The Real Story by Stephen Donaldson

I picked up the recent Gollancz release omnibus of the Gap 1 & 2, The Real Story and Forbidden Knowledge, as I was interested to see what the series would be like. I decided to tackle The Real Story on its own first, hoping that what I found would give me enough of a taste to go forward with the rest of the series. I’m not sure whether this one is representative of the whole series though, it certainly reads like a stand alone story.

the-real-storyGap drives are the way to travel between stars, but there is a very dangerous side effect – a small amount of people suffer from Gap sickness, something that can cause them to act irrationally and dangerously to the point of inadvertently killing those aboard their ship. Zone implants (a highly illegal technology that allows a person to control anothers actions by a simple remote) are used to control those that suffer from Gap sickness, or just used by the unsavoury to use others as slaves.

When Angus Thermopyle returns to the station with Morn Hyland apparently working for him, many are suspicious of what happened – how does someone like Angus attract and keep someone as beautiful as Morn. Nick Succorso is one in particular that appears to be involved, his interest in Morn sparking fury in Angus. When things go wrong after an excursion the authorities of the station try and pin down pirate activity to Angus, and when Nick also returns things go from bad to worse. Now we hear the story of the events leading to Angus’ demise, the Real Story behind the rumours.

As I said earlier, this reads like a stand alone novel, not the first part of a 5 book series – this was perhaps the most surprising thing I found and it threw me slightly off. It’s clear fairly early on that this is the case as the ending is given to us and we embark on the journey to discover the truth. The journey itself though, that is where we get to explore the character of Angus and the setting to expect in the future novels.

Angus’ character is one that I didn’t like that much – actually I despise him – but the story was an interesting look into someone that cares for nobody and uses force and brutality to get what he wants. He doesn’t really have any redeeming qualities and his shortsightedness leads him into his downfall. Morn is a character I sympathise with more than anything else, being forced to do many things, some of them pretty degrading and disgusting. Although we see her character change throughout the story, it’s all done through Angus’ eyes and therefore we don’t find out what makes her rick – a shame really as I’d like to see more of her. Nick has even less page time, relegated to the nemesis of Angus if for no other reason than the way he look sat Morn.

So The Real Story is Angus’ story – not the most pleasant but all in all a decent enough read. As it pretty much ties up the loose ends I’m interested, if not a little cautious, to see the direction it takes from here. The afterword by Stephen Donaldson cleared up quite a lot regarding the story and made the big picture a little clearer and without it I doubt I would even consider going forward with the series.

3 thoughts on “The Real Story by Stephen Donaldson”

  1. It is one of those stranger SF books out there; I read it way back, and all I could remember thinking was that it was intruiging. Angus is scum, no doubt, but give him some time, he’ll surprise the hell out of you! :-) As will Nick, and Morn, and… no, no, shut up Dave!

  2. Definitely read the rest of the series! The Real Story barely scratches the surface. It’s been a while since I read it, but as I recall there are layers to the story that are revealed as you go along, and nothing is as it seems at first. It’s a shame, I think, that The Real Story doesn’t really give you enough of an idea of the depth of this series, and I wonder how many people quit after the first book.

    Hmmm. Now I want to go back and reread this series!

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