Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Marauders of Gor By John Norman

Thats not how you treat a lady on the first date
“Tarl Cabot's efforts to free himself from the directive of the mysterious priest-kings of Earth's orbital counterpart were confronted by frightening reality when horror from the northland finally struck directly at him.

Somewhere in the harsh lands of transplanted Norsemen was the first foothold of alien Others. Somewhere up there was one such who waited for Tarl. Somewhere up there was Tarl's confrontation with his real destiny- was he to remain a rich merchant-slaver of Port Kar or become again a defender of two worlds against cosmic enslavement.

Marauders of Gor is one of the truly great adventures of the Gorean saga. It brings in barbaric peoples, vivid adventure, fierce aliens, and the clash of male-female emotions stripped of civilized pretension that has made John Norman the bestselling writer of high fantasy adventure.” –The Back Cover

A Daw paperback, $1.50 cover price.

Gor is a planet in our solar system on the direct opposite side of the Sun from Earth. It is populated by a pantheon of alien species that have been abducted by the insectoid Priest-Kings, who act as bored conservationists and only interfere with Gor when one of the sentient races starts inventing stuff that could industrialize the planet. The Kurii are space bears that ruined their own planet through warfare and now have designs on Gor and Earth. The Kurii like to eat people, especially slave girls, which they consider a delicacy.

This all sounded pretty cut and dry before I mentioned slave girls, didnt it? Let's go down the rabbit hole into Marauders of Gor, although I hope you aren't an Earthwoman, as you might be collared and raped a few minutes into our journey. But don't fret! According to John Norman, you will enjoy being a sex slave.

Let's play 'spot the woman soon to be abducted'
I remember reading Tarnsman of Gor as an adolescent, and I distinctly remember the protagonist being disgusted by the rampant slavery on Gor, but I may be wrong and will have to do a re-read soon. Tarl Cabot has apparently had a change of heart in the last few books, because in Marauders of Gor, the ninth in the series, he is very 'into slavery'.

In the previous entry of the Gorean Saga, Tarl was poisoned in battle, paralyzing left side of his body, which is pretty frustrating when you’ve built a life out of being a great swordfighter. For thirty or so pages, Tarl is angrily sitting in his chair, reminiscing about the events of the last few books and bringing any non-perverts up to speed. Tarl finds out his old love was probably devoured by a space bear and, through sheer force of will, overcomes his paralysis, vowing to go to the north and avenge her. Oh yeah, I don't want to gloss over the part where he celebrates by enslaving his accountant and having her 'sent to his couches'. Yeah man.

So, Tarl sets out for the North, and on the way gains the trust of a group of Viking raiders with acts of heroism and one-liners. The Vikings from Torvaldsland ransack a temple of the Priest-Kings and take quite a bit of gold along with the choice women of the surrounding town. This is where the story gets really kinky for about 60 pages straight, during which Tarl takes a break from his quest to and enjoys a little erotic vacation in Torvaldsland, while we get to learn firsthand about breaking in slave girls.

Initially, I found Ivar the Forkbeard, Jarl of the Viking rogues, to be a pretty interesting character, up until he began whipping women and repeating mantras like “A brand improves a woman!” while laughing continuously. Then I felt like he was a psychopath, and not a 'funny ha ha' psychopath as you often see in pulp novels. Only a few days of indoctrination wholly transforms the slave girls into giddy sex maniacs, completely dedicated to the service of their master and any other free man around who has consent to bang them. Tarl takes quite a few girls “to the furs,” since there don't seem to be any couches around in the north. The slave girls end up thanking their captors for freeing them sexually (through rape), if you can imagine that. John Norman's intense attention to detail was a bit too much in this third of Marauders of Gor, and it ended up not being sexy whatsoever, just vile and ludicrous. 

The party is broken up by an invasion of Kurii, which leads to an action-packed and actually enjoyable final third of the book. Many a limb and head are severed by the berserkers of the north, and a fight to the death on a mountain peak between Tarl, Ivar and two Kurs is especially thrilling. Norman does visceral action really well, which made me wish he stuck to the sci-fi and fantasy elements throughout this book and focused less on the BDSM angle. (No offense meant to the BDSM community, as you at least involve willing adults and not slave girls that have been whisked away from their families.) The finale was fittingly epic and got my blood pumping, but failed to wash away my distaste for the middle.

Synopsis: While Marauders of Gor features a really fun, Beowulf-style action story, it unfortunately gets buried in the quagmire of kink and pages-long descriptions of Gorean culture. Essentially, there are two conflicting books inside Marauders of Gor, one of which a good editor should have whittled down a bit.  I bought five of these damn novels expecting a laugh, and now I am pretty much a feminist. Thanks John Norman, you have killed my manhood.

'How marvelously beautiful is a naked, collared woman' (p.89)

More of this please


  1. Well, I agree with most of what you are saying, but if you can separate all the slave girl/bondage elements from the rest of the book, you're left with one of the most solid, gripping adventures of all time and the best Gor novel by far. I'd love to see this done as a movie- sans BDSM, of course, which to me detracts from the story to the point of turning pages without reading until I get back to the plot. Norman sadly became more and more consumed with female slavery as his novels went on and eventually overfilled his stories to the point to where little or no story remained at times. Still, at his best, Norman has turned out a handful of tales that are without peer- Assassins, Tribesmen and Marauders of Gor being the best of the bunch.
    From the outrageous audacity and cunning of the Forkbeard as he procures his outlaw status ransom, to the horror of the first visit and later the shattering, overwhelming attack of the conquering Kurii, to the spiritual discovery on the heights of the Torvaldsburg and the subsequent awe-inspiring finish, this is the epitome and IMHO, pinnacle of the adventure novel. His characters are larger than life- heroes and villains both. His atmospheres painted so well that you can almost feel the bracing cold of the Northern latitudes, smell the smoke of burning buildings and the salt of the sea air... As an adventure/thriller novel junkie, Cussler, Rollins, et all are wonderful entertainment- but for sheer powerful storytelling I would put Norman, at his best, in a class shared by only one other- Robert E. Howard.

  2. This by far is probably my favorite book. And the inspiration for my character too. It established the Kurii, we got to learn more in depth about the Torvaldslanders, although yes Huntsman an I think Beast add more detail too. The main thing to me that got this was the Mauraders going into the Frenzy of Odin before attacking the Kurii. Heh heh classic! Truly a great book.