Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time Slave By John Norman

They rejected the title 'Rape in Time'


“The author of the novels of Tarl Cabot on Gor, Earth's orbital counterpart, has turned his talent to the problem of time travel and our own world's primitive era.

What has happened to man since the days when his rugged ancestors battled the mastodon and the saber-toothed tiger and wrestled a living from the raw nature of an untamed world?

This was the directive that brought a dedicated group of scientists to devise a means of sending one of their number back into the Old Stone Age when the great hunters of the Cro-Magnon days ripped the world away from the Neanderthals and their save clan rivals.

It's a John Norman novel comparable to his epics of Gor and to the best jungle sagas of the mighty Tarzan.”
 -The Back Cover

DAW Books, copyright 1975. $1.50 cover price. 380 pages.

Oh man, where to start? This novel is even viler than Norman's Gor series, which is saying quite a bit. I think I will spare you most of my thoughts on this piece of shit and give you a synopsis. 

Dr. Brenda Hamilton—mathematician, feminist, bombshell—accepts a job under false pretense from Herjellsen, an octogenarian who definitely fulfills the 'mad scientist' archetype. It isn't until Hamilton has been at Herjellsen's Rhodesian compound for a few weeks that she discovers the madman is actually working on time travel, and that she is both a prisoner and one of the subjects about to be sent back in time.

This all sounds pretty standard, and it is, but right around page 50 is when Norman starts in with his bizarre dom-sub philosophies, so the whole story becomes murky. Before Hamilton can be sent back to the distant past (in the hopes that she will join a group of Cro-mags), her will must be broken by Herjellsen's lackeys until she is deemed ready for the submissive, slave-like existence that awaits her.

Here’s the old crank's explanation to Hamilton before he shoves her into a box for a one-way trip to the Stone Age: 

“’You must understand,' said Herjellsen, ‘that if you were transmitted as a modern woman, irritable, sexless, hostile, competitive, hating men, your opportunities or survival might be considerably less.’" (111)

Hamilton’s mission? To turn ancient mankind's eyes to the stars so that space travel hurries along, allowing Herjellsen to partake in exploration of the galaxy, because what the universe really needs is Herjellsen 'bad touching' his way from star to star. Why Hamilton? Because she was the sexiest virgin they could find on such short notice, plus chaining up learned feminists is apparently the hobby of Herjessen's second in command, Gunther. It only took a few pages for the man to get his results:

"’I'm a prisoner,’ she said. ‘I want to be fucked like a prisoner, used!’” (63)

Time Slave wouldn't be a John Norman book if women didn't revel in their captivity, which brings us to the middle of the book, where things get real. Brenda Hamilton, transported to an unfamiliar time, is naked and running through the forest with a leopard in pursuit when she runs into Tree, a red blooded Cro-Magnon hunter.

At page 143 is the first (of many, very unfortunate) rape scenes in Time Slave. Some go on for pages, none are really necessary. The next 100 pages chronicle Brenda's transformation from a (caricature of) a fully realized woman to a whimpering, sex-obsessed slave. Of course, this being a John Norman novel, she revels in this change and feels that she has finally become a 'true woman':

“For the first time in her life she felt the fantastic sentience of an owned, loving female... She had just begun, under the hands of a primeval hunter, to learn the capacities of her femaleness.”  (220)

The most unfortunate aspect of Time Slave is that there are, in fact, portions of the book about Stone Age man that aren't just a vehicle for Norman’s weirdo sexual philosophies, and they are actually pretty good. Plenty of action, along with the intricate detail devoted to each tribe's unique culture, plus some cool flora and fauna (cave bears!) could have been enough for a decent story in themselves.

Regrettably, more than half of this novel is lent to Norman's BDSM leanings, which involves a repetitive, preachy tone because the man is literally trying to convert you.

Time Slave is an interesting example of the sleazy underbelly of 70s SF, but I can't really recommend it on any other level.

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