“A captivating coming-of-age novel that is, by turns, funny and sad and elegiac” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times) about two best friends as their post-grad lives diverge—one into liberal academia, the other into the American military occupation of Iraq.
On a summer night in 2004, prepping for another blowout party in the arty Seattle enclave of Capitol Hill, Mickey Montauk has just learned that he won’t be joining his best friend, Halifax Corderoy, for grad school in Boston. Global events have intervened, and Mickey’s National Guard unit will soon deploy to Baghdad. But before he can make this stunning revelation, events spiral beyond their control. In the bleary-eyed dawn, Mickey and Hal glimpse their radically altered future, the start of a year that will transform them all.
Months later, Mickey struggles to lead his platoon safely through an increasingly violent and confusing war. In Boston, Hal finds himself unable to play the game of intellectual one-upmanship with the ease of his new classmates. When Hal’s new roommate, Tricia, and ex-girlfriend, Mani, come between the best friends, Hal and Mickey find that cool irony and youthful self-regard cannot insulate them from the damages of love and conflict and the messiness of living. As Mickey and Hal’s lives move further away from their shared dream, they keep in touch by editing a Wikipedia article about themselves: absurd and hilarious updates that morph and deepen throughout the year, culminating in a document that is both devastatingly tragic and profoundly poetic.
“One of the most revealing novels yet about the millennial generation” (Esquire), War of the Encyclopaedists beats with the energetic pulse of idealistic youth on the threshold of adult reality. It is the vital, urgent, and utterly absorbing lament of searching for meaning and hope in a fractured world: “A love story, a war story, and also a generational one, about coming of age in the time of Wikipedia and YouTube…darkly funny and absurd and terrifying at the same time” (The Wall Street Journal).
Robinson and Kovite's debut novel is an uneven bromance set in 2004; Bush has just secured his second term in office, and the Iraq war is in full swing. Seattle hipsters and best friends Halifax Corderoy and Mickey Monterey are both accepted to graduate programs in Boston, but Monterey's plans are interrupted when he is called up for military training before being shipped off to Iraq. The duo stay in touch via their Wikipedia page, "The Encyclopaedists," about an ironic art collective they organized to highlight the absurdity of modern art. The pair's love interests, Mani, an artist, and Tricia, a student, read as two-dimensional characters. The four come across as too naive; their clich d conversations about art and literary theory make the reader feel trapped in an earnest but dull graduate school class. When the action shifts to Baghdad, questions turn from Foucault to the plight of Iraqis, especially the translators who worked for the Americans, making the latter part of the novel a gripping, thoughtful read. Despite the slow start, Robinson's and Kovite's novel is ultimately moving and memorable.