Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.
See also: http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart
My name: Brian Martin
Outlaw of Gor begins with hero Tarl Cabot on a mission and it ends with the same mission looming before him. This book, then, is nothing but a long distraction. But it is a clever distraction, an adventure more enjoyable than his first.
Indeed, the gravity of his quest -- to confront the dreaded and feared Priest-Kings of Gor -- benefits from this sort of anticipatory development. The likelihood of his death (from his perspective, if not the reader's) is very high: no one who has ventured into the mountains of the Priest-Kings has ever returned. That's enough to give a man pause. But Tarl, whose courage is unquestioned, will not willingly hesitate when his mind is made up. So John Norman holds him back himself, with an adventure Tarl cannot possibly resist.
Not that he has any choice, at first. When he discovers that his Gorean home city has been wiped off the face of Gor, that his friends and family -- his wife -- have been scattered to its four corners, all courtesy of the Priest-Kings, he sets off for the mountains in search of whatever retribution he can exact. On the way, he enters Tharna, a city unique on Gor, for it is ruled by women. There, he is betrayed, arrested, and sentenced to death.
This, of course, is just the beginning, and it's fun to watch as Tarl, eager to get to the mountains, keeps finding that all roads instead lead fatalistically to Tharna. We are told that the Priest-Kings, who are the gods of Gor, don't do anything without a reason. So it follows that if Tarl was brought back to Gor, it was to serve a purpose. But if he is a puppet of the gods, he is also a slave to his own sense of justice. A small nudge from the gods and Tarl is off risking his life again.
Norman's prose flows smoothly and confidently, as if, with this second book, he is more comfortable on Gor and with Tarl and his other characters. It helps, too, since these books are a one-man show, that the story is more localized. Norman had a lot of ground to cover in his first book; here he can focus his (and Tarl's) energies on the fate of a single city.
As you might expect, this installment has more to say about women and their place in Gorean society than the last one. But if you think, because it features a city ruled by women, that it is more fair-minded, you'd better think again. Tarl himself, being a man from Earth of the late 1960s, is all about women's rights (up to a point, anyway), but on Gor, free love means buying a slavegirl.
Tharna itself is a dismal place, where women wear long robes and silver masks (the ruler, or Tatrix, wears a golden mask). Men of Tharna, who aren't allowed to touch the women, are considered beasts. As Tarl observes, turnabout is fair play, but either way it makes for a dysfunctional society.
Who, then, can blame him if his prefers to be on top? So far, there's nothing in these books to warrant their reputation. But I've a long way to go.
Good fun fantasy - 2
Sadomasochistic sexism - 0