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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Priest-Kings of Gor by John Norman

Priest-Kings of Gor: (#3) - John Norman

John Norman's Priest-Kings of Gor is about a Hero whose city has been destroyed, whose friends and family have been scattered and isolated one from another, and who knows exactly who to blame for it. The responsible parties are the planet's alien overlords, the Priest-Kings, whom the Hero, Tarl Cabot, has hated since first learning of their existence. So it follows that Tarl will travel to their mountain domain and kick the crap out of them. That's the way these stories go.

But it isn't quite the way this one goes. Part of the reason for this is that the Priest-Kings don't act without reason, and if they allow Tarl to enter their domain, which they do, it is because they have a plan for him. Another part is Tarl himself, who never kills anyone if he doesn't have to. He talks a good game, and he's certainly got the skills and the strength to back it up in most cases, but when push comes to shove, he's more likely to bloody a nose than pull an Ender Wiggin and utterly destroy his opponent. He's reasonable that way.

Priest-Kings is the most overtly science fictional of the first three Gor books and it is because of the Priest-Kings themselves. They are aliens possessing a high technology and an insectile physique. They are the gods of Gor, and how humbling for mankind that their gods live in a nest. And that they enslave humans to work it. Where the previous books were all about swordplay and archery, this one substitutes blast rays and flying disks.

And it works. While these books are classified as science fiction, I think it's fair to say that they are sufficiently hybridized with fantasy to cause a certain confusion on the part of prospective readers (and a number of reader-critics). What makes them science fiction, though, isn't the space-age trappings, it is the point of view. Norman has more on his mind than heroism and high drama: Gorean philosophy -- and that includes that of the Priest-Kings -- is what interests him. How else to explain a scene in which we find our muscle-bound hero enjoying grooming an insect?

That's another thing: the Gor books are funnier than I've seen anyone give them credit for, and a whole lot smarter. Norman, of course, is partly to blame for this, with his abiding fascination with gender roles, and particularly the subservience of women. But even here, from what I've read so far, he hasn't said much beyond what I see on the covers on hundreds of romance novels. Women prefer dominant men. Stop the presses. Or, rather, don't, for that would eradicate an entire literary genre.

Three Gor novels so far, and each one has been better than the last. It's a progression Norman can't possibly maintain, but I will say this to anyone on the fence about reading these books. These first three form what is almost a trilogy, and their reputation has yet to catch up with them. If the adventures are of interest, treat yourself and give these a read.

Then tell me if you agree that Orson Scott Card must have done so.

Good fun - 3
Sexist sadomasochism - 0