Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“The Conversion of Tegujai Batir” by Jack Kirby
Card picked: Four of Spades – the fourth spade I’ve drawn in eight weeks.
From: Tales of the Impossible edited by David Copperfield and Janet Berliner
Disclosure: I didn’t finish this story.
It is rare that I enter into a story and truly have no idea what is going on, but that was the case here. I consider myself somewhat flexible, and I rode out the vaguely Islamic mythology in Mongolia/Russia at the end of WWII, but I just couldn’t buy how the characters acted within this world and toward each other.
We start with a family who lets “the Reader” visit. This personage forces a jinn upon their eight-year-old son, Tegujai Batir. Because of the jinn possession, the boy becomes the village pariah. Embittered, after witnessing post-WWII military might, Tegujai begins a blood-thirsty campaign to take over the world.
I don’t have anything against this sort of story, but the characters had no life to them. Interactions were stilted. The setting and details seemed to shift abruptly. Reading this story felt like walking down a steep incline paved in loose gravel. Even paying attention, I felt like I was going to fall on my ass at any moment. Half-way through, I wondered if maybe this was meant to be an allegory of some sort. I’m not very good with allegories. So I did some research.
Jack Kirby, the author of this piece, is of course Jack Kirby, one of the fathers of modern comics. After his experiences during WWII, Kirby began work on a novel called The Horde involving the character Tegujai Batir who seeks to take over the world by starting in China, where the population is the highest. A series of world-wide underground tunnels is involved. The novel remained unfinished and largely unpublished during his lifetime. Janet Berliner, the co-editor of this volume, was involved in attempting to restructure and rewrite portions of The Horde, but even as an invested literary agent, she wasn’t able to get a publisher interested in it. This story is one of her extrapolations/rewrites of the material.
Generally, it seems that everyone that read The Horde in its various forms have found it to be a bit of a mess. I’d say this story is included in that category. Which makes me ask, why all the heroic efforts surrounding it? Just because Jack Kirby is the author?
In any case, the story behind the story was the best part of my Deal Me In reading this week: