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Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  231 ratings  ·  53 reviews
At once a horror fiction, a work of speculative theology, an atlas of demonology, a political samizdat and a philosophic grimoire, CYCLONOPEDIA is work of theory-fiction on the Middle East, where horror is restlessly heaped upon horror. Reza Negarestani bridges the appalling vistas of contemporary world politics and the War on Terror with the archeologies of the Middle Eas...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published August 30th 2008 by Re.Press
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Jonfaith
To understand the militarization of oil and the dynamism of war machines in War on Terror, one must grasp oil as an ultimate Tellurian lubricant, or a vehicle for epic narratives.

I kept thinking of Terminus, the Roman god of boundaries while plowing through this book. Sure the prose as such was the epitome of opaque and dense: thus a sheer alternative to the smooth spaces of the Warmachine and the Lines of Immanence. I read somewhere recently that the Israeli Defense Force has begun incorporatin...more
Zach
Maeby: No, deep is good. People are going to say, “What the hell just happened? I better say I like it.” ’Cause nobody wants to seem stupid.
Rita: I like it!



Somewhere, in some beautiful alternate universe, some years ago the young Iranian student Reza Negarestani was denied entry to the graduate school of the University of Warwick and, crushed, never received any academic training in the field of philosophy. After wallowing in disappointment for a few years, he channeled his despondency into Cycl...more
Szplug
Sui generis, confounding, disturbing, difficult, absorbing, and ingenious: all of these adjectives are fitting labels to describe Cyclonopedia, a work of theoretical fiction by Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani that falls about halfway between theory and fiction - a nebulous netherpoint with blurred edges that is so utterly appropriate to the contents that lie within.

Posit an Earth that, in its submissive wholeness, is an ordered and orderly component of the Solar Empire, the hegemonic domain...more
Carl
Cyclonopedia is indisputably one of the most challenging and impressive books of the 21st century. I am not sure how much familiarity with key texts like the works of Deleuze and Guattari or Middle Eastern references can be helpful in reading the book. The synthesis of ideas and the mechanism of analogies are quite different from anything out there. It is a book that requires the reader to think differently and become accomplice in the way it thinks and put things together. For reading cyclonope...more
Steve
Cyclonopedia is a work of philosophy embedded in a horror novel which is wrapped in a literary hoax involving the written legacy of Dr. Hamid Parsani, recently disappeared. While comparisons to House of Leaves are apt, Cyclonopedia offers more theory than plot and leaves a thick, oily residue in your brainpan. Is the Middle East an intelligent entity? Does the earth yearn for solar immolation? What is the esoteric role of oil in the "war on terror"? The book's blurb rounds it all out nicely:

"An...more
M.
Simultaneously astoundingly difficult, fully entertaining, enigmatic, and unreadable, boring. However, within that construction, there's much to appreciate here. It's tearing apart of everything and rebuilding within a zeitgeist of theory-fiction--the terror seeps up, it's not on the surface because of the way words function, but it's there. As a novel I'm pretty sure it fails, but as a text it's astounding. I was also fascinated with the reading of Merhige's Begotten offered at the end of the n...more
Leah
Allow me to get on my soapbox for bit: A book's difficulty is not directly proportional to its brilliance. Some difficult books are pure drivel, and some simple looking books are pure genius. This particular book requires a lot of work, and a great deal of patience. For this, it is to be both admired and alternately thrown against a wall.

Part of the unusual nature of the book is the way that it is written. It starts out as a somewhat typical story would - meaning that it contains characters and...more
Michael
I was excited to read this book once I heard the nutso title. Really excited, but I couldn't find a library that had it, so I sprung for my own copy. Woe be to me. I made it through the first 50 pages before stopping, and I wouldn't have read that much, except I was on a seven-hour flight to Honolulu and had nowhere else to be.

The first few pages are a hopeful kind of Gibsonesque new-century sprawl, as are the footnotes, but the rest is purpoted psychotic rambling. 99% of the book. Mostly incomp...more
David
Not ready to review yet... mind still blown.

UPDATE 5/14/2012: Fifteen months later, I'm still not capable of writing a coherent review, but I definitely recommend it if you like at least two of the following: cracked conspiracy theories, occult horror, Tristram Shandy.
Karlo Mikhail
Not everything we read is to our liking. These past weeks, I’ve been spending bits of my time wrestling with a mish-mash of Middle Eastern esoterica, Critical Theory, and metaphysical Political Economy called Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Anonymous Materials by one Reza Negarestani.

It begins with an American woman arriving in Istanbul to meet an online friend. The anonymous acquaintance never arrives. What she does find in her hotel is a mysterious manuscript.

Lured by what seemed like a promisin...more
Jesse
A mad pseudo-theoretical romp, a scaffolding of cryptic phrases and invented jargon, elaborately-constructed around a few genuinely interesting ideas.

There isn't much of a story here, though some of the summaries belie that fact. There's a very loose framing narrative, which gives a little historical/documentarian flavor to the prickly, abstract bulk of the book. However, it's more of a game being played with certain ideas: oil as a fundamental agent determining history, military and ideological...more
Eric Phetteplace
Cyclonopedia is an ambitious and extravagant work, pulling in archaeology, demonology, geopolitics, topology, kinesthetics, religious studies, philosophy, mystical numerology, war/military studies, culinary theory, and more into a helical, bitterly paranoid treatise on the Earth, the Sun, and oil. The premise, vaguely, is that the Middle East is a living entity and the oil underground/molten core of the Earth manipulates people and politics in its efforts to achieve a burning immanence with the...more
Brian
Jun 12, 2011 Brian rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: crazy people
Recommended to Brian by: Nick Black
Shelves: crazy
(2.0) I'd love for someone to explain what the heck this is, I'll even consider reading it again.

I just don't know what I just experienced by reading this. Quick summary:
* there's a short intro, supposedly by Kristen Alvanson (more on her later), journalist(?) who is supposed to meet an Iranian whose name is an unpronounceable (just by her?) serpent-like symbol (Satan? ;) ). Instead of meeting him, she finds a manuscript (Cyclonopedia itself, with odd marginalia that appears in our book as footn...more
Andrew Oda
very dense, tangled, twisty view of middle east politics and philosophy. . . has a sinister, creeping, house of leaves feeling to it. . .i'm sure a lot of it went over my head, but the stuff i could grasp was super interesting/weird/terrifying. i'm interested in reading more from the authors associated with the whole theory-fiction genre. . . : )
Iwokeinrelief
I wanted to start this review with some sort of reasonable definition of just what Theory-Fiction really is. And yet, I can't really find anything concrete.

Reza (the author) describes it as such in a brief description of a talk he gave earlier this year:

theory-fiction as philosophy's simulation engine

I also came across this description (of another) work on CTheory.net which at least covers some of the concepts (Link):

By "theoretical fiction" I don't mean books which are merely informed by theory
...more
Steve D
The phrase "theory-fiction" is thrown around a lot in regards to this book, but I find that potentially misleading. It looks like some people try to treat it as either theory or fiction, or as if it alternates between the two. My take on it is that it is only the two, simultaneously, save for the completely superfluous and not-at-all-interesting introductory "framing story." In short, the term "speculative realism" is much more precise: this is real theory regarding speculative subjects.

Having r...more
Andrea
Weird, twisted, incredibly difficult to read but its philosophy read like poetry is rather gripping in a dark way that breaks into pure terror. The (un)conventional story's contained in the footnotes, and I am still thinking about what happened. As I ponder numerology, the Middle East as a sentient being, the meaning of fear, oil. It's almost playful in its nature as hoax. But anything using Dean Koontz and HP Lovecraft as theoretical sources gives me joy.
my name is corey irl
so its super complex and you gotta know a bit of deleuze an guattari and theres a whole chapter on dust and i know what youre thinking: i could read like five or six animorphs books in the time it takes to read this. well the good news friend is that its worth at least that many animorphs if not more (and yes before you say it that includes the one where they all turn into dinosaurs). startling i know but there you have it
Matthew
Negarestani is a philosopher extraordinaire.
Matt Payne
A monumental piece of horror-philosophy.

This is a strange and beautiful idea-story. It's about a rogue Iranian professor who goes off the deep end researching a complex, ancient demonology. The bulk of the book is pages and pages describing that ancient demonology, which is based on the idea that oil is alive and controls the Earth like a gooey demon. The book references real mythology, fictional demonologies from writers like Lovecraft, obscure philosophical texts, history, and modern social an...more
Ryan
It is difficult to categorize this book. It starts with a plot, but the plot is quickly pushed to the extremities of the text to occupy the footnotes. The bulk of the text becomes a meandering analysis of a fictional archaeologist's socio-political theories of the middle east, and the original protagonist is sucked in and fades away- perhaps she was never real in the first place, perhaps she was instead a tactic used by the book to lure and entrap the reader.

It is certainly the sort of thing th...more
Shaun Prescott
Excuse me if this is off the mark, just trying to grapple with the book.

A quote from Brian Massumi's 'A User's Guide To Capitalism and Schizophrenia' (a series of attempts to interpret two Deleuze and Guattari works) is instrumental here, and serves to illustrate Negarestani's mode of operation:

“The question is not, Is is true? But, does it work? What new thoughts does it make possible to think? What new emotions does it make possible to feel? What new sensations and perceptions does it open to...more
Razi
Fortunately or unfortunately I was never into Theory (with an uppercase T) although I did once haunt the sites likes ctheory.net and hyperstition and Reza's own blog/s. They call it Theory Fiction. Reza has been heavily involved in the Speculative Realism project mainly driven by Graham Harmann in the UK and Quentin Meillassoux in France backed by Urbanomic, their Cornish publishers (based in Daphne de Maurier's Falmouth).

Cyclonopedia is first part of Reza's "Blackening" trilogy. Part II, The Mo...more
Jim Elkins
A very interesting book. The back cover copy makes it sound like it's science fiction, and Jess Martin's review (on this site) makes it sound like some generic mysticism. One of the endorsements in the book describes it as "an uncategorizable hybrid of philosophical fiction, heretical theology, aberrant demonology and renegade archaeology." That is a bit sloppy, because the book is only philosophical fiction in the sense that it is invented, � la Borges or Lem. And heresy isn't its point. "Cyclo...more
Randy Miller
Nov 29, 2011 Randy Miller marked it as to-read
I haven't finished this yet, I'm barely 50 pages in, but I'm struggling with how to approach it. If I look at it as a sort of artistic emulation of the mystical, numerological, everything-is-connected obsession of a paranoid schizophrenic, then I find it interesting and unsettling. I can ignore the analogies that are, quite frankly, reaching (listing all the metaphysical/metaphorical ways in which oil can be said to be slippery), and I can ignore the justifications that are factually incorrect (...more
Ross Lockhart
Cyclonopedia is a dense word salad smothered in a thick dressing of crude oil and bitter herbs. Taking the Lovecraftian conceit of a corrupting found manuscript to its logical, postmodern extreme, Cyclonopedia posits an accidentally-discovered philosophical treatise riddled with plot ( )holes and uncanny revelations, including sentient oil animating and inhabiting the Middle East, embroiled in an eternal conflict with solar hegemony. A touch of cosmic horror, an inkling of Apocalypse Now, a pinc...more
Dave
Man, this one is kind of hurting me to read it. It's a bit crazed. And the endnotes!§ If this ends up being a waste of my time I'm going to punch China Mieville and the guy from BLDGblog in the mouth.

****************

Yeah. I'm done with this.
























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































§ ARGH! ENDNOTES!
straygray
"In Shawwal of 783 AH, Um al-Ghathra was in a caravan heading to Khurasan, Iran for trade and pilgrimage. Towards the end of its journey, the caravan changed its direction in the night because what they sighted ahead in their assumed direction was a lagoon instead of a city. After a few days of wandering, they headed back for their homes. Once settled, Um al-Ghathra began to write a treatise on what would later be called the Middle East as a sentient and living entity - alive in a very literal s...more
Andrew
Definitely a book that resists an easy classification. The reviewers on the book's back cover have a feel of enjoying trying to locate it for reference. Here's my try: as if Gilles Deleuze were writing about Middle/Near Eastern occultism with contemporary socio-political overtones. Or as one of those reviews puts it nicely, this is "post-genre." One thing it's been said to be that I dispute is a horror novel. It's not in anyway that.

What Negarestani was going for with this book... I'm not sure I...more
Ian
Recommended by Jonathan McCalmont and, to be honest, I didn’t really get the joke. It’s written as a cod academic text, and probably does an excellent job of spoofing its material, but I’m not familiar with the sort of academic arguments it uses. It did remind me a lot of some of the Nazi occult science mythology – especially those books published by Adventures Unlimited Press – which create entire secret scientific programmes out of the flimsiest of evidence. The plot, such as it is, describes...more
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