“Slavery apparently agrees with her”
While walking in a New Hampshire forest, college professor Tarl Cabot unexpectedly receives a strange communication from his long-lost father. Suddenly he is whisked away by spaceship to Gor, the Counter-Earth, a planet which we never see because it lives on the other side of the sun. Its powerful priest-kings have been able to shield it from even our theoretical view and, though the society seems primitive, its aloof rulers seem to be hoarding and selectively doling out secret knowledge and technological advances (such as spaceships and advanced medical and communication techniques).
After Tarl Cabot meets his father, he is thoroughly educated in the Gorean language, history, and customs, and trained as a Tarnsman (a warrior who rides the huge carnivorous flying Tarns). Gor’s caste system doesn’t sit well with Professor Cabot’s 20th century Earth ideas and, at least at first, he’s especially appalled that Goreans keep slaves and even have them branded, collared, and leashed. Though not prevalent in this first book, there is a caste of pleasure slaves whose prominence in future books have given the Gorean Saga its reputation and made it a cult classic. But when Tarl is given a dangerous mission, he finds out that not all women on Gor are weak and submissive!
Tarnsman of Gor(originally published in 1967) is quintessential male-oriented sword & sorcery fantasy: intelligent but modest Earth man goes to another planet where he’s suddenly courageous, powerful, and important and he whoops up on all male challengers. He meets women who are a lot more exotic and exciting than any Earth women he knows and they may be wearing collars and leashes and it’s acceptable to drag them around by their hair. I couldn’t help but chuckle when one feisty woman who was wearing a veil and heavy voluminous robes gets muddy and ends up stripped to her silk slip which has to have a couple of inches removed at the bottom when a bandage is needed. Oh, yeah, and against his original ethics, Tarl occasionally has to tie her up (but she definitely deserves it, and maybe she even likes it).
So far (I have not read further in this series), I find John Norman’s treatment of the male-master/ female-slave theme much more palatable than that which I recently encountered in Christine Feehan’s Dark Prince. Norman’s women (so far) are not only beautiful, but intelligent, strong, and brave. Some of them are forced to be slaves because of their circumstances and their society. That is, they wouldn’t actually choose to be submissive unless it were temporary and on their terms which, of course, doesn’t really make sense (that we can choose when to be slaves), but is how we want it nonetheless.
I listened to Tarnsman of Gor on audio, narrated by the very pleasant Ralph Lister who has a lively energetic tone appropriate for this action-packed novel. The story is told in first person by Tarl Cabot as if he’s relating his adventure to his friends at the dinner table. So we only know he’s astounded, afraid, enraged, in love, etc. because he tells us he’s astounded, afraid, enraged, in love, etc. We don’t really feel it. Thus, there’s not much emotional depth (or any other kind of depth) to Tarnsman of Gor, but it’s fast and fun and most likely appealing to young men and to women who find it amusing to discover what entertains (or what we assume entertains) young men.