BOOK REVIEW/RECOMMENDATIONS (Staff, 7-9, 10-12)
As promised, Jack Kirne has returned with another brilliant review – this time he’s written about The gap sequence.
While strolling through Borders the other day I couldn’t help but look and smile. There under the cult classic section lay my favourite series of all time – The gap sequence. Written in the early 90s and now making its way to film, this series, written by Stephen R. Donaldson, is an unforgettable experience.
A three-thousand page epic spanning five novels (The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story, The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge, The Gap into Power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises and The Gap into Ruin: This Day all Gods Die), The gap is wordy and complex. The series is loosely based on Wagner’s ‘Ring cycle’, an opera famous for both its scope and length. Donaldson takes this world of dragons, magic rings, dwarves and gods, and moves them into a world of power politics, laser cannons and unlovable characters. But by no measure is it a retelling of the story in a new setting, it is a new beast altogether.
The Gap sequence is interesting in that the first book is short at a mere 120 pages. Originally intended to be a novella, it is more like space pulp – short, sharp, violent and brutal, it depicts a power struggle between three main characters, Nick, Angus and Morn. On its own the book is at best average, something that Donaldson admits to in his foreword. From here on, though, it’s a different story – the second novel is slow, and once again fairly isolated but as the scope slowly increases, so does the tension, until at the second novel’s climax the reader is left to trust no-one and question everything.
However it is in the third novel that this series really finds its form; the small cast of the first two novels explodes, with the story now playing out at roughly fifteen different viewpoints. As well as Morn’s desperate struggle to survive in deep space, we are introduced to the sinister political games playing out on earth. The story continues to build and build until it reaches the apocalyptic final chapter – This Day All Gods Die, in which everything come together in a shattering climax.
The Gap does not make for easy reading. Its contents could easily turn anyone’s stomach, topics that are generally taboo in films and books play a central role within the series. These are not stories for kids, and even adults may be repulsed at numerous points. Its cybernetic horror, corruption, pirates, aliens and vicious corporations make it what it is – believable.
Donaldson’s cynicism is in fine form, and as a species we are critiqued to no end. In the ancillary documents that break up the story, the author explains the technology and the background to the sometimes confusing political situation. These sections, while not imperative to the novels, are often fascinating, and can at times be amusing.
Its wide and dynamic cast are well rounded, and as they all guess each other’s motives (often wrongly), and try to out play one another, it’s often hard to know who to trust. Torn between sanity and madness, duty and conscience, and the need to survive, you feel you actually know characters – and consequently you understand why they act the way they do, something few authors manage to achieve with a singular character let alone the double figure cast that fills the gap.
While The gap sold reasonably well at its time of release, it has slowly been forgotten, and rightfully so, its dark, cynical and somewhat offensive nature is an understandable turn-off for many readers. A screen adaption will never capture what makes these novels what they are –too much would never make it past the cutting room floor, indeed his far kinder Chronicles of Thomas Covenant have been quashed in development for the same reasons. If you have a lot of spare time, a strong stomach and some patience, this series is a must read. It’s not for everyone and for this reason it will always remain a true ‘cult’ classic.
Thankyou, Jack, for taking the time to write this review.
You can read about the author here.