The Gap Cycle by Stephen R. Donaldson
Reading a complete series from cover to cover in consecutive sittings (i.e., without many books in between) is a rarity for me. Either the series doesn’t hold my attention, the series is unfinished (i.e., I’d read George R. R. Martin’s Ice and Fire series straight through if they were all written and published) or something else gets in the way. The exception is the five book Gap Cycle by Stephen R. Donaldson.
I read the five book in the Gap Cycle series almost straight through, and truly enjoyed the series. The five books are:
- The Real Story
- Forbidden Knowledge
- A Dark and Hungry God Arises
- Chaos and Order
- This Day All Gods Die
I’d read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant when it first came out years ago, and had picked up the first book in the Gap Cycle series (The Real Story) because I enjoyed the Covenant fantasy series; for a variety of reasons, though I made several attempts read The Real Story, I could not get interested in it; it truly is separate from the rest of the series, as it does not cover the alien Amnion and the political structure and struggle back on earth, plus it focuses on some unpleasant topics (rape, forced surgeries, etc.) that don’t make for enjoyable reading.
But this first book sets two of the main characters (Morn Hyland and Angus Thermopyle) excellently, and introduces their relationship to the third (Nick Sucorsco).
The series really spreads out, building on the three main characters, adding a political struggle on earth and a human vs. alien conflict to the personal battles of the threesome, building into space opera-dom in the second, third and fourth books, with the great space battle and political climax in the fifth (This Day All Gods Die).
Many space and world building authors wave magic wands, ask for a suspension of belief or generally don’t explain how their worlds work. Stephen R. Donaldson lays out the background of his world with great inserts of the science and politics he is postulating, in the form of “Ancillary Documentation” chapters.
- Datacores (Bk2, pg 61): kept in each ship to record activity, supposedly unchangeable (accept the Amnion show Angus how);
- Intertech (Bk2, pg 117): one of the original space mining companies;
- The Amnion – First Contact (Bk2, pg 191 and pg 249): how humans first met the only other alien species they have found, and what causes the fear of them;
- Gap Drive (Bk 2, pg 307): good background on how to traverse space;
- The Preempt Act (Bk 2, pg 385): how Angus,Morn and Nick are the keys to a major political power grab by Earth politicians;
- Billingate (Bk 3, pg 28): pirate outpost and meeting place with the Amnion;
- United Mining Companies (Bk 3, pg 112? and pg 150): the company controlling space trade, space police and therefore politics of earth and space;
- GCES (Bk 3, pg 240): the Governing Council of Earth and Space;
- Warden Dios address to graduating cadets (Bk 3, pg 276): background of the Director of the UMC Police;
- Extract from Hashi’s journal (Bk3, pg 369):backgroun on the head of the UMCP’s spy force;
- Guttergangs (Bk 3, pg392): gangs on poverty stricken parts of Earth, where some of the characters got their start;
- Gap Travel (Bk4, pg38): how it works, and how it makes people incorrectly think space is small;
- Gap Courier Drones (Bk4, pg 137): inventions to transmit radio messages using drones gapped through space;
- Matter Cannon (Bk4, pg 209): showing the big guns before the big space battle;
- Symbiotic Crystalline Resonance Transmission(Bk 4, pg 297): alien invention for real-time communication across space using identical crystals and the resonance (i.e., they react the same no matter how far away they are) between them;
- Amnion Language and Intelligence (Bk 4, pg 423)
- Warden Dios: Background Information (Bk 4, pg 511)
Good characters (including different points of view, main and minor characters), well paced, excellent world building (through explanation of science, politics and aliens) make this series a great read.