John Nornan, DANCER OF GOR

John Norman has written over 20 books in the Gor series, creating the alien world of Gor where humans are brought to live adventures that combine sword and sorcery wth periods from ancient human history. Well, that's what happens to men: Dancer of Gor shows Norman fantasizing about the absolute captivity, submission, and degredation of women -- and contempt for women who resist this.

The protagonist of this book is Doreen Williamson, an introverted, shy librarian who finds release in the "shocking" practice of bellydance. This somehow brings her to the attention of Gorean slavers (led by Teibar), and before you can say "BDSM" Doreen has been fully bound, kidnapped, transported to Gor, and sold into slavery.

What follows is a series of not so much adventures as Norman's fantasies about sumbission. It's hard to know which the author enjoys more: his long and detailed descriptions of physical bondage, or his creating a society where women have literally fewer rights than animals, any woman can be captured and enslaved, and men can rename, use, abuse, rape, and even kill women at their whim. Doreen starts as a dancing prostitute and winds up in subsequently worse situations -- and loves every minute of it.

The problem with Dancer of Gor isn't having a submissive protagonist: This has been done well plenty of times, from The Story of O (in its numerous adaptions) to the movie Secretary. First, Norman not only revels in this world where women exist solely to please men, but also condems the "modern woman" who he sees as weakening and destroying men. He doesn't just like a submissive woman -- he shows a hatred for any woman who shows signs of independence or intelligence. Further, Doreen (or whatever her name is -- it's changed several times during the novel) is treated with contempt by all males throughout the book, existing as little more than a male sexual fantasy.

Oh yes, and the writing is terrible. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gor series, this book "has been specifically edited by the author and is a definitive text." Someone should have spoken to Norman about avoiding run-on sentences and the overuse of commas, as demonstrated here: "If they could have seen me curling about a man's feet in an alcove, licking and kissing theinching upwards, piteously, hopefully, then kneeling beside him, looking up, kissing, licking, pleading, I do not think they would have been so quickto dismiss me as a mere 'pot girl.' Tela, too, I am sure, was angry. After all, not only had she once been a rich free woman, of high family and significant station, of a fine city, Lydius, but even after her capture,and her prompt reduction to total and absolute bondage, she had been found so beautiful, so luscious and desirable, that she had been chosen over many women for the triangle of red silk in the tent of Aulus." Of course, when Dancer of Gor isn't wordy it's usually short, stupid exclamations of the women begging and the men insulting them. So it's pretty much a no-win situation.

I haven't read any of the other Gor books -- and after this I have no desire to -- so I can't speak to the treatment of women in those. I can say that Dancer of Gor demonstrates some of the worst stereotypes about the BDSM world: that it's insulting, degrading, and terrible to women. Furthermore, Norman is a terrible writer, from the absolutely one-dimensional characters to the consistently awful sentences. Avoid this book like a Gorean slaver.

Overall grade: F
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: