While readers could be forgiven for assuming that the series had finally exhausted its second life, it was hard to imagine that John Norman wouldn't do something to mark the occasion of the series 50th anniversary - which brings us to Plunder of Gor.
While Rebels of Gor was almost entirely devoted to resolving the core conflict between Tarl Cabot, the Kurii, and the Priest-Kings, Plunder of Gor is very much a throwback to the saga's bdsm/slavery roots, narrated as it is by one of those captured Earth women. While I largely resented those 'side' novels in my youth, impatient as I was to get back to the saga of Tarl Cabot, I actually found a lot to like in this.
For one, I liked the myth of Gor which I don't recall being explored to such a degree before. We actually spend the first 70 pages or so on Earth, with Phyllis and Paula discussing their knowledge of the rumors and fiction surrounding the Counter-Earth. I also like the way the idea of beauty was explored here, with the Gorean slavers expressing such interest in plain, well-rounded Paula, and such disdain for vain, model-like Phyllis. Having such a vain, self-confident, lower value slave as narrator really puts an interesting spin on the novel, especially with Paula's shadow looming so large over her new life.
I was actually surprised to see Paula reappear at around the halfway mark of the story, but it was fitting since Phyllis really had not learned a thing about her new life. As desperate as she is for friendship, for a reminder of home, her jealousy for the plain, bookish, unfashionable young woman drives much of the novel's conflict. While this is a novel of Gor, with plenty of slavery and adventure along the way, it's really a rather personal story of these two women. So much of the story, including the fate of Kurik of Victoria, hinges on their intertwined fates (cleverly contrasted with the schemes of Lady Bina, free woman), with the action and drama reaching its crescendo in the final 100 pages.
Plunder of Gor is a refreshingly original entry in the saga that still manages to remain true to its roots, 50 years later. There's an equal mix of adventure, philosophy, erotic tension, intellectual mystery, with some well-developed characters and some fantastic settings. Some readers may find the pacing of the second act to be a bit slow, while others may find the opening Earth-bound scenes a bit too much, but it all comes together in a well-balanced story that pays off in the end.
Published August 30th 2016 by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.