A Congolese soldier near the Rwandan border in 2001
Dancing in the Glory of Monsters is a history of the First Congo War and Second Congo War and related conflicts from when intensive fighting broke out in 1994 until 2010. Its author, Jason K. Stearns, worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for much of the war, and draws on his personal observations of the aftermath of the fighting and interviews with some of the key figures. The book is written as a combination of a narrative history of the war and a series of illustrative accounts from people who were involved in it.
While Dancing in the Glory of Monsters has attracted very positive reviews, I was disappointed by it. Its central flaw is that Stearns hasn't succeeded in combining a narrative of the fighting with his personal observations and interviews. While the narrative sections are generally quite good, the sections in which he discusses his observations were over-long and felt a bit self-indulgent at times. For instance, several of the senior figures he interviewed seemed to be either hopelessly naive or (more likely) playing dumb about their role in the war, yet the results of these pointless discussions are written up in detail. Overall, this led to the book being rather uneven: the chapters on the background to the war, the experiences of ordinary civilians and the way in which the fighting was funded are excellent but the middle section of the book in which Stearns focuses on the motivations of the key figures is unconvincing.