I picked up Outlaw of Gor, sequel to John Norman’s Tarnsman of Gor, because I was having a stressful week and wanted something mindless, pulpy, and fun.
Tarl Cabot goes on a camping trip into the mountains and once again finds himself swept away to the planet Gor, known as the Counter Earth. When he arrives, he finds that his city has been razed and its people scattered, including the woman that he loves. Tarl vows his revenge upon the Priest Kings and embarks on a journey to confront them.
On his way, Tarl visits the city of Tharna. Unlike any other place on Gor, Tharna is ruled by women, who coincidentally wear creepy masks as further proof that they are evil. Men have no social status, and are generally enslaved. Reproduction is handled medically, and there is no place in Tharna for sex. Love is forbidden. There is no laughter, song, dancing, or anything else to relieve the monotony of life. When Tarl finds himself captured and enslaved, he mounts a rebellion to change Tharna.
I enjoyed the worldbuilding in Outlaw of Gor far more than in the first book. Norman’s passages on Gorean society, flora, and fauna are such that you feel nostalgia for a place you’ve never been. You can tell that he’s spent a lot of time thinking about his world, and that he cares about it. In the first book, it felt like an infodump, but in this one, it makes me want to visit Gor and see the wonders he describes.
I read the book in one sitting, and it worked wonders for my mood. This series has become one of my guilty pleasures. I should probably be outraged by the treatment of women, but I’m not. Strangely, I think it adds to the books’ charm, and let’s face it, the male characters are no less objectified in sword and planet books and movies. That being said, these books aren’t for everyone, and readers should know what they’re getting into. Pretty much every female character is a happy sex slave (or discovers she’d be happier as a sex slave, as in the case of Lara, the ruler of Tharna).
I’m eager to read the next book and to see where Tarl’s adventures take him. If the Gor series were a video game, Outlaw of Gor would be a side quest. The adventure in Tharna was fascinating, but the plot line with the Priest Kings and Tarl’s mysterious return to Gor are left unresolved.