- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Spectra; Reissue edition (June 1 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553295098
- ISBN-13: 978-0553295092
- Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 2.3 x 17.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 136 g
- Average Customer Review: 60 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #478,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Real Story: The Gap into Conflict Paperback – Jun 1 1992
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The Real Story is a short but intense tale set in a future in which humans travel between the stars using "gap drives," controllable brain implants are punishable by death, and a private company called the United Mining Company runs law enforcement for all of known space. Ensign Morn Hyland lives aboard a police ship with most of her family, chasing down pirates and other illegals who prey on the weak or smuggle goods into forbidden space.
Through a strange turn of events, one particularly nasty perpetrator ends up with Morn as his companion--or at least that's the way it appears to the folks at the space station's bar. Why would a young, strong, beautiful police officer associate with a crusty, murdering pirate? People watch with interest as Morn appears to fall in lust with another racy illegal, Captain Nick Succorso. Morn and Nick must have plotted together to frame Angus and escape together, right? But the real story was quite different.
From the Publisher
Author of The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of all time, master storyteller Stephen R. Donaldson returns with this exciting and long-awaited new series that takes us into a stunningly imagined future to tell a timeless story of adventure and the implacable conflict of good and evil within each of us.
Angus Thermopyle was an ore pirate and a murderer; even the most disreputable asteroid pilots of Delta Sector stayed locked out of his way. Those who didn't ended up in the lockup--or dead. But when Thermopyle arrived at Mallory's Bar & Sleep with a gorgeous woman by his side the regulars had to take notice. Her name was Morn Hyland, and she had been a police officer--until she met up with Thermopyle.
But one person in Mallorys Bar wasn't intimidated. Nick Succorso had his own reputation as a bold pirate and he had a sleek frigate fitted for deep space. Everyone knew that Thermopyle and Succorso were on a collision course. What nobody expected was how quickly it would be over--or how devastating victory would be. It was common enough example of rivalry and revenge--or so everyone thought. The REAL story was something entirely different.
In The Real Story, Stephen R. Donaldson takes us to a remarkably detailed world of faster-than-light travel, politics, betrayal, and a shadowy presence just outside our view to tell the fiercest, most profound story he has ever written.See all Product description
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Only annoyances - author likes using unusual adjectives - then reuses them ad nauseum - really bugs you after a while. Also the characters retell the action from their perspective as we change focus - can get annoying.
But overall - riveting and a total exhausting page turner. Space battles that last a hundred pages and don't let up. Great characters. Too bad there's never been a sequel - great aliens.
The story takes place at some point in the future in DelSec, a region of space where police hired by the United Mining Company exercise only limited control. The events described on the jacket cover all take place within the first few pages; the majority of the book is spent returning and going over those events once again from the perspective of one character, thus letting us actually understand motivations and details. One notable aspect of the story is the incredibly fast pacing, with at least one new twist arriving every ten pages. In contrast to the Covenant series, "The Real Story" uses direct and unsophisticated language, quite appropriate for the direct and intense emotions that dominate the story.
Character, of course, is at the heart of any great novel. Friends have complained that they can't understand the behavior of Donaldson's characters, and the above Publisher's Weekly review insists that they act irrationally. They're right. Real human beings, needless to say, are irrational and frequently difficult to understand. Donaldson has obviously studied our species carefully, and noted the ways in which guilt and fear play out inside people's heads. There are occasions in "The Real Story" where characters act counterintuitively, just as in real life, but there's always an explanation for it if you look carefully enough.
I cannot crown "The Real Story" as the greatest science fiction novel of all time. It has some odd lapses in common sense. For instance, one character sneaks into an enemy spaceship from the outside. Has this futuristic society somehow forgotten the concept of locked doors? More significantly, it fails to build up that amazing force that you find at the endings of each book in the Covenant trilogy, and it isn't as compulsively readable. However, I can still recommend this book highly, and praise the authors for trying his hardest to break free from conventions in a world where cliché and formula often rule the day.
The first chapter setup is simple: Morn Hyland, beautiful damsel in distress, is rescued from evil disreputable smuggler/pirate Angus Thermopyle by dashing hero Nick Succerso. But that's not The REAL Story. What REALLY happened is much more interesting.
The first (and shortest) book in the Gap series focuses on The Real Story. Donaldson has a lot of fun twisting expectations and unpeeling layers. It makes for a good book, but not a great one. The more important function of The Real Story is to get you ready for The BETTER Story, which is The Gap Cycle.
I believe Donaldson is one of the best world-builders out there. If you've read the incredible Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, you'll know what I'm talking about. This is what he is best at and I believe his writing fades a bit when he writes character studies. The world of The Gap Cycle is compelling and, in its own way, enchanting but you don't get to see a lot of it in this book. Donaldson is setting up some concepts (Gap Drive, Forbidden Space, Piracy and why it thrives), but most of this book is a character study of the vile Angus and the newly- orphaned Morn. There are huge scads of this book that are dialog free; Donaldson is doing a lot of telling, and not much showing.
And some of it is quite brutal. In his afterword (in my edition of this book) Donaldson admits that he thought for a long time before publishing the story because he didn't like to think about what people might think of him. While I'm glad he published it, the nastiness does go over the top in places and seems a bit gratuitous. I believe that following a less-is-more strategy and allowing our own nightmares to fill in the blanks would have been more effective.
But who am I to presume to tell SRD to write? I'm just glad he did. Stick with this book because the next one is much better.
The Gap Series has everything you could want in a Space Opera. Pick it up.
The Gap Series:
The Real Story: B+
Forbidden Knowledge: A+
A Dark And Hungry God Arises: A
Chaos and Order: A+
This Day All Gods Die: A+
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