The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 26 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 King of Maces (Just kidding I mean Swords).

Chapter 26 is a Montauk in Baghdad Chapter.

The date is November 3rd, 2004. It’s the Bush versus Kerry election.

Montauk was using the election to distract him from Aladdin’s death in much the same way that Corderoy uses the election to handle being dumped by a girl on myspace. The therapeutic nature of elections is something I never knew about. Friend murdered? Elections. Lonely and betrayed by someone on myspace? Elections.

Montauk’s family and friends are all pretty liberal which is something he’s not comfortable with.

Olaf opens up the chapter by basically saying the last lines of Chinatown.

“You’re never gonna figure this out,” Olaf had told him. “It’s Iraq.”

Montauk goes into the Coalition Press Information Center and sets up there to watch the election news and clean Molly Millions.

He swabbed it and held it up to the screen, and for an instant, John Kerry was framed by the bore, like in the opening credits of a Bond movie.

I’m not sure what the significance of that is other than maybe tied to the fact that Kerry loses?

A journalist from NPR asks him if he voted and he says he did and he’s the voting officer.

“Do most of them vote?”

“Most? Probably not. Maybe half. Probably less.”

“Who do you think they voted for?”

Montauk shrugged. “Probably Bush. I don’t ask.”

Maybe this is to show the gulf between Montauk and his anti-Bush background and his current pro-Bush world.

This is a pretty long chapter so I’ll break it down:

  • Montauk goes back to where his guys are bunking.
  • Ant is playing The Sims and is very intensely into it.
    • Olaf comes along and makes Ant do push-ups because Ant’s avatar was doing push-ups.
  • Urrita is weight-lifting in the makeshift weight room.
  • Some guys are watching Team America: World Police.
  • Sodium Joh arrives with the mail and gives Montauk a letter from Mani.
  • Montauk goes to the john to both defecate and read the letter.

Mani’s set herself up in Boston and refuses to hang out with friends because it might be awkward. She thinks people are being callous about the soldiers involved in an unpopular war. She finds it romantic that she has a war-time husband.

Montauk gets angry. Finds a Penthouse magazine. Masturbates. Walks out to find out Bush has won and Alec Baldwin is giving his speech in Team America: World Police.

It’s worth noting that Montauk defecates and masturbates in the same scene, echoing Corderoy’s comments earlier that masturbating is like shitting.

Montauk goes back to his cubicle and despairs that Mani is probably doing some hipster who is not Corderoy because Corderoy would have said something.

So Montauk turns his thoughts back to using Molly Millions to kill whoever was responsible for killing Aladdin.

He’d save one round for himself, maybe, as this was an army of laws, not men.

Which is a pretty damn dark way to end a chapter. Though it’s worth noting that the Penthouse in the john was actually against some of army laws prohibiting the presence of pornography in that area.

So it’s an army of laws made up of an army of men? I don’t know where I’m going with this.

I skimmed over Mani’s letter and the subsequent spiritual torment Montauk suffers partly because, after Mani’s been gone for so long, I kind of find her annoying to deal with, and Montauk’s fixating on her annoying by extension.

I wonder if I’m just frustrated with these characters tormented by their self-imposed loneliness. Maybe this is a characteristic of Millennials the book intends to call out.

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One thought on “The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 26 review #WarOfTheEncyclopaedists

  1. The frustration you express is the core “problem” with the book. I put problem in scare-quotes because it’s my problem and not the book’s, really. Fundamentally, they’re telling a story about four people who don’t grow, change, or accomplish anything. Which might be realistic. But at the same time it makes it easy to hold the characters in contempt.

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