Series: Chronicles of Counter-Earth #5
Genres: Science Fiction
Reading Challenges: The 2014 Science Fiction Experience, Vintage Sci-Fi Month
Buy the Book • Goodreads
In the fifth installment of John Norman’s Gor series, our favorite ginger, Tarl Cabot, appears to be dead. A mysterious and deadly assassin named Kuurus arises in his wake, traveling to the city of Ar to avenge him. Kuurus is, of course, Tarl Cabot in disguise, because this is classic pulpy sci-fi, and heroes don’t get stabbed in the back and die without a good fight.
The Priest Kings tell Tarl and Vella (the heroine from the last book) about the Others, the Priest Kings’ rival race from outer space that spreads death, war, and destruction in its wake. The Priest Kings’ weakened powers have given the Others an opportunity to infiltrate certain factions on Gor, and Tarl Cabot decides to help save the day by spying on them. Vella goes undercover as a sex slave in the merchant Cernus’ house, where she is in a position to observe him closely. The Others’ technology has allowed Cernus to establish a network on both Gor and Earth, and he has discovered that Earth women are a lucrative investment. Cernus is dangerous and power-hungry, and will stop at nothing to become the Ubar of Ar.
Tarl Cabot is completely out of his depth. It’s interesting to see our hero fall and get outsmarted before finally saving the day. We see that he isn’t perfect and can’t do everything, even though he does play a key role as events unfold. The entire novel resembles a giant game of chess, and Cabot himself is only a pawn in much larger schemes that are beyond his control.
If you’ve made it this far in the series, then the sex slaves probably don’t bother you enough to make you stop reading. There’s a bit more description of the kajirae and their training than in the previous books, but the female characters are also badass and play key roles in saving the world. I’m not easily offended and can enjoy the aesthetic.
Five books in, I’m starting to wonder whether Tarl Cabot will ever find Talena, his Free Companion (the Gorean equivalent of a wife), or whether she’s gone the way of a Bond girl. She’s been missing for a lot of books now, and Tarl Cabot seems to have no hesitation when it comes to fucking around with the sex slaves. Apparently this is what you do on Gor if you are a big muscular hero whose wife is missing, although I suspect Talena will kick his ass when she finds him.
My favorite Gor books are still Tarnsman of Gor and Nomads of Gor, but Assassin of Gor compares favorably with the others. After five volumes, I’m addicted, and I’ve passed the point of no return.
This is the point where it dawns on me that there are 33 books in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth series. I’ve gone too far, and I think I’m in it for the long haul. From what I’ve read on Goodreads, most people who get invested in the series read up to book seven and stop. Where’s the fun in that? I’m challenging myself to read them all. I’m rather charmed by the Gorean world. I like the curious blend of high tech medicine with low tech war, which creates a society dominated by strength and merit. It’s not the kind of world I’d want to live in, but it’s nice to visit for bouts of escapism.