The Gap into Madness: Chaos and Order

Book 4 of The Gap Saga.

Author Donaldson, Stephen R.
ISBN 0-553-57253-9
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Review
Of The Gap Saga

Stephen Donaldson’s Gap Saga is one of the greatest, and one of the grimmest, works of science fiction I have ever read: Also one of the most brilliant. It starts out with a narrow focus on a small group of characters (Donaldson describes The Real Story as a study in character role reversal), then gradually expands to take on an epic scope affecting all of humanity—and simultaneously serving as a very clever, sci fi cast of Wagner’s Ring cycle! Somehow, it manages to do so seamlessly.

It is not for the faint of heart. The characters are mercilessly human even at their darkest (well, the human ones, anyway!), and many of them are very dark indeed. I often joke that this is the best series you will ever read, but you’d best not read it without Prozac—at least until the pleasant characters begin to attempt to act in the third book or so. But they are memorable, and Min Donner and Warden Dios are among those characters whom I greet as old friends when they enter the stage.

The “science” in this science fiction is also interesting. It is by no means the ultra-hard science of an Arthur C. Clarke, but in some respects it has a great deal of verisimilitude. In much sci fi, space battles take on the aspects of WW2 dogfights, as in Star Wars; in The Gap Saga, ships are dangerously close when they get within several tens of thousands of kilometres. Space is big, after all, and weapons do not scatter or slow with friction in a vacuum. Touches like this, which make it all seem a bit more realistic, add to the grittiness of the setting as much as the sweating and human tics of both its nicest and its most miserable and malevolent characters.

If cruelty, despair, rape, and violence (none of them ever glorified) are too much for you—I don’t blame you, but these books are not for you. If you can handle it, get your hands on these books as soon as you can.

Notes