Review: The Real Story by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story, written in 1991, is the first book in The Gap series, written by Stephen R. Donaldson in. In the first chapter of the book, a space pirate, Angus Thermopyle, walks into a bar on Com-Mine Station with a beautiful woman, Morn Hyland. The patrons wonder why Morn is with Angus, a man of such poor reputation. They believe she is being coerced, which isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s far from the real story. While in the bar, Morn and Angus also capture the attention of another space pirate, Nick Succorso, who hopes to rescue her.

The rest of the book tells the true details of what really happened between Angus and Morn. The details aren’t pretty. Morn suffers from “Gap sickness” which is the urge to self-destruct whenever she is subject to high G’s, Angus places a “zone implant” into Morn’s brain which is effectively a mind control device, and Angus repeatedly rapes and abuses her. Angus also forces her to help pilot his ship, Bright Beauty by asserting his dominance over her and convincing her that because she destroyed her father’s ship during her gap sickness, her captivity is her fault, not his.

The character narratives during “The Real Story” is constant. Angus is a vile human who doesn’t care if he commits murder or other atrocities. However much I wanted him to just die, it’s hinted a few times that he could be redeemed. For example, he spares Morn the grief of believing she tried to destroy Angus’ ship, the Bright Beauty.

After Morn Hyland is kidnapped by Angus, she has a diminishing sense of self-worth. She suffers from gap sickness, and she blames herself for the destruction of her father’s ship, even though her actions weren’t in her control. She is stricken by grief because she is a UMCP police officer who killed her family, who were also police officers. After Angus captures her, he makes her believe that her actions can’t be redeemed. Angus’ efforts to control her doesn’t work. In the end, Morn manages to escape from Angus’ grip, and in an act of empathy, Angus gives Morn the control to her zone implant.

I don’t know yet what I think about Nick Succorso. He’s a charming hero in the eyes of the patrons of the bar, but he’s not seen very much except during his confrontations with Angus. He’s mostly described from Angus’ point of view, and Angus doesn’t make him  seem like a very harming character, to say the least. Nick does help rescue Morn from her captivity, but not much is known about his motives. Does Nick rescue Morn because she’s in need, or does he see her as a prize to be taken? Again, not much is known by the end of the book.

If you’re a sensitive reader, or you just don’t want to read about themes like rape, you should give “The Real Story” a pass. If you want to read a space opera about two interesting, detailed characters, you can’t go wrong with this book. I’m very excited to continue reading the other four books of the series.

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