Gor is one of those series/settings you hear mixed things about, if you hear of it.
So far the story strikes a lot of Burroughsian chords, with a particularly Barsoomian beat. The writing isn’t quite as good and some of the ideas don’t seem as well thought-out to me, but there’s enough surface-level cool stuff to keep me at it.
For example there’s an intelligent spider-dude our protagonist befriends. These spider people have apparently evolved into an enlightened race of predator-slaves who are sometimes hunted and persecuted, but otherwise tolerated so their web-silk can be harvested. The main reason for their plight, it seems, is that the spider people won’t harm “rational creatures.” Maybe this will be further explored and better explained, but just seems off to me that spiders, basically mindless killing machines, would evolve along this track. But who knows.
I’m not sure yet whether I’d rank John Norman above Otis Adelbert Kline when it comes to Burroughs pastiche. We shall see. I read one of Kline’s stories a few years ago, I think it was, and the story was decent enough. The writing/editing was a little sloppy, though. That stuck with me.
I don’t envision myself pursuing this series far enough to see things go really off the rails, though. Don’t get me wrong – I like me some traditional gender roles, but I’m just not all that interested in SFF harems and BDSM (or the non-SFF variety, for that matter).
So far the first installment isn’t that spicy, but Tarl Cabot just isn’t really growing on me as a hero. I’m not sure exactly what it is; maybe it’s that where John Carter, to whom he must be compared, is a purer hero. Carter does the right thing because that’s his nature, and probably because that was the cultural ethos Burroughs drew from. The impression I get from Cabot is that he does the right thing because he’s been conditioned to do so. There’s an incident about halfway through the story where he is justifiably angry, and stops himself from raping and killing a women who has just betrayed him. I mean no one is perfect, and heroes don’t have to be. But the admission that he has overcome this base impulse just…doesn’t really do it for me.
Where JC changed the nature of Barsoom, I get the impression Gor will change Cabot as much as he changes it.
It was a long time ago when they came out, I read the Gor series. Well, not all, maybe the first 10 or so. There are major differences between the cultural background of Boroughs versus Norman. ERB you might consider one of the last soldiers of fortune and by 1910 had failed in about 35 business attempts. Yet he had ridden as a calvaryman in Arizona hunting down the last Apaches to finish opening the west. Norman was a couple of generations later and a psych professor I think. Can’t remember offhand if psychiatrist or psychologist but regardless I thought he seemed a bit obsessed with control over women with his invention of Gor where women were treated as slaves. Reminded me of Hugh Hefner in the recent 2022 Secrets of Playboy TV series. I stopped reading them because he would suddenly go into 10 or 20 pages of offshoot description of some cultural oddity, ringing the whole pace of the story to a sudden halt. That was something ERB never did. Yes, he told us tons about Mars making it come alive but only in brief asides never long enough to break the pace. The success of ERB tells us he was an excellent writer, on a level comparable to Robert E Howard a generation later. In order of best at action and pacing it’s REH, ERB, and then Norman. Norman could write good action sequences when he wanted, but he needed a good editor to strip out the background verbiage or handle it differently. I recall too certain scenes that somewhat turned me off. Norman was a bit weird for my liking, but he created an interesting world-build.
Thanks for stopping by (and apologies for taking so long to see your comment)! A good assessment on your part.
I don’t regret reading this, but I don’t see myself reading any more of his stuff in the future. If I find myself inclined to read some more ERB pastiche, I’ll probably just pick up some Kline.