Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Captive of Gor chapter seventeen

Two chapters left. Come on, it's almost over with...

Strawchick assures us that this past weeks have been THE BEST WEEKS OF HER LIFE, right as we're reading about Rask selling her. I guess Rask just didn't like having girlfriend hanging around.

No, actually he sold her because he was getting too attached, and being attached to a woman is like, tres bad or something.

And John Norman continues to fail at everything.

In the beginning, following my total conquest by Rask of Treve, I had been summoned night after night to his tent. I had served him in a delicious variety of ways, to our mutual pleasure, for I had been well trained.
Yeah. Because if a woman doesn't enjoy the sex, it's her fault.

Inge and Rena were not in the basket with me. They had been given to the huntsmen, Raf and Pron. In the fashion of Gorean huntsmen, both girls had then been freed and given a head start of four Ahn, that they might escape, if it were in their power. After four Ahn, Raf and Pron, running lightly, carrying snare rope, left the camp. The next morning they had returned, leading Inge and Rena. The thighs of both girls had been bloodied.
I found I was now the victim, the prisoner, of “slave needs.” I now understood how girls could weep and scratch at the walls of their kennels, how they could squirm, moaning, shackled in their pens, how they could press their face and flesh against the cruel bars that confined them in their tiny cages, moistening the obdurate, grasped steel with their tears. How can a free woman even understand this?
It's called Stockholm Syndrome, and if you get the right medications and therapy, we can clear that all right up.

On Earth millions of women live empty, unrewarding lives. They are sexually deprived, denied their femininity’s right to be so powerfully desired, so lusted for, that they are taken in hand and made slaves.
This, this right here, is the part that is just fucking disgusting about these books. My life is empty and unrewarding, not because I work in a shit job, but because I don't have slave-sex in it. Hell, let's be more specific: because I haven't been raped. My life is "unrewarding" because men don't lust after my boobs and coochie enough to violate my rights as an individual and take my freedom of choice away. No. I must be "taken in hand" like I'm fucking six years old and disobediant.

This makes it sound like I'm a prisoner of my boobs and sex drive. And it's all projection. Because he wants to rape me, he assumes I want to be rape. He is unable to even concieve that somebody might not want the same things he does. This is the single most offensive thing in the whole boat, and I now want to go wash my brain out with soap.

But Strawchick does one thing right:

I had asked one thing of Rask of Treve, before, stripped, I had entered the tarn basket. “Free Ute,” I had asked him.

So Strawchick gets sold and works at a tavern. What kind of work does she do?

The men I served, Targo’s men, and others, who might have me for the price of a cup of paga, I gave much pleasure, and from them, too, I received much pleasure.
Did you expect anything better?

Then the creepy guy with the talking monster buys her, drags her to a warehouse, and demands that she serve him. She refuses, bravely, and then there is a great reveal!

The man lifted his head, and shook it, clearing his vision. “El-in-or?” he said. “Master!” I wept. I pressed myself to him. He regarded them. Then he said to me, “I am of Treve. Do not stain my honor.” By the hair I was dragged from the presence of Rask of Treve, and his head, again, fell forward on his chest.

Oh, noes! What will they have Strawchick do?

Well, do you remember pages back when they revealed the dastardly purpose for which she'd been brought from Earth? No? Well, they want her to assassinate Tarl Cabot! AKA Bosk of Port Kar!

...you have no idea who that is? You are so lucky.

So she gets to the point where she is about to give Tarl the poison, and then decides that she'd be better off telling the truth she wouldn't dare smear Rask's precious honor. She tells Tarl that she was ordered to poison him at the last possible second, and they go haring off to punish the evil doers and rescue Rask, only to discover he escaped! OH NOES!

Oh, and Rask only came to Port Kar to find her! But sadly, Tarl will only sell her for twenty gold pieces and Rask never buys his women. Strawchick and her One True Wub Master will be parted forever! Even though she now has reason to believe he loves her too!

And then...ugh.

but I was content in the knowledge that he, whom I loved, lived.
That, right there? Is my personal definition of unconditional love. Love is something you feel outside of yourself. You'd rather see your loved one happy than own them. Think the Rose and the Nightengale. 

Norman needs to get his nasty paws off genuine feeling.

Now the sad, sad narrative is winding down and Strawchick is whining and whinging about how much she misses Rask

And then, the last chapter! WE'RE GOING TO FINISH THIS BOOK TODAY! YAY!

Tarl/Bosk is now our narrator. NO MORE WOMAN FAIL GUYS! And Strawchick has told him that Talena is alive and in Verna's hands! WHY SHOULD WE CARE? And he watches her wander his halls mooning over her lost love-love-love, and then...

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my sad duty to inform you that, beneath my bitch-craft exterior, I am a sopping romantic. My favorite movies include Pride and Prejudice, Kate and Leopold, and there is even a place in my cold, withered heart for Breaking Dawn. I've also been watching My Little Pony and enjoying it. I mention this because I want you to understand. It takes a lot of cutsie to make me upchuck. And the ending of this book? Man the vomit buckets. It's gonna get bad.

The tarn strike was sudden. I had been waiting for days for it to happen.

Gee, I wonder what woman raping warrior of Treve this could be?

The tarn’s talons struck the delta wall, and, wings beating, it clung there, and put back its head and screamed. I saw, for one moment, the helmet of the warrior, and his hand extended downward. I heard the girl cry out and run to the saddle, and seize the hand. “No!” I said to Thurnock, putting my hand on the arrow, thrusting it to one side. He looked at me wildly. “No!” I said, sternly.
Because Tarl Cabbot can never stand between a chick stealing rapist True Love

Thurnock fetched it, and brought it to me. It was heavy, and leather. It was a purse, and it was filled with gold. In the light of a torch I counted the coins. There were a hundred of them, and they were of gold. Each bore the sign of the city of Treve.
See? Get it? Get it? Rask, who never paid for a woman before, has paid for this one. He really, truely loves Strawchick! HE LOVES HER! HE LOVES HER!

How do I feel about this ending?

But the good news is...it's DONE. I do not have to read this awful awful book anymore. NO MORE GOR! NO MORE GOR! YAY!

...but now I have to pick a new, terrible book, don't I? What was the list for the last one?

2. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
3. Eternal Prey, Nina Bangs (Yes, indeed it is a blissful vacation of stupid)
4. Mission Earth: Black Genesis.

Yeah, there we go.

I'll be accepting imput all week, and we'll start up the next book on Sunday!


  1. What I somehow failed to understand, is why you chose Book #7, which among the worst of the series is truly aweful.

    Not that any books in the series are any high literary achievements, but a few (at least a handful) are fairly enjoyable.

    Book #1, is the shortest of them all, can be read fairly quickly in a single afternoon. Conan/He-Man ripoff Tarl Cabot actually goes about freeing several slave girls from the cruelty of slavery.

    Book #4, has always been my personal favorite, Elizabeth Cardwell is a very likeable character, and that one dude Harold, is f*ing hillarious.

    It really went downhill from that point onwards. Perhaps I like hurting myself, but I managed to get through to #19, but have had to drag myself through a lot of them with much pain (and I'm a guy).

    Book #9, sticks out for a few reasons. The Viking dude seems like a mix of Harold and the Wagon People Leader, and it is in many parts funny. On the other hand, the sex is actually quite explicit in this one.

    Book #10, it was passible at times, but the last chapter was so aweful words cannot describe it. It completely destroyed the character of Elizabeth Cardwell, she was made to be another Elinor aka Strawchick. It had put me off the series for a long time. I've taken it up again, hoping that John gets his senses back (since he took up continuing the series) and somehow redeems the Character of Elizabeth.
    Also there is one major inconsistency there. Tarl/Bosk accuses Elizabeth/Vella of having betrayed him, and having answered her Kuri (yes that talking animal from #7 is part of a space-faring species) Masters. If she's a slave, what other choice did she have if not answer her Masters' questions? Had Tarl/Bosk wished for her not to talk to those that buy her, he should have bought her back (having freed her first in #4 then in #5) when he had the chance in Book #8.

    What is enjoyable are the secondary and tertiary characters. They keep popping up here and there again. Even Targo, who was already present in Book #2, and must be one of the most luckless slave-merchants around. Another example, Lana had also been present in Book #5, in the slavers house together with Elizabeth.

    Back to #8, Elinor - I despised the character completely. She was one of the most despicable characters ever. Don't even try to tell me in a Jessica Rabbit moment: "I'm not that bad, I was just drawn this way". While there may be some women around like her, they are definitely not representative for the vast majority.
    Ute - on the other hand was the most likeable character of the entire book. She was for most parts believable. She seemed like she could actually be a real person. In film one would say that she got too little screen time. The time she did get though, she totally stole the show.

    What I could really care less about, in the later books, is all the psycho-babble that John gives off, in what might be his attempt of having a literary battle with militant-femminists of the '70s. Take all that out, the books would maybe only be 1/10th long, but much more readable.

    Book #19 was to me quite surprising, yes there were many psycho-babble moments that had to be skipped, but in certain points it was a notch over the others, and to this point is the best of the "Slave Girl" (written from the captured woman's point-of-view) books so far. I have not read #22 or #26 so cannot comment on those.
    Of course there were many moments where I felt like screaming at my e-book reader to that naive girl Tiffany, as she just seemed to have no clue at almost every turn.

  2. I had several reasons, actually.

    One, the first two books have already been flogged to death. And I really enjoyed the flogs I read, enough that I didn't feel like retreading that ground.

    Two, I wanted a book specifically from a woman's perspective. It is easy to argue superiority from the alleged superior. I wanted to see Norman's arguement from the alleged inferior to see how he addressed a woman's psychological issues. Obviously, he did not.

    Three...this is an issue series to Norman. In the early books he is, more or less, just telling a story. In the later books he is trying to change the world...into Gor. He thinks Gor is the way reality should be. He says so in his interviews. I wanted to point out how thoroughly he fails at that goal.

  3. Well for reason three and mostly for reason two I admit that "Captive" is a good choice. Regarding him not addressing women's psychological issues adequately by choosing Book #7 becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy though.

    That John has certain issues is quite clear, though I know hardly anything of his interviews.
    I have always had the doubt wether his issues are of a personal nature or if his issues were because of the rapidly changing society in the US of the late 1960s and '70s.

    Some books can be timeless, such as most works by Jules Verne which can be read even with the eyes of today. Other books are more firmly lodged in their time, and one must put into perspective not only the time within the story, but also the time of when the book was written. Can one truly understand Tolstoy without taking into account the time period?

    Now John is in no way comparable to either of those great authors. Though Verne had been shunned by serious critics for a very long time, having been relegated to the niche of "books for young men" for decades.

    I do think that for a flogging, Book #7 is ideal. You did an awesome job at that, and for most parts I agree with you. I might have pointed out a few different points. Like had Strawchick actually gone to the giant Praying-Mantis aliens, who are the enemies of those that abducted her, they would have simply taken her back to Earth, and we that would've been the ending to the Book.

    Putting the entire volume into perspective within the series, the only point for it was to have someone tell Tarl where his Wet-Dream-Fantasy-Girl Talena ended up, and thus linking the storyline of Book #2 and bridging between #6 and #8. To do all that, it is an utter waste of pages. Aren't we lucky to have ebooks and readers now? At least some trees are saved now.

    I actually agree with John on one part, that modern society within the industrialized world (at the time when he started writing) and the post-industrial world (the one we're currently living in) has ome major flaws that are actually hurting humanity and the human species. The part where I differ though is with view towards the changing position of women within society. John sees it as the cause of all evil, I myself see it as an effect/result of other factors.
    Unfortunately, no society present or historic has ever been devoid of flaws. None has ever been perfect, had one been so it would still exist.

    1. To go into one of my personal theories...the alteration of a woman's role in society is more or less a change BACK in terms of what a woman is worth (ie someone capable of producing income for the unit) as well as a step forward into what her rights are. Humans have a sad tendency to look at reality and assume it's always been that way. The industrial revolution destroyed a lot of work-centric values and devalued a lot of labor that gave women value in a non-industrial setting.

      A woman had value primarily because she could bring more laborers into the unit--kids in the family. Farm families were big because more kids=more people who could work the farm (and replace other workers aka children when they died young) Her secondary value was in terms of income. While watching the children too young to work, she was producing staples--butter, canned goods, cooked food, yarn, knitted and/or woven goods, though the latter would indicate a VERY affluent family indeed. A great deal of the preserving work--required in a pre-industrial society--was done by women and children in the home. "Women's work" in a pre-industrial society was as nessessary as "man's work". It was a more-or-less equal division of important labor.

      What we're seeing today is women attempting to find work that is NOT devalued by an industrial society, while most "male" jobs are ALSO being devalued by industry and economic conditions. So there's competition that didn't exist prior to the industrial revolution, but women were important and had important work. Sure, their rights got trampled on in pre-industrial eras, but so did everyone else's. Serfdom, Spanish Inquisition, and so forth. By the time we started paying attention to human rights, women had been devalued.

  4. What is upsetting is that the man actually shows potential for great stories at times.

    Some nice World Building here and there, creating a world free of ecological pollution. Interesting cities, an entire array of foods, drinks, animals and plants. It is a mix of a Sci-Fi and Fantasy world.

    You have the space faring species who are engaged in a war for the worlds.
    The human society we are presented with is mostly oblivious to those happenings and is reminiscent of previous societies in Earth history. It relies heavily on Greco-Roman influences, adds some Mongol/Nomadic peoples of the Great Eurasian Steppe in #4, and then goes to do some planet exploring in the later books.

    River Delta Dwellers and Venetian Pirates in #6; Vikings in #9; Tuareg and Bedouins in #10 (they actually put shoes on their slaves feet to not burn them on the sand, and veils to protect against the sun - incredible); Inuit in #9 (they give their slaves warm clothing against the freezing cold - unbelievable); Central Africans in #13.
    Where he really lost it though was in the double-feature #17 & #18 when it was time for some Cowboys & Indians action. "The Boys from the Hobart Ranch" just somehow didn't fit in. On one side you have the Greco-Roman-Celts in their togas, tunics and kilts, on the other you have these "yeehaw" shouting guys with cowboy hats.

    He puts in some Fantasy elements which bring up Flash Gordon images in the mind. Giant talking Spiders, yes in the first book there was a giant, talking, peaceloving spider one of apparently many so called "rational species". After an entire chapter on this spider, they are never heard from again in books to come. Giant birds to fly on. I'd go to Gor if only to ride on the back of one of those Tarns, though I would not want to be down on the ground when that big bird takes a dump in mid-air.

    He also adds Science Fiction to make certain happenings more plausible.

    Cloaking devices on the space ships to make them invisible. Similar devices will be used later on by Gene Roddenberry for Romulans and Klingons.

    Stabilization serums to explain why they all appear to be young, even when they're 400 years old. And some researchers are working on similar concepts in the real world. Also people do have longer lives and are more youthfull today. If in the '60s a Hollywood Actress saw a steep decline in her career once she turned 30 (or actually her career finished), today many Actresses who are on the top are well in their early 50s and still going strong.

    Slave Wine (contraceptive), it explains why there are hardly any children around. Firstly these Buggers live for centuries and if they die it's mostly through war, having many kids would overpopulate the planet, which is slightly smaller than Earth and seems to have only 1 continent. Secondly again, it is not that far fetched and is in a way becoming a reality. When John set out with his first books, the anti-baby pill was something new and revolutionary. Besides the pill one takes daily, there are other methods that are becoming seriously close to the duration and efficiency of John's Slave wine. There is a possibility of a 1 to 3 month lasting Injection. Now when John first presented Slave Wine, it too lasted about that long and had to be renewed, though not by an injection, but only drinking a very bitter brew. Later on researchers came up with first Implanon and now the successor Nexplanon, a subcutaneous implant that will last for 6 years with the old version (to frequent side-effects) and 3 years with the current one.
    Makes you wonder, do pharmaceutical researchers read Gor?

    1. I think John read the pharmaceutical researchers.

      The problem is that children were necessary to this kind of pre-industrial society. Hunter-gatherer, not so much, but there is evidence of farm as industry in the books. A child as an economic unit on a farm is a pair of hands that you don't have to pay OR pay for. And children are mentioned ONCE in this book. Nobody talks about tripping over kids, or finding street rats digging through garbage, or something similar. Slaves on contraceptives would REDUCE the number of kids, but birth control is not perfect (Pill baby here.)

      He DID have a lot of interesting things in the books, I'll give on that point.

  5. He does lose me on one Sci-Fi aspect though. Minor gravity on Gor in regards to Earth and the physical capabilities of it's inhabitants in comparison to Terrestrians. If I learned one thing from Battlestar Galactica (the original series) and Dragonball Z it's that if you come from a place with higher gravity, and go to one with lower gravity, you will be stronger and faster at least for a time. So why are all these girls from Earth not fast enough to outrun these Gorean Brutes? It is true that none of the women who John sends off to Gor are any Olympian Athletes or US Marines or even Russian Spetsnaz, but they will have done some sort of physical activity like jogging or something, no?

    Also the entire slave population on Gor somehow gets out of hand as the series progresses.
    While in the first books we had perhaps 1/3 of the population enslaved. As well women as men, we actually had a society similar to that of Greco-Roman society. Slaves could be freed, earn their freedom, etc. Even Tarl goes about freeing slaves constantly in the first books.

    But then something happens, maybe it's that John took his own books more serious than they actually are. He for large parts abandons the Fantasy/Sci-Fi aspect and World Building and goes on with psychological/philosophical ramblings. Maybe he wanted to prove a point to the militant-femminists of the time period, I don't know. What happens is that once Tarl himself got enslaved in Book #6 by a woman, though he had been enslaved before this time it somehow leaves him scarred. If I recall correctly the last woman he actually frees (excluding Talena in the first chapter of #9) is the young thief-girl in Book #8 Tina of Lydius. After that he's on a mission, to bring female slavery to every corner of Gor.

    As I said earlier, there is potential in these stories, as you've noted in a few parts of your reviews. He does create some realistic, likeable characters (Ute, Harold, Elizabeth/Vella, Marlenus, Mintar, and a few others), as well as some that you love to hate (Targo?, Vika of Treve, Lara of Tharna, etc.) The thing is most of these enjoyable characters are only secondary or tertiary to most of the story.
    A book centered on Ute, or on Harold, those would be awesome - but then again, John would likely ruin those too.

    It is sad to see all this potential go to waste because the author has to constantly fill pages and pages with psychological/philosophical babble, that doesn't help the story progress and is distracting. Also a better editor might have done him good as well.

    I apologize for having made these very lengthy comments, and for having let myself get carried away a bit. I really liked your review of a book that I have tried to push far back in my memory within the series. Still, I think it is not the best book to actually start out into the series, it's great to be put off the series for life though. Unfortunately this probably means that there will likely be no further reviews of yours for any of the other Gor books. Those reviews might have been great fun to read.

    1. There *MIGHT* be more Gor. I...have a terrible, terrible capacity for reading shitty fiction and loving it as shitty fiction. I just have to stomach the totally-not-rape implications. It might be better from the male POV though, and I DO have a couple more Gor books lying around (REAL books. Used bookstores FTW)

      I'll be compiling a list of suggestions soon. Right now I want to finish City of Bones and at least one Laurell K. Hamilton book (likely Narcissis in Chains, the one that broke me) and then I'm completely open to suggestions.

  6. Oh, and don't worry. If I didn't like long comments and conversations I wouldn't be running a blog