CriminOlly thinks: Part fun, colourful pulp fantasy, part deeply objectionable diatribe on male power. 3/5
Title: Outlaw of Gor | Author: John Norman | Series: Gor #2 | Publisher: Del Rey Books | Pages: 254 | Publication date: 1967 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: Yes
The second of John Norman’s Gor novels has all the strengths and weaknesses of the first. It’s a fun, episodic pulp tale with decent fantasy world-building and enough action and adventure to keep anyone happy. On the flip side it’s also a massively problematic fantasy of male domination that’s even more at the forefront of the tale in Outlaw of Gor than it was in Tarnsman. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, it’s about an alternative world where women are completely (and happily) subservient to men.
The book starts really well, with an Earthly colleague of hero Tarl Cabot describing Cabot’s strange behaviour after his recent disappearance (the events of which are covered in the first book – basically he gets whisked away to Gor/Counter Earth where he becomes a master swordsman (in more ways than one)). The action then flips back to Counter Earth, where Cabot is back roaming about the place looking for trouble. He ends up in the city of Tharna which, in a reversal of the Gorman norm, women are in charge and men are their playthings. Cabot is captured and forced to undergo various trials before eventually escaping and, ultimately, being involved in the overthrow of Tharna’s female rulers.
Whilst the pulp adventure side of things is as much fun as ever, Norman’s philosophising about gender politics feels even more heavy handed here than it did before. His constant anti-feminist stance is as laboured as it is objectionable and the fact that he deliberately creates a matriarchy in this book only to destroy it just feels petty,
That will always be the struggle modern readers face with these books. I read many, many things that expose beliefs opposed to my own, so I’ve become somewhat immune to it. But even for me the Gor books are heavy going at times.
In this second volume of the Gorean Series, Tarl Cabot finds himself transported back to Counter-Earth from the sedate life he has known as a history professor on Earth. He is glad to be back in his role as a dominant warrior and back in the arms of his true love. Yet, Tarl finds that his name on Gor has been tainted, his city defiled, and all those he loves have been made into outcasts. He is no longer in the position of a proud warrior, but an outlaw for whom the simplest answers must come at a high price. He wonders why the Priest Kings have called him back to Gor, and whether it is only to render him powerless.
Content Warning: Sexual violence
Tolerance Warning: Misogyny