The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 23 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 Vampire Swords Drink the Blood of Elves.

Chapter 23 continues the adventure of Montauk in Baghdad. It’s also a pretty short chapter.

Montauk starts of taking a crap in a porta potty.

Opening the door to the port-o-john was like checking on how a piece of rancid pork was doing in the broiler.

It gets worse from there.

I’ll just skip ahead and leave it with Montauk’s got diarrhea and has had it since the car bomb the previous week. There’s a Burger King reference that’s pretty gross.

A kindred soul had written in Sharpie above the paper dispenser: “Saddam’s Revenge says Fuck You.”

I assume that’s an intentional play off of Montezuma’s Revenge. Given what happens in this chapter “Sadam’s Revenge” is almost prophetic.

The Priority Search crew had found a body in the Tigris river and were hauling it out.

Montauk could smell the corpse as soon as he left the road.

This is a seriously smelly chapter.

As he sees more of the corpse that’s being dragged ashore, Montauk realizes he knows who it is.

He bent down to grab a handful of soaked T-shirt, and the full evil of the reek made itself known to him. “Jesus, fuck.” He paused to keep from retching on the corpse’s bloated but strangely … familiar face. “Christ, it’s Aladdin.”

This is where I suspect I might be reading too much into things, but then again there’s a genius to the Classic stories like the Iliad. This strikes me as a real Wrath of Achilles moment. You might remember that Aladdin isn’t just a translator to Montauk, he’s a cipher for Corderoy, the other half of his soul practically.

Montauk closed his eyes, tight-lipped. The death smell made him want to kill.

Montauk cuts Aladdin’s hands frees and tries, and fails, to close Aladdin’s eyes.

He breathed heavily on the walk back up to the CP, both to get the death out of his nostrils and to fuel the anger inside him that, if left untended, would subside into panic.

Patroclus is killed by Hector, the breaker of horses, and then Achilles loses his shit. And why was Patroclus killed? Because he was wearing the armor of Achilles. Aladdin was wearing the clothing of the Americans. Come on, I’m not crazy, right?

Montauk comes across Monkey.

“You hear about Aladdin?”

“Yeah,” Monkey said. “They kill him, man.”

Montauk spat into the dust as an idea took shape in his head. Why the fuck not. “Listen,” he said. “I’ll give a reward to whoever can tell me who killed Aladdin. You understand?”

We won’t find out till later in the novel but the reason to not do this is that it’s illegal. Like Army illegal. It’s a seriously bad idea, but hey, wrath, am I right?

Seriously, am I right? I can’t tell anymore.

“Look, see this?” Montauk said, tearing open the Velcro pocket at his sleeve where he kept a few bills and a notepad. “Here’s a dollar. I want to know who killed Aladdin. Whoever tells me who killed Aladdin, I’ll give him five hundred dollars. That’s this much,” he said, writing and underlining “500” on the notepad. Monkey’s eyes widened.

“It’s got to be real. No lies, okay? Only real, true information. Who killed Aladdin.”

Only “real, true information” huh? Seems like a real setup for tragedy since there seems to be points  in this novel where information is immortal (for Nazi style book burnings), and then again memory is infinitely malleable (regarding 9/11s).

“You gonna shoot him, LT?”

“That’s right. And anybody who tells me who it was, they get five hundred dollars. My own money. Tell everyone you know.”

I wonder if Saddam’s real revenge is bringing some of the crazy totalitarian regime to the Americans. Remember that under Saddam’s regime officers were authorized to execute people with their pistols. Montauk is an officer and he does have a pistol.

Urritia hears about it and Montauk tells him to keep it in the company. Jackson, Urritia’s squad leader, asks what’s going on.

“LT’s offering a cash reward for the Al-Qaeda fuckheads who whacked the translator.”

Jackson blinked willfully. “Serious?”

“Roger, Staff Sergeant.”

“All he’s gonna get is a line of stinky ragheads tellin’ lies.”

Not actually that bad an assessment given what happens later.

Jackson snorted and lit up a Gauloise. The sun had started on its way down, and traffice on Karada Dahil was picking back up after the midday siesta. “What a retard,” he said.

“Yeah,” said Urritia. “What a retard.”

I would like to add that Achilles wasn’t known for being the smart one.


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