But first, a little background. John Norman is a professior of philosophy at a real college in New York City, today. His real name is the first thing you see in his Wiki article, so you can run right over right now and maybe even sign up for one of his classes! And his principal focus of study? Morality.
Yes, folks. This is not a fun book--I mean, it is a fun book, but not the way Norman intended it. This is an issue book. As explained here, an issue book is a book built around an Idea, rather than an Idea being inserted into a story. Everything is subserviant to the Idea in an Issue book, so unless you are a fan-fucking-tastic writer, this usually turns into a mess.
And Norman isn't going for something light like the cause of communism or the end of the world here, boys and girls. He's going straight to the heart of society. Morality. Ethics. He's going to solve all our soil erosion problems. How?
BY PUTTING WOMEN IN THEIR PLACE.
Yes, children! The cause of all this trouble in our world is women. Women are doing it. Women have too much to do. Too much freedom. Too much...too much everything. Yes. Our society will only be happy when women accept their correct place.
The problem? These books fail at proving their own point so hard there are cracks in the pavement. But enough from me! Let's get right to this.
Our heroine is a "woman" named Elinor Brinton, and I put woman in quotes there because she's less woman and more, well, stuffed bra. We will call her Strawchick, because that's basically all she is. A strawman John Norman built to showcase how evil-murder-evil-evil the free woman is. And she's so far removed from flesh-and-blood reality that she's not a threat to me. Norman demeans her right off the bat:
Yet on this world I am a fifteen-gold piece girl, more lovely than many, yet far excelled by many whose stunning beauty I can only envy.By the way? That's one of the cleaner sentences in this book. It's gonna be brutal. Anyhoo, when you introduce a character it's usually a bad idea to grind her negative traits into the ground. Sadly for us, Strawchick has no positive traits.
Ellie goes to college, where she takes advantage of the magical powers of vagina, ladies and gents, manipulating all her male college prof--
Anyhoo, Strawchick gets good grades through all of college because she has a va-jay-jay. Aww, you think I'm kidding?
My intelligence, it seems to me, was good, but even when my work seemed to me inferior, it was rated highly, as, indeed, was that of my sorority sisters. Our parents were wealthy and substantial grants to the schools and colleges were often made following our graduations. Also, I had never found men, and many of my instructors were such, hard to please.
It turns out that the only bad grade Strawchick ever gets in college is in French, because her female instructor is a woman. And holy shit, I don't think I've ever seen a book swivel around and shoot itself in the face so damn fast before. I mean, even Mission Earth waited until the last hundred pages or so to kill itself.
What? You don't see it?
Well, the book is about how women are the evil ones. Women are the ones whose submission is required to bring society to a safe and even keel. But...well, it looks like the men are the problem here. Elinor gets a passing grade in the same class when the teacher is a man. Yes, it could be because she just retook the class, which is what you normally do when you fail, but the book specifically says it is sex related. Boy=girl pass, girl=girl fail.
Way to destroy your own argument, John.
Moving on. Strawchick describes more of her life. Then we get this paragraph:
I do not know when I was noticed. It may have been on a street in New York, on a sidewalk in London, at a cafe in Paris. It may have been while sun-bathing on the Riviera. It may even have been on the campus of my college. Somewhere. Unknown to me, I was noted, and would be acquired.
Two things on the bolded part, kids. First off...random period FTW. Second...Jesus christ that is so very, very rapey.
She decribes more of her life. Her rich, beautiful life. Her rich beautiful life with her father who treat both her and her mother like property (implying that this is why Elinor is the way she is. WOW. That's like, twice in as many pages! John, I thought you wanted to prove women were bad.) and her mother, who straight up fucking poisoned Elinor's pet dog. And I cannot tell you how unbelievably random this is:
I recall my mother entertaining in our home. This she often did. I recall my father once mentioning to me that she was his most valuable asset. He had meant this to be a compliment. I recall that she was beautiful. She poisoned a poodle I had once had.
Literally: My mom was pretty. She poisoned a poodle. HOW DO THESE THOUGHTS FOLLOW EACH OTHER?
Then Daddy dies and Elinor gets money and...yeah, I finally hate her. I don't hate her for being manipulative, I don't hate her for being a rich white beautiful model in New York, who is successful without having to work at it. But this?
Whether my fortune on a given day was something over a half million dollars or something over three quarters of a million dollars did not much interest me.
Fuck you, Strawchick. Fuck you.
And then we finally get to the actual story.
Strawchick wakes up in bed, having dismissed her maid (Who Norman takes care to point out is "colored". Thank you, seventies era racism) and cook for the day, and contemplates being a model while writhing in satin sheets.
I once had satin sheets. They were shiny, and they felt very nice the first night. And maybe the second night. By the third? I went back to cotton. Satin is nice to wear when it is 60F (50, if there are sleeves) and you are getting back out of it in an hour. Sweat, heat, and wrinkles make it very uncomfortable. It looks good in a porn movie, but it doesn't work on a normal bed. Feather comforters? Yes, please.
So she's writhing in fantasy bed, not real bed, and we get a loooooooong erotic description of her waking process, a looooooooooooooooooong erotic description of her getting into the shower, a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG erotic description of her soaping herself up, and then...
There was now a mark on my thigh. It was high on the thigh. The mark itself was about an inch and a half high. It was a graceful, cursive mark. In its way lovely. I knew it could not have been the result of a natural wound. It was in its way perfect, rather deep and clean. It was a deliberately, and precisely inflicted mark.
There was a MARK on my THIGH
It was HIGH on the THIGH
The mark was about an inch and a half HIGH.
Way to get your Dr. Seuss on, John. I mean, seriously. LOOK AT THAT PARAGRAPH AND TELL ME YOU COULD NOT C&P IT INTO A CHILDREN'S BOOK! This is the fucking Hop on Pop of the BDSM world. This is supposed to be a dangerous erotic book about abuse and suffering and slavery and the sexy-sexy is introduced with all the literay pizzazz of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
Look, I know I'm supposed to be going on about PLOT fail here, but...*looks at the paragraph* I WANTED TO CRY! AND NOW WHY SHOULD I CRY? THE MARK, IT WENT ALL THE WAY UP TO THE SKY! Jesus Christ, take three seconds to make sure your description of burn-rape and torture doesn't rhyme like Green Eggs and Ham.
No shit, guys? If SOMEBODY can find a Dr Seuss illustration that'll match those three sentences, or can DRAW a Dr. Seuss-ish thing with that rhyme in it? Free art poster, your choice. It'll make my fucking day. Please do it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do it. It will go on my wall forever.
Ahem. SO anyhoo, Strawchick FREAKS THE FUCK OUT and I don't blame her, because in her sleep somebody came in and attacked her perfect thigh (...*sporfle*) with a branding iron. She RUNS out into her bedroom and:
There, again I gasped, and again the room seemed to reel about me. On the mirror, which I had not noticed before, there was another mark. It had been drawn in my most scarlet lipstick on the surface of the mirror. It was more than a foot high, but it was the same mark that I wore on my thigh, that same graceful, cursive mark.
Yeah. There goes the happy fluffy writer fail. Now we're on to plot fail, boys and girls, and it's not nearly as delightful as the Thigh High rhyme.
See, this is where my Suspension of Disbelief dies. I believe that aliens from Alt-Earth would kidnap a random rich chick for fun and sell her into slavery to get their rocks off. It's the basic premise of the series, and if I can't buy that I might as well throw in the towel and stop reading now. What I don't buy is the sadism inherit in fucking with the future slave like this.
First, it lets her know you're still chasing her, the downside of which will become VERY clear in the next few chapters. Second...Norman is not trying to present us with a scared woman. He's trying to present us with an alternate lifestyle. And this? This right here? Indicates a sadistic fuckwit. Our first encounter with his alternate reality is a sadistic fuckwit. This does not sell us on his alt-earth bastion of female slavery. For these dudes, this should be no different than catching a wild horse. Fucking with her like this? The drawing, the secret branding and collaring? Giving her time to run? That's sadism. If Norman wants to present his ideas as normal, natural and right, Sadism and Hatred should be Kryptonite in his book (hah).
The other thing that bothers me? How Strawchick describes the mark as beautiful. Consistantly. It's a lovely mark. It's graceful. She's got no idea what the fuck it means, but it's in cursive.
Do me a favor? The most beautiful written language I know of is Arabic. Make a branding iron with some of the prettier letters, jam it on your thigh, and then describe this wound to me, will you? Is beautiful a word you'd use? Or would you say something more like:
HOLY FUCK SOMEBODY BRANDED ME AND IT HURTS GET IT OFF GETITOFFGETITOFF SOMEBODY GET ME THE ALOE AND GAUZE AND JESUS I HAVE BEEN BURNED HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think it'd be more that second one there. I get what Norman wants to do with this book. I really do. I don't agree with it, but I get it. But the problem here is...nobody human would react this way. I don't care if you're burned with the most beautiful shape in the whole fucking universe, you're not going to see your own goddamned burn scar as pretty until after it's healed, and after your brain has accepted that it's here to stay. I mean...her modeling career is pretty much over, she's got about an inch and a half square of burned skin demanding medical attention, and oh, yeah, SOMEBODY CAME INTO HER BEDROOM AT NIGHT AND BRANDED HER WHILE SHE WAS SLEEPING AND SHE DID NOT EVEN WAKE UP.
Write your story about a slave accepting her lot in life. I'm mildly kinked in that direction already. I'd probably dig it a little bit. But for the love of all things good and right and holy, don't insult my intelligance by having her coo over her fresh burn scar first thing in the morning.
So what does our heroine do? In a book that is about proving the weakness of women and our need to be dominated by a strong male maley man? After discovering that she has been home invaded and burned and hurt and all? Do you think you can guess?
|...and if this is a surprise, I disown you as my readers.|