The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 25 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 Wolf Sword of the Werewolf King.

Chapter 25 opens in Baghdad with Montauk reading Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinths. It’s a short story collection that I own, it might also have a foreword written by William Gibson.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an author from Argentina. He’s pretty rad.

Corderoy had sent it–there was no return address, but it had to be him. Who else would have dog-eared “The Lottery in Babylon,” a pretty academic joke about Montauk’s current geographical circumstances.

I’ve read that story. It’s pretty good. Corderoy has underlined passages.

Was he lonely in Boston? Why didn’t he just write? Why didn’t Montauk? He had read the story before, but not through Corderoy’s eyes. In many cases, the knowledge that certain happy turns were the simple result of chance would have lessened the force of those outcomes. That sounded like Corderoy, all right, rejecting good fortune because he didn’t deserve it.

I don’t know, man. I don’t remember Corderoy rejecting good fortune, so much as kind of stumbling from awkward circumstance to another.

Poor Corderoy, trapped in his head, just like Borges.

I don’t quite get this, am I supposed to be feeling sorry for Corderoy? Aladdin was murdered.

I’m not sure where I’m going with that.

I should probably come clean at this point and say I’ve been kind of sick the last couple of days, so I’m really glad that this chapter is a short one.

It could only live inside a library. It would fall apart as soon as some junky BMW raced toward the barricades with who knew what in its trunk, his men forced to shoot the dirt, then the tires, then if the car kept coming, the driver. Center of mass.

Guess that’s a real compare and contrast of academia and war.

Montauk finds Ali Gorma.

Montauk had struggled for the last week to figure out what was going on in Ali Gorma’s head, largely to no avail.

I wonder if Ali Gorma isn’t a millennial. An obsession with things like say Batman and Star Wars seems to be a symptom of that condition.

A guy had parked a car and then ditched it. This is obviously a real problem for Montauk and his guys. So they get a mirror to check out the underside and Montauk goes to do it himself.

This was the second time Monauk had inspected a suspicious car, but the first time he’d done so after seeing the car bomb at the Iraqi T.J.Maxx.

He checks out the underside and then goes to check the trunk.

It’s a pretty tense scene. I guess it’s not impossible that Montauk could die and then haunt Corderoy as some kind of ghost.

As he’s going into a potentially deadly situation he starts thinking about Borges.

Is it not ludicrous that chance should dictate a person’s death while the circumstances of that death–whether private or public, whether drawn out for an hour or a century–should not be subject to chance?

It’s like Montauk is playing the lottery of Babylon. Read the story, my comment would kind of make sense after you read it.

It’s short.


Shouts Fields which causes Montauk to jump. After Aladdin’s death, Ant had become withdrawn and Fields had become an asshole, as exemplified by shouting “boom” at that moment.

Montauk, relieved, walks back to where he was reading a book earlier and finds Monkey.

“You know that old man say you shit, man.”

Old man? Montauk looked down the street at the Iraqi standing next to Arroyo. “The driver said that? He wasn’t that old. What did he say?”

“He said you shit American don’t help anything, man.”

“Did he.”

Monkey nodded.

Fucking Gorma.

Allow me to reiterate that I really like Monkey. Montauk doesn’t know if Gorma’s being a shitty translator or if Monkey is bullshitting him.

Caught in a world where nothing makes sense Montauk ends the chapter with some sweet Borges quote:

Babylon is nothing but an infinite game of chance.


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