When David Prior‘s The Yoke of the Horde came across my desk, I thought, “Great. Yet another novel about a man who believes he’s the reincarnation of Genghis Khan and who returns home from his efforts at freeing Tibet only to find that his wife has shacked up with a man who probably believes that pro-wrestling is real and which (the novel, I mean) features a cast of characters including a disgruntled weather man, a CEO obsessed with building the perfect putting green in his office, and a chef living in exile due to the economic and gustatory perversions of Jacques Chirac.” Talk about obvious! Talk about cliche! Talk about retreading ground that’s been trodden upon dozens and dozens of times already. But I’m a bit of a softy, so I gave the book a shot, and… I was pleasantly surprised. The Yoke of the Horde, it turns out, is not just another in a long line of books featuring the reincarnation of the founder of the Mongol empire. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is the definitive book on the subject!
Throughout the novel, Prior introduces us to a host of memorable (if somewhat bizarre) characters. Chief among these is Rosco Rochlitz, the aforementioned reincarnation of Genghis Kahn. After a failed attempt at freeing Tibet, Rosco returns home to find his wife in love with another man. With nowhere else to go, Rosco moves back into the one-room apartment he used to share with his wife, who enlists the aid of a largely silent neighbor known only as Tom to settle the dispute over who gets to sleep where in the apartment (among other things). Complicating matters is the fact that Tom has just been promoted from a number-cruncher to a greens keeper of an indoor golf course in his boss’s office, and the local weatherman is predicting the storm of the millennium. And when a wayward boyscout troop and a lost cache of illicit pornography get thrown into the mix, things really start to get interesting.
Overall, Prior’s novel is very funny, even if the prose is somewhat dense at times. Throughout the proceedings, the author takes aim at everything from Kantian philosophy to reality television (and everything in between). His writing style is somewhat of an amalgam of Thomas Pynchon and George Saunders, though his heavy reliance on chunks of dialogue to move the narrative forward also suggests William Gaddis. Ultimately, The Yoke of the Horde is a diamond in the rough. Complete with typos and minor inconsistencies, the novel reads like a true underground masterpiece–written on the fly, off the cuff, and in close proximity to any other parts of his trousers the author could find. Worth a read if you’re into any of the writers I mention above, The Yoke of the Horde is a wild, funny novel.