Series: Chronicles of Counter-Earth #7
Published: 1972 by Ballantine
Genres: Science Fiction
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Recap thus far: I’ve been reading this really trashy pulp series about a dude who ends up on another planet where there’s no modern weaponry and most of the women are contented sex slaves. Think a kinky version of Barsoom. I’ve enjoyed the series thus far with the caveat that it necessitates a suspension of morality in addition to a suspension of disbelief in order to avoid being filled with outrage at the series’ treatment of women.
Based on reviews I’ve read, there’s a point where the series starts to go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay downhill. I’ve definitely reached that point. Generally I write spoiler-free reviews, but this one will include some spoilers to spare you the pain of having to read the book for yourself.
Captive of Gor is one of the worst books that I’ve ever read. I got through it only because I feel that after having read the six previous books, I’m invested enough in the series that I’m determined to persevere. Depending on how the next couple books are, that might change, because this book was really really bad.
It also represents a major departure from the series thus far, because instead of focusing on Tarl Cabot, the hero of all of the previous books, it instead chooses to use an Earth woman as the protagonist. Elinor Brinton is a rich bitch New York City socialite who hates men. That’s her defining personality trait. Her only personality trait, even. One night, Elinor is captured and taken to Gor, where it’s pretty obvious what happens to her. She quickly learns that women on Gor have no social status, and changes hands between a variety of different men.
I couldn’t sympathize with Elinor, because despite the fact that terrible things were happening to her throughout the entire book, she was entirely unlikeable and had no redeeming personality traits. This is likely because John Norman cannot write convincingly from a female perspective.
Up until this point, the female characters in the series, while submissive, have possessed character traits that complement the hero in some way. That didn’t happen here. Elinor was a horrible person. Instead of hoping that she would find a way to escape and return to Earth, I hoped that Elinor would be eaten by a sleen. It would put both her and readers out of their misery.
The plot is repetitive and unnecessary. It can be summed up as follows:
Elinor: I’m not a slave! I’m rich! I have lots of money on Earth.
Random Gorean Man: You are slave! (and I am Gorean and don’t use the word “a”)
*insert display of dominance*
Elinor: Okay fine, I am slave.
Elinor’s internal monologue: Why am I weirdly turned on by this?
Rinse and repeat, and that’s the entire plot of the book. You could have cut out three quarters of it and miss nothing whatsoever, until Elinor finally meets the man who is right for her, at which point her former personality is erased by his dick. It’s about to be happily ever after, at which point John Norman realizes that nothing that’s happened in the book so far has any relevance to anything else in the series. In order to remedy it, Elinor’s master decides for no reason whatsoever that his feelings for her are a sign of his own weakness, so he sells her. She ends up finally meeting Tarl Cabot (although he’s still in his emo phase, so he’s calling himself “Bosk,” which I can’t think of without picturing a certain Trandoshian Bounty Hunter), and in telling him her story, she reveals to him that she’s met Talena in passing. Talena is Tarl Cabot’s Free Companion, aka wife, and has been missing in action since the end of the first book. Now that this piece of crucial information has been revealed, Elinor is again irrelevant and can go back to whatever it was she was doing before. Elinor’s former master realizes that he can’t live with out her and quite literally swoops down from the sky to bring her back to him. It felt like Elinor’s only relevance to the main storyline was an afterthought.
The pulpy SF/F that I most enjoy follows a very specific formula. Basically, a half-naked male protagonist in a low-tech world fights monsters and performs feats of strength to save the world from certain doom and/or rescue the scantily clad female lead. This formula is tried and true, and it makes me happy. It’s why I’ve enjoyed the Gor series up until this point. Captive of Gor doesn’t work for me at all, and instead is redundant, poorly written, and misogynistic.