The Real Story By Stephen Donaldson. Retrospective Review

The Real Story By Stephen Donaldson. Retrospective Review


The Real Story is​ a​ short but intense tale set in​ a​ future in​ which humans travel between the stars using "gap drives," controllable brain implants are punishable by death, and a​ private company called the United Mining Company runs law enforcement for all of​ known space. Ensign Morn Hyland lives aboard a​ police ship with most of​ her family, chasing down pirates and other illegals who prey on the weak or​ smuggle goods into forbidden space.
Through a​ strange turn of​ events, one particularly nasty perpetrator ends up with Morn as​ his companion--or at​ least that's the way it​ appears to​ the folks at​ the space station's bar. Why would a​ young, strong, beautiful police officer associate with a​ crusty, murdering pirate? People watch with interest as​ Morn appears to​ fall in​ lust with another racy illegal, Captain Nick Succorso. Morn and Nick must have plotted together to​ frame Angus and escape together, right? But the real story was quite different.


This novella is​ a​ prelude to​ four subsequent volumes, and it​ tells a​ simple and one-dimensional story. an​ intergalactic setting in​ the far future revolves around two rival space pirates named Angus Thermopyle and Nick Succorso, and, between them, a​ UMCP (United Mining Companies Police) ensign named Morn Hyland. The story is​ told from Angus' point of​ view, and he is​ one of​ the most depraved and sorry figures ever depicted in​ a​ work of​ fiction. His repeated violations of​ Morn -- described in​ graphic detail -- have drawn hostile reviews and cries of​ misogyny, but Donaldson's purpose is​ to​ evoke a​ thoroughly dark and sordid mood in​ this series. 'The Real Story' is​ simple and short., and indeed, as​ a​ stand-alone novel, this book is​ lacking is​ depth, character development (with the exception of​ one character, and though we come to​ understand his decisions, his motives are largely unrevealed) and a​ satisfying conclusion, there are two points that are vital to​ note. These two points are apparently contradictory, but I'll attempt to​ explain:

1) This was written as​ a​ short novella. it​ wasn't intended to​ be the first in​ a​ series, and as​ such it​ doesn't bear many of​ the traits usually associated with the first book in​ a​ series, such as​ hints of​ larger plots or​ other elements designed to​ draw the reader back for book 2. as​ a​ stand-alone novel, Donaldson kept this in​ a​ drawer, unpublished, for some years. Only as​ part of​ a​ larger series does it​ work, yet it​ doesn't read like the beginning of​ a​ series. Once you understand this, the flaws are less glaring.

2) in​ apparent contradiction of​ point 1, above, please understand that it​ is​ the first in​ a​ series. The series itself is​ probably the best science fiction I've ever read, but it​ really doesn't get going until mid-way through book 2. Again, once you accept that most of​ the "good stuff" comes after 'The Real Story, it's easier to​ bear to​ flaws.

Though I don't seek to​ excuse any form of​ weakness here (after all, whatever it​ was intended to​ be and however great the rest of​ the series, the first book should still be complete and engaging), I do seek to​ prevent people being deterred by the lukewarm reviews of​ this first installment. It's not bad by any means, merely incomplete. I would issue a​ couple of​ warnings though: Firstly, this book is​ grim and brutal; be prepared. And secondly, Donaldson tells character-based stories in​ fantastic settings - if​ you're looking for detailed high technology and hard science, this might not be your scene.

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