Carl's Reviews > The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story

The Gap Into Conflict by Stephen R. Donaldson
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's review
Sep 28, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasysci-fi
Read in August, 2010

Having written this (and having had it actually turn into a longer review), I should warn you-- this contains spoilers! Even if not very explicit ones.

Wish I had time to write a longer review-- I'm giving it 5 stars, though I didn't always feel like it was worth that-- but I really really like how different the story is and how Donaldson is trying to do something unique in the field of space opera.

He has a section at the end where he explains the genesis of the story and the connection to Wagner's Ring cycle. I'd heard of this series as his take on Volsunga saga, but seeing it as inspired by Wagner (and dealing with similar themes) makes more sense.

I have to admit it is really hard to read through a story which centers so much around a psychopath breaking a woman through violence and rape, but in his favor Donaldson does not linger on details in a pornographic way (actually, he does a good job keeping the horror somewhat off camera, without letting us think that rape is any less horrible than it is), and I think I would say that he does accomplish his goal (sorry, spoiler here!) of switching the structural roles of the triangle of characters-- villain becomes victim, victim becomes rescuer, hero becomes villain. Actually, just the fact that this is clearly a structural switch (and very dependent on the perspective through which the configuration is viewed), rather than a change in some inherent characteristic in each of them, is a fairly powerful statement, imho, esp. in the world of space opera which has had its share of evil strawmen. The central character is still very despicable (at first you think he is too extreme a villain, but by the end I saw him as a plausible psychopath-- after all, people have done such horrible things before-- but I'm no psychologist, and don't know if the description of his internal mental life, motives, etc, is realistic or not), but it's a great author who can show a reversal like this without excusing the despicable things which were done. Of course, the act of mercy on the part of the former victim (while it doesn't actually resolve anything-- really, just delays resolution till future books, I assume) feels a bit tarnished, too clearly a case of Stockholm Syndrome-- well, except for the fact that she still wants to escape and does. But hey, let's let mercy be mercy.

This book feels very unusual, and the brief look I've taken at the next book tells me that "The Real Story" is set apart even within it's own series-- it feels like a prologue (and the connection Donaldson gives to the Ring cycle seems to corroborate this), a very concentrated, reduced narrative which is setting the stage for everything else. In what way, I don't know yet, but I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series! Also need to get around to watching the whole ring cycle-- anyone have 15-20 hours to spare?

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