Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman

I've always wanted to read the Gor series. For those people who has no knowledge of Gor, it is a series of books written by John Norman, a professor of philosophy. Set in a world where the sword is king, Tarnsman of Gor was first written in 1967.

The series has a cult-like status and it is very popular in the Second Life online game where there is a sub-culture based on the world of Gor. An aspect of Gor is that slavery is allowed and are considered (especially women slaves) for the most part chattel. For this, the books has been labelled as misogynistic. A few months ago, Dark Horse Publishing announced that they will released the first 3 books in one volume. Almost immediately there were threats in the U.S of boycotts of Dark Horse books by certain readers.

After that, my interest in the books were increased. After reading the first book of the series, Tarnsman of Gor, I have to say; Uh...what's the big deal? I can't say anything for the other books (there are 27 standalone books in the series), but Tarnsman of Gor is nowhere near as bad as reputation would have you believe.

What it is is an action-adventure book. Reading the book, I am remained of 2 other series; Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Before the first chapter is out, the main character of Tarnsman of Gor, Tarl Cabot, is kidnapped from Earth and delivered to the planet of Gor. However, don't look for any major plots in the book. Like Lord of the Rings, the quest is simple. Go to the rival city and steal a stone.

Along the way, things happened and Tarl Cabot get side-tracked. However the main star of the book isn't Tarl Cabot, the quest or even the numerous sword/aerial fights in the book. The main star is the world of Gor.

Much like Tolkein, Norman isn't really a writer and it show. The writing style tend to be a little dry and there's nothing special about the characters in the book. Like Tolkein, what Norman is really good at is world-building. At the end of the book, you may not remember Tarl Cabot, the fights or the supporting characters, but you will remember Gor. John Norman filled Gor with its' own history, social structure, songs, curses, even insults. At the end, you can truly think of Gor as a world by itself and that's probably why the series has achieved cult status.

I can't really say that Tarnsman of Gor is a good book and recommend it. But if you are one of those who love to read about a different world with different values and ideas, this could be the book for you. The world of Gor is the star and at the end, you will think of it as a living, breathing world. At that end, John Norman put his vision across and that is a success.


eric said...

The Gor series is bluntly written, as you indicated. The whole controversy about female submission becomes much more evident in later books.

But behind all the male dominance neanderthal philosophy and stilted dialogue lies a terrific and richly detailed epic storyline.

It's well worth the time to read a few novels into the series, I'd say at least the first four.

Granted, you're going to have to read through some looong ranting by the author about how male domination is the natural order and blah blah, that turned off a lot of people understandably.

But apart from that there is an awesome storyline and extensive descriptions of Gorean society that really bring the world to life, whether you agree with it or not.

If you can get through the male dominant aspect and focus on the main plots you're in for a treat. If you can't there's always the Narnia Chroniles.

Ghost said...

I wouldn't call the storyline awesome but Gor is by far one of the most detailed fantasy worlds I have read on. The male first philosophy isn't a problem for me but John Norman seems to want to ram it down the readers' throat. If the writing is a little more subtle, The Gor series would have been great.