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'Her Favors Were Not Hers to Dispense'
Captive of Gor by John Norman, Review by Lili Hun


The Chronicles of Counter-Earth VOLUME 7

By John Norman, a Del Ray Book, published by Ballantine Books, copyright 1972.

John Norman's story of Elinor Brinton, a woman abducted from Earth and taken to the planet of Gor, recounts her journey from arrogant Earth girl, forever looking down her high-society nose to humbled slave girl, who is finally disabused of her inflated self concept four chapters before the end of the book. She is the proverbial "piece of work," as we say here in Baltimore—self-aggrandizing, coldly calculating with no concern for those around her, and will lie, steal and deceive when she doesn't think she will get caught. Her character development can be painful to watch at times when the reader can predict that her choices will only bring more misery down on her head. But, that only shows reader investment in the story, and John Norman is an engaging writer who wrote what became a page turner for me. This is the first book of his that I've read.

The story is spoken in her voice, and except for the brief epilogue, entirely from her perspective. It may be difficult for a male writer to write from within a woman's head for 365 pages. The style seemed a little repetitive, but then again, our thoughts are repetitive. However, I would expect Elinor, a college-educated girl to have a somewhat less redundant writing style in the telling of her own tale, made more obvious because I read the first seven chapters aloud (to James), before I decided that I had to continue reading—no pun, it was a captivating story—without him or suffer from an itching curiosity until I did.

Of note are the social hierarchies in the story, not just between slaves and free men, but between the slaves themselves. There is plenty of vying for status between the slaves which is of no concern to the slave owners; and since this was a group of slave women, all of the mocking, mimicking, denigrating nastiness used by girls and women to put a girl or a woman in her place that I've ever seen in school or on the job was played out, right down to a cat fight.

Though John Norman clearly sees and disapproves of our emasculating society, only two paragraphs in the book are devoted to an indicting social commentary in the form of comparisons between men of Earth and men of Gor. (As an aside, he also seems to be into BDSM.) I have included these below.

"The only thing I did not take into my considerations was the Gorean male. He is unlike the men of Earth, on the whole so weak and pliable, so reasonable, so compromising, so much in need of recognition and affection, or its pretense. The only thing I failed to take into my calculations was that the Gorean male, whether by culture or genetic endowment, is unlike the typical man of Earth. He, unlike the typical man of Earth, though not unlike all, is a natural master of women." p. 168

"Sometimes I thought angrily of girls on Earth, many of them, who, too, were slave girls, but who had not learned this, and who, presumably, would never do so. I thought of them, dressing for men, trying to please them, though not much caring for them, to advance themselves in powers and luxuries, using their bodies and minds, their smiles, and glances and words, and touches, clumsily perhaps, not having been trained, to obtain their desires of foolish, starved men. These were girls, not caring for men, who employ the needs of men, without penalty, intelligently to their own profit. Smile at a man of Earth and he will be grateful; pretend to be willing to please a man of Earth and he will do anything for you. You may then use them, such needful weaklings, to rise in the million strata of your intricate society, to climb, to ingratiate and insinuate yourself swiftly, expertly, into the high, warm, luxurious places in your busy, impersonal, complex, loveless, anxious world. You will make them pay well for your favors.....Of such women the Goreans enjoy making slaves. She would find her favors were not hers to dispense, at her own pleasure and to her own profit, but his to command as he was pleased to do so. Gorean men were not so easily fooled as the men of earth. Gorean men do not choose to be dominated, but to dominate, to be the master." p. 193

I also appreciated the sentence I have extracted below, because our gender roles are so mixed up; our representations of what makes a woman feminine often seem to follow a slutty track, and a masculine man seems to be a rarity and discouraged overall. For me, this sentence embodies what is possible when men and women are not trying to resemble each other "equally," and their differences are appreciated by each other. Granted, these words do not come with an instruction booklet if they seem obtuse, but they mean something to someone who doesn't want any part of the metrosexual gender roles which have been inculcated into the younger generations.

"He was totally and utterly masculine, and before him I could be only totally and utterly feminine." p.264

In short, this left me wanting to read more of John Norman's works.

Add Comment
Lili HunMay 2, 2017 7:36 AM UTC

Thank you, James.
JamesMay 1, 2017 5:55 PM UTC

I read John Norman's first six books, then the tenth and then the twentieth. There was a bondage manual which I did not read. I stopped reading this guy at age 17 because of his bondage fetish, but he carried a good story and wrote a stone age time travel story and an American Indian story set in the bad lands of Montana that were very good.

Books 1-4 are very good on setting development. In the first book the primary protagonist, a man, has to adjust to a more masculine society. I remember being a teenager, wondering why our fathers were all such sissies—except for the religious nut down the street, who was insane—and getting some perspective from his first novel, Tarnsman of Gor. I think the writer went off the deep end, but on the way made some valid observations.

I really appreciate your observations.

James