This massive work is intended as a companion to the Tales of Gor Role-playing Game or, for those who don't role-play, as supporting material for the Gorean Chronicles series of books by John Norman. The Introduction explains the history and background to the books - and how this book's author was introduced to them in his teens and fell in love with them (just as I did when not very much older). The turbulent history of the series, with its themes clashing with prudishness when first launched and later falling foul of political correctness, is discussed sympathetically: it is what it is and if your prejudices lead you to dislike the fact that Gorean society accepts slavery as normal, and has sexual practises that could be deemed 'kinky' (bondage, dominance and submission in the main), there's ample warning to suggest you find a different fantasy world. Because that's what it is, fantasy. Nobody's suggesting it is real or even desirable, just that this is what Gor is like. To be fair, I have read essays that suggest John Norman wrote the books as a protest against rampant political correctness, but I don't know how true that is!
Next comes a summary of the thirty-four (at time of writing) books in the series, drawn from the cover 'blurbs' (so no spoilers for books you haven't read yet!). Then without further ado, the encyclopaedia entries begin...
In strict alphabetical order, the entries cover everything from prominent individuals to flora and fauna, popular beliefs and customs, and matters of everyday life. They are illustrated by relevant quotations from the books as well as splendid pen-and-ink drawings that capture the exotic feel of the world well. Even where slaves are involved, they remain tastefully done... and are particularly fascinating when they depict the exotic animals of Gor.
Perhaps you want to know about the various castes of Gor, mix of professional/trade associations and inherited positions, or maybe you'd like to know what cards make up the Gorean Tarot or how to play kaissa. Musical instruments, weapons, diseases, clothing... all these and more are described. There are even details of kaissa should you fancy trying to play. Finally, an appendix outlines the Gorean calendar. It is very much a reference book, as one might expect from the title, rather than a thematic discussion of all things Gorean; but should you want to know, for example, what a Horned Gim looks like (a small, purplish owl-like bird, as it happens), you can look it up very easily (although the PDF version could be enhanced by the use of bookmarks and hyperlinks).
This is an excellent resource for all those who wish to understand the world of Gor in all its splendor. Whether you play the RPG or just enjoy the books, this is a useful adjunct to your game or reading.
Return to Gorean Roleplaying World Encyclopaedia page.
Reviewed: 10 May 2017