The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 24 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 Angel Sword in the Stone of Jupiter.

Chapter 24 is a pretty big downer.

Montauk arrives at the Ped Search bunker.

PCF Lo had been taken off gun duty. He was scrutinizing an ID card at the bunker’s entrance as Montauk arrived. It was a fibrous paper deal with a small photo affixed at the corner, laminated with sticky paper. It seemed to have been hidden alternately in the gearbox of some grinding machine and up the bearer’s ass for the last few decades.

I already hate this job.

Lo waves a guy through who doesn’t sound like he fits the description at all.

Montauk gave Lo an encouraging nod. At least he was trying. And hopefully on Ped Search, he wouldn’t get anyone killed.

I like the “hopefully”.

Montauk goes into a bunker where Sodium Joh and Olaf were, along with a third person.

Olaf was in the bunker, standing next to a stodgy, plainly dressed Iraqi sitting on a plastic chair.

Who is the new guy?

“This is Ali Gorma. Our new translator.

Quite a contrast with the more flamboyant/hip Aladdin.

Meeting a new translator doesn’t go over well with Montauk.

But in confronting this “new” translator, he needed a concerted effort of will not to picture the waterlogged corpse like an overstuffed and rancid sausage, not to smell the rot, which was thick enough to taste in the back of his throat.

Ali Gorma’s a disappointment. He doesn’t know how to fist bump. He’s apathetic about football, which Montauk tries to use to form a bond. He’s basically the anti-Aladdin.

Monkey arrives on the scene and comes over to talk to Montauk.

“I told Monkey to ask around about Aladdin.”


He’d said it in a moment of emotional extremity. But now it was really happening. There was no choice but to own the decision. “I had him put word out that if anyone had intel on it, I’d have a reward.”

I think I recall something like the only real problem in the Army-universe is indecisiveness.

Olaf brings up a point I didn’t think of, that Montauk’s mission could get Monkey killed.

“I don’t know about that. He seems to get how things work around here. I don’t think they’d go after the kid.” Montauk felt stupid as soon as his mouth started moving with that last one.

Montauk gives Monkey a fiver.

Montauk felt a brief twinge of the kind of envy he and his other suburbanite friends had felt for black kids growing up in Compton after The Chronic came out. If only they’d had the fortune to be born into poverty, to have no choice but to hustle. If you succeeded in the world of the ghetto enough to leave it, you had undeniable respect. No one gave a shit if you made it out of the suburbs.

I think this really taps into this weird Millennial thing about authenticity and things that are “real”, and this continual feeling of a lack of that. I enjoy the wordplay of the “fortune to be born into poverty”.

Monkey wants a hundred, but Montauk says he’ll give him a hundred for a human skull. Then the interviews regarding Aladdin’s murder begins.

Mehmet Soufan:

Q: Why do you suspect Iranians?

A: Because they are enemies of Iraq.

Q: I see. Do you think it may have been the Israelis?

A: Yes, I think it was maybe the Israelis?

A: Yes. Enemies to Iraq and to America.

Walid Mahmoud Khazal:

I have information about the terrorist that killed the translator Aladdin. He is Ahmet Mohammed Ali from Sadr City. He lives in the Housseini apartment building on Palestine Way. Near the bus station in Sadr City. He is a terrorist in the Mahdi Army. He leaves letters for people who work for Americans saying he will kill them for Muqtada Al-Sadr.

He’s an English speaking math professor from Baghdad U.

Nadhirah Ayad:

Q: What was the American soldiers?

A: They were.

Q: What about them?

A: They are who killed my son, Aladdin.

Q: Why would they do this?

A: So that there would be no one can tell about how they put their hands all over me.

Q: You are Aladdin’s mother?

A: Yes. I tell you this already.

Q: And what did Aladdin look like?

A: You ask a mother how her own son looks? Do not insult me.

Q: I’m sorry.

A: Will you punish the blacks who put their hands all over me?

Q: We’ll look into it.

Ahmet Mohammed Ali:

“I didn’t do the thing Walid Mahmoud Khazal told you that I did.”

That’s just my summary.

There’s more after that. The interviews are actually something I really like because they’re so believably ridiculous and really highlight the shitty situation that Montauk has imbedded himself in.

I’ll leave off the rest because they’re great and I’ll just summarize in that every thing’s a mess and nothing gets done.

The end… of Chapter 24.


2 thoughts on “The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 24 review #WarOfTheEncyclopaedists

  1. I think the series of interviews make this the most important Baghdad chapter. It’s the moment at which it becomes clear that Montauk’s army experiences aren’t going to be any more authentic than Corderoy’s, despite the fact that he’s grappling with situations that seem like they should be more real.


    • I think that’s a brilliant insight, though I don’t know if the book is right on that point.

      I think Corderoy’s experiences in Boston are more governed by his own self-destructive nature. His forays into academia are basically two chapters, and the rest are more about his increasing isolation. Montauk’s crazy world is inauthentic because he’s basically on Mars, but despite that, I feel like he has genuine experience connecting with people around him in a way Corderoy seems unable to do.

      See how many people Montauk knows (Lo, Joh, Olaf, Monkey, Aladdin), whereas Corderoy’s people seems to be primarily his roommate Trisha. Corderoy’s disillusionment with academia I think comes less from academia failing him, so much as he gives up trying almost immediately.


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