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War of the Encyclopaedists

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  573 ratings  ·  108 reviews
In a superb, rare literary collaboration, two major new talents join their voices to tell the story of a generation at a crossroads, and a friendship that stretches over continents and crises--from the liberal arena of Boston academia to the military occupation of Iraq--in this ambitious and electrifying debut novel.

On a summer night, in the arty enclave of Capitol Hill, S
Hardcover, 435 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Scribner (first published May 12th 2015)
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3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  573 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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May 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not quite sure what went wrong here but it just didn't click for me on any level. Perhaps the tag-team authorship led the story narrative astray but it just seemed the can't miss title The War of The Encyclopaedists never could sustain my attention long enough to convey the story (which is simply way too thin to occupy nearly 500 pages). it seemed like Robinson and Kovite had a tough time sorting through what is novel-worthy, so opted to throw in everything that both wrote (whether or not worth ...more
In this postmodern satire, two Seattle hipsters must face reality when one of them leaves to fight in the Iraq War. Halifax Corderoy and Mickey Montauk mark the summer of 2004 by hosting one their infamous themed parties as “The Encyclopaedists.” It’s the end of an era for these drug-loving pals: Mickey, a National Guardsman, has been called to duty in Iraq, and Hal heads to graduate school in Boston. From now on they keep in touch by updating their pretentious Encyclopaedists Wikipedia article: ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, arc-reviews, fiction
Want to make a novel feel current, but not too current? Set it roughly ten years in the past before the rise of smartphones, Facebook and Twitter. What you’re left with is a world that’s both familiar yet far enough removed to feel periodic.

Before Halifax and his best friend Mickey Montauk go their separate ways – Hal to graduate school in Boston and Mickey to the front lines of the second Iraq war – they vow to stay in touch, making sure their friendship does not suffer due to the distance. The
Got one-fourth of the way in, couldn't make heads nor tails of this. I don't know if the book knows itself what it's trying to be. Words like 'pretentious' and 'innocuous' come to mind. So little substance here, like an unflavorful soup you want to pour some onion salt in and add potatoes. I wasn't going to write a review I was so under-impressed, but...

It's about some guys who are friends and one likes a girl but she ends up with someone else and along the way they work on encyclopedia-wikipedi
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books thus far this year. From the beginning of the novel, the two protagonists, merry pranksters who seem to come straight from a Ken Kesey novel, endear themselves to the reader with their sarcastic, wise ass hipster comments and antics. Both go off to their respective careers: one to the Iraq occupation, the other to grad school MA program in Literature. Both are plunged into an existential crises. Things get complicated with wives, and girlfriends and art and journalism and w ...more
Ben Babcock
This is not the type of novel I am meant to enjoy. Even meant as satire, War of the Encyclopaedists just screams “I am the product of an MFA writer.” It flounders in its pretentiousness, then washes up on the rocky shores of “but … but … plot?” before an errant wave knocks it loose and the undertow drags it out to the sea of irrelevance.

Hey, I can write metaphors too. Graduate degree, please!

In all seriousness—

—actually, no, I can’t lie to you, Reader. I started this review tongue-in-cheek and w
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Edited to add I got this book for free through a Goodreads Giveaway. This is a very smart book about people who are at once smarter and dumber than they think. It's an exploration of the existential navel-gazing that Generation Y gets caught up in, a result of too much freedom making some of us almost scared to do anything, worried about what we should be doing, how to live up to our potential. The characters are full of self-doubt that they mostly hide through irony and detachment. And then the ...more
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was gifted a galley copy from the publisher, and blew through this novel in 2 days. I found it highly enjoyable. The authors chose a unique and fun lense through which to create what is basically a coming of age story. The events, emotions, and characters are all easily relatable. My only criticism would be that the events already have something of a dated feel (9-11, Iraq war, Kerry Campaign) which may hurt the long-term readability of the book.

As a side note: I loved the names- Luc Dubois (
Joseph Moon
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: the author is a friend of mine.

That said, I was hesitant to start reading, imagining the awkward conversation if it were dumb or boring. How pleasant then to discover that my fears were completely unfounded. This was an absolute joy to read: moving, insightful, and playful, with both the (unfortunately) familiar self-absorption and self-pity of the post-adolescent young man and the confusion and purposelessness of a soldier in wartime faithfully and honestly rendered, two seemin
Jenny R
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a perfect book, but its writing is so heartfelt that -- much like the characters themselves -- you give it the benefit of the doubt even when the flaws are visible.

One of the best descriptions I've read of the simultaneous banality and anxiety of modern warfare (and MFA programs)

Robinson and Kovite have created a wonderful, loving work of fiction. Hooah to them.
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robinson und Kovite, ein ehemaliger Literaturstudent und ein Veteran des Irakkriegs, die sich in Rom getroffen haben, schreiben gemeinsam einen Roman über einen Literaturstudenten und einen US-Soldaten während der Besetzung Iraks, die auf den Krieg von 2003 folgte. Ihre Figuren Mickey Montauk und Halifax Corderoy aus Seattle haben sich ebenfalls in Rom kennengelernt. Die jungen Männer zählen sich zu den Enzyklopädisten, leben in einem selbst geschaffenen Universum, das sie in Wikipedia fortschre ...more
cardulelia carduelis
This is me after 20 pages in:

Because I was NOT expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. I mean come on it's described as being for 'millenials' which is generally used by impressionable adults to describe rich, bored university students, and it's about two boys coming of age at the awkward period of mid-twenties.
One of them is the stereotypical liberal arts graduate student, bumming around + flaking + abusing substances + self sabotaging . And the other is off to War but is sort of sketch
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a really interesting book. It's hard to sum up. In terms of content and tone, it really reminded me of Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot." The book follows the "Encyclopaedists", two twenty-something hipster males, Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy, as their lives diverge into war and grad school respectively, each facing unique existential and moral crises. Robinson and Kovite capture the highly-intellectual, malaise-stricken attitude of the recent liberal arts college grad. For this reas ...more
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Vital work. Chronicles a generation, or at least a subset of a generation (generally being white and middle to upper-class) in the time of a war that is remarkable in how little it impacted those in America who lived and continue to live through it, while it tears apart nations and peoples abroad. One of the authors is a part of my social circles, but that is why I feel it captures so well the thoughts and attitudes that drive the characters in the book. It's all distinctly familiar, while ident ...more
Jul 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"War and Peace Lite" would make a perfect subtitle, and I mean that in a good way. While Tolstoy's dualities are often difficult to discern, the two "Encyclopaedists", Robinson and Kovite, offer to us in-your-face couplings such as 'cupcake funfetti' and 'body-parts confetti'. The pop culture reference 'Vote for Pedro' is condemned within a certain circumstance, 'Judge Judy' sails along just fine. Are these two writers admitting a lack of experience with the following (mandatory?) meta entry: "W ...more
Kristen Fowler
This book. This book was so much more than I expected the first time I saw it sitting on the bookstore shelf. I’m so happy that it was an impulse buy, because it was absolutely fantastic and worth every moment I put into reading it.

When writing to his deployed best friend seems too much like a girlfriend writing to her sweetheart, Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy come up with a unique solution. They create and communicate through a Wikipedia article entitled “The Encyclopaedists”. They updat
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Generally, I'm not a fan of the interjected asides in the form of letters, emails, poems (in this case Wikipedia entries, throughout a story. However, there are only 7 or 8 of these existential utterances, which move from tongue-in-check to deeply moving.

The relationship between the two young men ring true, the young woman, Mani, somewhat less (for me). The main characters are flawed humans, with all the angst of the young, trying to make sense of their real and imagined pathos. I think I would
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've read a few co-authored books in the past year. 'War of the Encyclopaedists' has the most cohesive feel of them all. Hal and Mickey each have a distinctive identity and the structure of the book, switching between their perspectives and their stories, works.

The story is set in the early 2000s - that brief interlude when most of us had access to the Internet but nobody had social media, when cell phones were still just phones and Wikipedia got a few thousand hits per day. Hal and Mickey and
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

After a shaky start, this book developed into a moving look at war, existential angst, and the let-down of becoming an adult. The use of two authors could have been awkward and uneven, but each brought an amazing insight to their respective sections. I also appreciated that they worked to make the women in the book real people, rather than only foils for the male protagonists.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, owned
Half of it was not bad.
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Millennials at war and peace. Fluently written and very readable, but major characters are, perhaps intentionally (but I don't think so) particularly irritating. Maybe that's just Millennials. Or this version of them.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book although the writing was very good. The Wiki page (which I thought was a very unique idea) sharing the experiences of the two protagonists, despite the book's synopsis, plays a very small role in the overall narrative, which was a bit disappointing. I also found the book to be overly long; this may just be a personal preference, but I didn't think there was anything that needed to be said in this book that couldn't have been said in less than the 448 pages t ...more
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
Literary collaborations are rare because they are rarely executed well. War of the Encyclopaedists does not fail spectacularly but it fails to form into a cohesive whole. Robinson's and Kovite's style remain distinct and separated throughout the book. This could be forgiven if their framing device (the Wikipedia entry is part of the reason for the title) was employed more effectively. Instead, it is reduced to being little more than a tedious chapter synopsis that adds very little besides a narr ...more
Anna K. Amendolare
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Must be, the older I get, the less patience I have with the young and stupid. I find I have less tolerance for YA fiction and discovered I had very little tolerance for the twenty year old characters in this novel. Who are finding themselves. Who are making poor decisions. Who are second-guessing their choices and their actions. Oh for crying out loud, already. I didn't find that I actually liked any of the characters. I wanted to, but alas, they just annoyed me too much. And -- the ending sucke ...more
Ilyssa Wesche
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
The insufferable selfishness of the twenty-something is so perfectly captured here. Hal & Mickey reminded me of two parts of the same person that I know and love, so I could root for them even as they made dumb decisions. I got distracted by the alternate forms of communication (Wikipedia, army docs, etc) but I understood their purpose.

Added 5/13/15: Looks like the NYT agrees with me
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received a free copy of "War of the Encyclopaedists" through Goodreads First Reads; I was not required to write a review. Although this book is not the type of book I usually read (I read a lot of historical fiction and some classics) I did enjoy it. It is very well written and I found the characters very life like and engaging. They have their ups and downs, and they don't always end up on-top, but they kept me rooting for them. Also, it was unpredictable. Not in a crazy, action-packed kind o ...more
Garden Gal
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adults who think about the books they read
--Did you read Joyce's Ulysses - or intended to? Does the idea of Shackleton's Endurance echo in your brain? Can you visualize Dr. Seus's illustrations?
-- Perhaps the struggles of Archie and Mehitabel still inhabit your brain.
--Mickey Montauk, Halifax Corduroy, Mani Saheli, and Tricia are not two-dimensional characters; each is a complex human (imperfect by definition).
--This is not a light read; it is a satisfying one.

Jon Mertz
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting slice of four lives and how they intersect and unfold. The characters are challenged, it seems, to find their way in life. Some spurt forward at various times and others just seem to sputter. This may be a realistic look at life and how relationships can get you off track or help you out when you need it. A current look at these relationships and the story they tell. Muddled lives, muddled relationships.
Terence Hawkins
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book would be an extraordinary debut for a single writer; that it's a collaboration defies belief. Though one of the authors--and narrators-- was an MFA student in Boston while the other was s a serving officer in Iraq, the prose is entirely seamless and uniformly compelling. It effortlessly--and often hilariously--navigates the wildly disparate worlds of millennial Seattle, academic Boston, and occupied Iraq. This is not to be missed.
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free Advanced Reader Copy from Goodreads as a First Read.

I didn't particularly like the main characters, Hal and Mickey, but the story was compelling and honest and raw and it won me over in the end. I liked the way the Wikipedia entry was constantly changing as the relationships between the central characters evolved. I don't know what else to say without including spoilers. If you like raw, honest fiction, I think you will love this book.
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“He breathed in and felt that the air existed, certainly, as it circulated in and filled out two lunglike shapes, but what did that mean? One could have an entire face - something he wasn't sure he had right now - and still not exist.” 0 likes
“Fools, all of us. Glorious fools born into a vacuum of need, told we could be anything, flailing in a sea of possibility, thinking it a curse, having to design our lives from scratch, forever skeptical of what we create, forever revising, no idea of who we are or what we will make of ourselves - everyone a creator, everyone a voice in the universal knowledge - how lonely, with every mouth moving, no one actually listening, truth constantly in flux.” 0 likes
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