“Raiders of Gor” by John Norman

“Raiders of Gor” by John NormanRaiders of Gor by John Norman
Series: Chronicles of Counter-Earth #6
Published: 1971 by Del Ray
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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John Norman’s Gor series is one of my guilty pleasures.  It’s set in a world where the men are big and brave and half naked all the time, and the women are content to be sex slaves, which should offend me, but instead I find myself sucked into the story and craving more.  The world of Gor values honor and glory, and beneath its outward appearance, it’s secretly ruled by a race of insectoid aliens.  Basically, when I’m having a rough day, this is my go-to series of books.

Based on reviews that I’ve read, most people who stop reading the series stop with this one, and I can see why.  In Raiders of Gor, the protagonist, Tarl Cabot, transforms from a noble hero to what can best be summed up as a bad rendition Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars prequels.

Tarl Cabot is on his way to the pirate city of Port Kar, but he is ambushed in the marshes and taken prisoner.  He’s given the choice between death or slavery (albeit to a sexy warrior chick), and he chooses the latter.  Unfortunately, that decision messes with his pride, and he feels like he violated his warrior codes by choosing to grovel rather than die.  This pissed me off for so many reasons.  I can deal with a fictional world where all the women are happy sex slaves, but I can’t stand Tarl Cabot being a frickin’ baby when what goes around comes around and he gets a taste of his own medicine.  And yes, he escapes pretty quickly, but his experience changes him for the worst.  He gets super emo, and decides that rather than following the rather interesting plotline with the Priest Kings, he’ll just say fuck it and get rich instead, and then he starts acting like a dick.  Well, a more honorable dick than most of the people who rule Port Kar, but since Port Kar is basically Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean, that isn’t saying much.  And I’m just like dude, cut it out.  Let go of your stupid-ass ego and step up to the plate and save the world and all.  Wanting to stay alive no matter what it takes is part of being human, and the fact that you made what you perceive to be a big mistake shouldn’t mean you can’t pick yourself back up and get on with your life.

I’m still determined to get through the whole series, but this one was rough.  A big part of the appeal of the sword-and-planet genre is having heroes who are heroic, and Tarl Cabot just wasn’t cutting it this time.

One thought on ““Raiders of Gor” by John Norman

  1. Hi Grace,

    I’ve very much enjoyed your blogs on these books, and write to only encourage you to persevere, if only for a bit longer. I read these as a young child, at a time that I found comic books increasingly simple and unsatisfying (the mid-70’s) and I turned instead to my dad’s collection of sci-fi. My first was Tolkien’s trilogy. Many others followed, such as Foundation, which ultimately included Gor.

    As a child I found them to be wildly imaginative. I was also impressed with Norman’s ability to depict strong emotion such as jubilant triumph (Assassin) and utter despair and defeat (Hunters). Unlike you, I also enjoyed the evolution of Tarl Cabot, from a fundamentally Earth-based hero (Tarnsman) to broken man (Raiders) to rebirth as fully Gorean (Marauders). It seemed to be an interesting and creative progression

    Never, even as a child, was I offended or mistake these books as dogma or instructional. They are fantasy. Depiction of women as happy and fulfilled slaves required no greater suspension of disbelief than magic or flying dragons.

    Unfortunately, as written elsewhere, to my mind Norman became self-indulgent, repetitive. Page upon page, chapter upon chapter, on the submission of women as slaves. Perhaps he had an agenda. As you’ve written, the books from a woman’s perspective (Slave) were the worst. I finally lost interest around Beasts. I ultimately traded my dad’s collection following Marauders, but I retained the first nine books in the series.

    I ultimately regret that. The first nine remain special to me. One thing that has not been written is Norman’s ability to introduce seemingly unrelated characters and plots, weave them throughout the novel, and tie them up in the end. Assassin is perhaps the best example, with Hup, Mip, Ho-Tu and Sura, the tarn races, etc, but Nomads, Raiders and Marauders are other examples. I appreciate the stories. And frequently the characters.

    I hope you read at least a few more, and find your own tolerance level. I found mine, although in hindsight I’d like to revisit a few of which I disposed after all these years

    Thanks again for your entertaining blogs. I’ll be checking in again


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