Reviews: Gor

Repulsive, Utterly Repulsive

The Gor novels are quite possibly the most vile thing inflicted upon the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres. Forget what its fans say about the plot or the characters. They're only reading for one thing, the slaves. This series is unique in that the vast majority of its female characters are legally property. If a female isn't a slave in these books, they are uppity straw feminists destined to be dominated and forced into servitude by the two dimensional manly men heroes. The only reason these books sell is because they cater to the sexually frustrated, woman hating basement dwellers that infest sites like

And don't whinge at me how "the male slaves are treated worse" That doesn't have any relevance to the fact that this series treats slavery, the act of taking a human being, stripping him or her of all dignity and freedom and lowering them to the level of a sex toy as something honorable. The fact the female slaves are depicted as enjoying such a degrading existance makes it even worse. And the writing itself isn't even that good. You can tell right away that John Norman doesn't have an editor, his prose is dry, redundant, and preachy. It's literature on the same level as The Turner Diaries.

Cultural Relativism... of Gor

I have read one and 4/5 books of this series. Started with the second book. Thought it was rather funny in a retro way... very fifties, with the local matriarchy looking to me like yet another metaphor for Dirty Commies, and with the whole thing being being someone's Mightey Whitey fantasy of adventure and sexual dominance.

Then I started on the first book, Tarnsmen Of Gor. I liked the concept of Transmen - hawkrider knights - but never got around to read the ending. It got a bit too predictable and heavy-handed. Maybe I'll finish it one day.

What annoyed me the most was the whole thing about how the sheep of Gor grazes the plains of Gor to produce the wool of Gor. And I'm not talking about sheep in particular, I'm talking about the general principle that the author feel the need to constantly point out that the story is in fact not not not taking place on Earth. The books are built on a sexist Blue And Orange Morality that most people find repulsive - and this probably include the author himself. To me, it looks as if the whole "of Gor, of Gor, of Gor" mantra is John Norman's way of telling himself and others that the local morality is okay because it's not on earth. Inspired me to start the trope Culture Justifies Anything on YKTTW. (Culture Justifies Anything, if it has been launched when you read this.)

Continuing My Review

So I've read up to Assassins of Gor. Norman's thoughts on proper gender roles get progressively more page time and become progressively creepier (and I say this thinking that the happy slave girls are adorable). It's worth mentioning that by the end of Assassins it's still considered a positive thing to free a slave, the Gorean saying that only a fool does so is shown repeatedly to be wrong.

If you can get past that, but let's be honest you probably won't, it's clear that a good deal of thought has been put into these books. A Chekhovs Gun that takes four books to fire is quite impressive as are the work put into the cultures. Even the Starfish Alien "Priest-Kings" are well developed as different from humans in almost every way. Or to put it another way he's clearly smart and while that doesn't make him right (in fact I can guarantee that the series will offend you at some point) it does make taking a look at this series worthwhile even if find the slave-girls more disturbing than cute.

Not So Bad As You Think

At least, for the first book. Norman isn't great but he is a better than average writer and took the time to show his work in terms of world building. Gor is a genuinely interesting setting that plays up specific fantasy tropes to very good effect. The only slavery that is plot important makes contextual sense (well right up until we discover that "slavery agrees with her").

The male lead, Tarl, is a flat Author Avatar. Talena is much more interesting as she really drives the plot and faces real conflicts.

It's worth reading, if only as a good example of how to give an overused setting some flavor by turning a few aspects up to eleven (in this case slavery and honor codes).