bookrev: Chaos and Order: The Gap into Madness by Stephen R. Donaldson
Book 4 of The Gap Cycle
As far as Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap Series goes, this, the fourth book in the series, is the one that gets the space warfare cranked up. He levels up the weapons, the obstacles, the treachery and the number of opponents deftly and with great reading pace.
The ship Trumpet has come to an illegal lab, set to make the anti-mutagen that the galactic police (UMCP) have had but have suppressed from the rest of humanity for so long, keeping the alien threat of the Amnion alive for profit. But Morn Hyland, Angus Thermopyle and Nick Succorso, and the others on board are stalked by many ships and factions:
- Free Lunch, a mercenary vessel hired by Hashi Lebwohl of the UMCP to destroy Trumpet, as he believes they are a risk to the security of mankind;
- Soar, captained by Sorus Chatelaine, the woman who cut Nick, whom he has sworn to kill, with the ship that destroyed Morn’s mother’s ship, who she has sworn to avenge (yes, a lot of swearing); Soar also has Milos, a former human that the Amnions injected with their mutagen, making them one of them; they have given Sorus something similar to make them their slave, so that she must do their bidding or never receive the antidote;
- Calm Horizons, a Amnion warship (called a defensive) that risks galactic war with the humans by invading human space to capture or destroy Trumpet and its crew;
- Punisher, a UMCP fighter just off nasty and damaging duty, which Min Donner (the straight-laced and honorable director) has commanded as her flagship to save Morn and whatever political plot her boss (Warden Dios) has put in place.
Donaldson provides not only conflicting influences that change which ship is fighting for whom and against whom, but also describes in the line of the story or in “Ancillary Documentation” details on singularity bombs (start your own black hole), impact cannons and boson dispersion arrays. The action in the battles is well written, and integrated into the political story of the two races (human and Amnion) maneuvering for dominance while greedy humans try to keep the balance for their own profiting.
The relationship triangle with Angus, Morn and Nick becomes more confusing as Nick tries to keep his ego and bravado whilst continuing to be beaten, Angus fights his Cyborg programming and his evil/harsh desires for Morn, and Morn confronts her own gap-sickness and dependencies on implants to maintain her sanity.
In addition, the Earth based politics, set in motion by the head of the space police against his boss, the most powerful man who runs the most powerful company, shows the bureaucracies and manipulations inherent in any large political structure.
It’s great to be able to read a series end to end without waiting on the publishing houses or the writer, and I am eager to see how the story ends in the last book.