“Assassin of Gor” by John Norman

“Assassin of Gor” by John NormanAssassin of Gor by John Norman
Series: Chronicles of Counter-Earth #5
Published: 1970 Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 409
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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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.


14 thoughts on ““Assassin of Gor” by John Norman

  1. 33 novels? Wow! That is some prolific writing. I know it is incredibly un-PC to admit but despite the obvious problems with it I like the cover art on this one. I don’t need to see half-naked women, but it doesn’t stop me from liking that “style” of art. One of my favorite artists is Frank Frazetta and much of his work is in this style.

    Fun to experience these books vicariously through you and your reviews.

    1. I love Frazetta. I’ve been seriously considering ordering a print of his cover art for “A Princess of Mars” to hang above my desk. The art style really is a lot of fun. 🙂

      33 books is a lot, and I’ve heard that they go rapidly downhill after about book six. We’ll see though, and I’ll hope for the best.

      1. If you do, check out the Frazetta Girls site, run by his daughters. I’ve gotten several prints from the company back when Frank was alive and they were really a nice quality.


        It will be interesting if you think they go downhill or if it is simply a matter of reviewers feeling that enough was enough and they were judging them more harshly as they went on.

        1. Awesome. I’ll definitely check out there site. My apartment needs more fantasy art, and Frazetta’s one of the best.

          Good point on people getting tired of them. I get the feeling that most people who reviewed them on Goodreads read some of them as teenagers and picked them up again out of nostalgia, so you could be right that people start judging more harshly as they go. There are so many things about them that are objectively bad.

  2. I’m with Carl – 33 books? holy cow! Now you need to read at least past #7 and see why people stopped at that point.

    I don’t mind sex in books, and I don’t mind weird sex. are these books really as un-PC as people say? I should really track the 1st one down, to see if I like it, and to say that I’ve read it! My husband would snort his Dr Pepper right out his nose if he saw me reading one of these! “you’re reading that???”

      1. Haha, that reaction sounds priceless. The first book isn’t terribly un-PC, but they get less PC as they go. It doesn’t bother me that all the bulk of the female characters seem to be happy being sex slaves because I feel like the men are just as objectified (gladiator-style fights, dangerous battles, glory and honor meaning more than staying alive, lots of muscles, y’know the deal). I ignore the un-PC parts because the whole thing is so ridiculous that it seems kind of silly to pick on just one thing, although there are some parts better skimmed than fully read.

        Actually, if you just read A Princess of Mars, book one is pretty much a direct ripoff except a different planet with different flora and fauna. A lot of similar plot elements though. 😛

        Sword/sandal/planet is my genre weakness. I’m also strangely obsessed with these weird Italian Hercules movies from the 60s (that aren’t really about Hercules, but rather some Italian silent film star that the translators thought Americans would be too stupid to get the reference to) in all their terrible glory. Hercules, a ripped dude wearing just a loincloth, saves the damsel in distress from Mongols/barbarians/moon men/etc. They’re simultaneously awful and awesome.

    1. In a word, Andrea, YES. At times, even loathsome. I will confess that the four or five books I read were fun, but I had to do some serious skimming when he starts talking about how women all secretly desire to be dominated, subdued, etc.

      That said, they can be tremendous pulpy fun, especially the nomads whose names I have tragically forgotten. Tchuck? Grace will know.

      1. I love the Tuchucks! Then again, I have a thing for the Dothraki in Game of Thrones too. Stereotypical barbarians in general, really. 😛

  3. I got the first one of these on audio. Maybe because you reviewed another book in the series? Someone did… They had it on their daily sale, miraculously you can listen to the whole 33 book series, and I was curious.

    1. I’ve reviewed several in the series now. 🙂

      They’re not high quality literature, but they’re fun for some escapist adventures every now and again.

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