Editorial comment Marlies Dasmijn:
I found myself reading Hunter of Gor because I role play a panther girl in SL gor and since so many people that play this game take it so seriously I felt I should educate myself on its foundation. The writing style can at times be captivating (no pun intended) and the action moves swiftly often turning the tables several times in a short space of time, but the philosophies Norman tries to put forth through the writing are a bit idiotic if not downright laughable. To imagine that women who are taken prisoner and forced into sexual relations are then broken, becoming totally enamored of their captors is absurd. Many women may like a little bit of rough sex but the idea that they would tolerate a steady diet of abasement is ludicrous as is exemplified by the present condition of women which continues to seek equalization in our society. It makes me wonder about John Norman’s relationship with his wife to say nothing of the insecurities he must have suffered being surrounded with brilliant women in a university setting.
The Book review:
Hunters of Gor is good but not great. Unlike its immediate predecessor its a decent installment to the Gor series. The writing quality and complexity of this book is somewhere between the first and second book, which is not a bad thing after Captive of Gor. Unfortunately like its predecessor, the story telling of Hunters is a little thin. If Captive of Gor could have been one chapter in a good Gor book, then Hunters could be three. The story of Hunters starts at the end of Captive when Bosk (Tarl) finds out his first and greatest love, Talena, is being held in slavery by Panther Girls. Panther Girls are amazon-like, wild, outlaw women who live free in the forests. Bosk immediately sets out to find her which is obviously a bad idea. The theme “you can’t go home again” screams out at you right from the start. You just know this is going to end badly and it does. Talena also happens to be the daughter of the most powerful Ubar (King) on the planet, who also hears of her captivity and sets out to find her. Talena is being held by Verna, the leader of the most powerful band of Panther Girls. None of this is a coincidence, the purchase of Talena by Verna is specifically designed to draw out Marlenus. There is a lot of material to work with but unfortunately Hunters does not live up to its potential. It gets about half way there. There are many plots and subplots, plenty of potentially interesting characters, but it all feels a little contrived and trite. Considering what Normal did with Nomads and Assassin, he could have done better here. All the pieces were there, they just don’t quite come together as well as they could and should.
The good thing about Hunters is its a plain-old Gor book. There is plenty of ridiculous combat which Norman makes almost believable. There are plot twists you see coming miles away but you still appreciate them. There are the usual exhausting side trips into Gorean culture which can be tedious but they do help paint a vivid picture. All of which is good if you like Gor in the first place. At this point in the series, Gor is just for fans. If you aren’t a fan, this series is over for you.
Where Hunters fails is it loses a lot of the fun of previous books. This trend of “going dark” started with Raiders and continues through Captive and Hunters. Hunters goes to a dark place and doesn’t come back. None of the characters in Hunters are likable on any level, everyone is a jerk, and Gor is not a fun place. Bosk is a ruthless jerk, Marlenus is an arrogant jerk, and all the women are portrayed as petty and vindictive. If it were not for the back story from the previous books, Hunters wouldn’t be readable, there is no character you care about or want to see succeed. However, since there are seven books of back story, Hunters still works overall.
Norman continues to incorporate BDSM themes and expands his ideas of institutional slavery. This has been a part of all the Gor books, each getting more involved than the previous. Where Hunters differs is in the tone of these themes. Previous to Hunters Norman somehow caused you to suspend morality just as you would suspend disbelief. If you can have 17′ tall grasshoppers running the planet from their secret mountain lair, then you can have have fun slavery. Unfortunately Hunters fails to keep your morality suspended. The BDSM themes get heavy and uncomfortable. When Norman describes the screams of women in the distance you suddenly have a very uncomfortable feeling that something very bad just happened. Slavery is exposed to be what it really is, very unpleasant. The problem is that Hunters still wants you to see it all as fun. You’re supposed to believe women want to be slaves, men want to own them, and an occasional beating is good, clean fun for all. That doesn’t even come close to working in Hunters. One of the reasons this doesn’t work in Hunters is that women are portrayed as very inferior, petty, vindictive, and usually stupid. That is very different than in the previous seven books. In the previous seven women were portrayed as different but not worse, having a different set of skills, and a different place in society, but not necessarily a worse place. For example in past books, while women are portrayed as physically weaker, that was not equated to physically and mentally inferior. In Hunters physically weaker is equated to overall inferiority. That may have been the point, after all the book is called Hunters of Gor, but it still hurts the book.
In the first seven books you imagine that Gor might be fun on weekends or on vacation. Hunters makes you glad Gor is not real. Hunters does not leave you feeling good at the end. Even Captive of Gor managed to pull that off. However in the end, even with the weak story and the lack of a feel-good ending, if you like Gor you’ll probably like Hunters.