his car on the roof.

Montauk thinks it’s crazy. Aladdin thinks it’s normal.

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