The Gap Cycle

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The Gap Cycle (published 19911996 by Bantam Books and reprinted by Gollancz in 2008[1]) is a science fiction story, told in a series of 5 books, written by Stephen R. Donaldson. It is an epic set in a future where humans have pushed far out into space in the name of commerce and follows two concurrent story arcs. The first concerns an ensign in the United Mining Companies Police (UMCP), Morn Hyland, who is attempting simply to stay alive after being captured by a marauder named Angus Thermopyle. The second follows the fate of three people who are affected by the Byzantine political maneuvering of the head of the UMCP, Warden Dios, as he attempts to thwart the machinations of his boss, the CEO of United Mining Companies (UMC) itself, Holt Fasner.

Books in series[edit]

  1. The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story, Bantam/Spectra, 1990
  2. The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge, Bantam/Spectra, 1991
  3. The Gap into Power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises, Bantam/Spectra, 1992
  4. The Gap into Madness: Chaos and Order, Bantam/Spectra, 1994
  5. The Gap into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die, Bantam/Spectra, 1996

Note: the recent Victor Gollancz Ltd (UK) reprints of the series combine the first two books into a single volume. According to Donaldson's website, this was done at the author's request.[citation needed]

As explained in the author's afterword in The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story (1990), this series started life as a novella in which characters representing villain, victim, and rescuer would switch places during the course of the narrative. He found the result unsatisfying, and the book was shelved until he had the idea of setting a retelling of Wagner's Ring Cycle in the same universe and casting the characters from The Real Story in roles from Wagner's opera.

The Real Story novella became Volume 1, and the rest of the series explores the Wagner theme. The series is not the Ring Cycle explicitly retold, but more an interpretation set in a future universe. (Nowadays The Real Story and Forbidden Knowledge are usually sold as a single volume.)

Like the author's other major series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, The Gap Cycle is characterised by a dark and bleak atmosphere. It is intended for adult readers.[citation needed]

Plot summary[edit]

The Real Story

On her first mission, Morn Hyland, an ensign in the United Mining Companies Police (UMCP), discovers that she suffers a rare psychosis called "gap sickness," which begins manifesting after the first time she travels faster than light through the "gap." Now, whenever her ship experiences heavy g, she falls into a trance and experiences a compulsion to initiate a self-destruct sequence upon any equipment within her reach. When her ship hits heavy g for the first time after she is stricken with the illness during pursuit of a criminal, she destroys the cruiser upon which she is aboard, killing the crew which includes her entire family. She survives the destruction only because the pursued criminal, a vicious pirate named Angus Thermopyle, finds her when he boards the wreckage looking for salvage. In order to neutralize her gap sickness and exploit her for his own ends, Angus places a "zone implant" in her brain — a remotely controlled electrode which allows Angus to control Morn's every feeling and action. Angus uses the zone implant to repeatedly rape and abuse her. Although misuse of a zone implant is a capital crime and Angus risks execution if he is discovered, he hopes the zone implant's control will prevent Morn from exposing him. When they arrive at Com-Mine, the nearest space station, Morn makes contact with another pirate — Nick Succorso, captain and owner of the ship Captain's Fancy, who she sees as a potential rescuer. Morn and Nick collude to frame Angus for stealing station supplies. However, before he is arrested, Angus asks Morn to smuggle the implant's remote control off the station. During her captivity, Morn has become addicted to the artificial stimuli only the implant can provide; because of her addiction, she is unable to turn down Angus' offer. Rather than turn herself in to the police for treatment, she conceals the existence of her implant. With her own controls in her possession, Morn is effectively a superwoman and is able to disregard fear, pain, or fatigue; however, by continuing to use the zone implant on herself, she, like Angus, breaks the law against unauthorized use. Morn joins Nick's pirate crew to escape from police oversight, even concealing her implant from Nick himself. Because she left no evidence of Angus' real crimes, he is imprisoned for the theft of which he was framed, but is not executed for what he did to Morn. Although the series has at least one chapter each from over a dozen viewpoints, Morn, Angus, and their son Davies are the primary protagonists of the entire series.

Forbidden Knowledge

Morn's story picks up when Nick's pirate ship leaves the station. Morn secures her place on his ship by becoming Nick's lover, using her zone implant to conceal her disgust for him and her rapidly escalating grief. Already mourning her lost family and her lost position in the UMCP, she also loses her faith in the institution when she learns that Nick is actually a secret UMCP agent, whose thefts and murders are overlooked in exchange for deniable operations in alien space. After this, Morn quickly discovers that despite his dashing reputation, Nick is almost as cruel as Angus. When Morn discovers that she is pregnant, he pressures her to abort the fetus. But she opts against it because she has been the last survivor of her line ever since she killed her family with the self-destruct. Although she knows that Angus is the father, she convinces Nick that she is carrying his child. He appears to relent, but is unwilling to tolerate her pregnancy or raise a child aboard ship. Instead, he takes Morn to Enablement Station, a station run by an alien civilization called "the Amnion," who possess biotechnology far beyond anything humans understand. The Amnion are engaged in a cold war against the United Mining Companies; the Amnion hope to control humanity by injecting "mutagens" which can convert any non-Amnion life-forms into Amnioni; Earth is defended only by the UMCP that keeps them at bay. Nick asks the Amnion on Enablement to "force-grow" Morn's fetus, producing a physically mature 16-year-old within a matter of hours. She names him Davies, after her late father. The humans learn that the force-growth procedure has a significant flaw: although the Amnion can create a mature body, they have no way to create a functional adult personality or mind. Instead, they copy the mother's memories onto the child, typically destroying the mother's mind in the process. However, Morn's zone implant allows her to preserve her sanity.

As soon as Davies is born, he and Morn are threatened from two sides. First, Nick discovers Morn's lies. Nick can see immediately that he is not Davies' father because Davies looks just like Angus. Hoping to find out why Morn survived the force-growth, the aliens run a scan which reveals her zone implant. Angry and betrayed, Nick wants revenge against Morn and her son. An opportunity arises when the Amnion demand that he sell Davies back to them. He gets his opportunity when the aliens demand they return Davies into their custody, but doesn't account for the extreme lengths to which Morn will go to protect her son. While Nick negotiates with the Amnion to trade Davies for engine parts, Morn escapes from a locked room and rigs a self-destruct large enough to destroy the ship itself and most of Enablement Station. Morn is successfully able to threaten both sides. She orders Nick to keep Davies on the ship rather than sell him to the Amnion, then forces the aliens to give them the engine parts anyway. When the Amnion hold Nick accountable for Morn's actions and declare him an enemy, he flees from their warship back toward human space. The alien ships pursue him across the border, breaking the treaties that had until then prevented outright war between the Amnion and the UMCP.

Meanwhile, Angus' alleged theft of station supplies has become a political crisis. All humans are citizens of one federal democracy, but that state has no military or police force equipped to operate in space. Instead, they delegated human interests in space to the UMCP. Although the United Mining Companies Police is a wholly owned subsidiary of a for-profit corporation, their charter grants them full police powers anywhere in open space. However, each space station has maintained its own security force with jurisdiction over the station itself. Although Angus was convicted of theft when Com-Mine security found the stolen cargo on his ship, they never found out how the actual theft was committed. This seeming incompetence provoked widespread outrage and destroyed public confidence in local security. The legislature responds by passing the "Preempt Act," giving the UMCP the power to override station security essentially at will. The truth about the theft is that Warden Dios, the director of UMCP, and his boss Holt Fasner, CEO of the UMC, engineered the crisis in order to get the Preempt Act past the legislature. Hashi Lebwohl, Warden's director of Data Acquisition, bribed a Com-Mine Officer named Taverner to steal the supplies, intentionally provoking the outrage that justified the Act. Fasner realizes that because Morn was on Angus' ship, she must know that he was framed. Fasner orders Warden to have her killed, but because she has left human territory, Warden can't send the UMCP. Instead, he uses his new power to take custody of Angus Thermopyle and ship him to UMCP headquarters. Through several months of surgeries, Hashi turns Angus into a cyborg agent, equipped with a variety of hidden tools and weapons. Angus is given multiple specialized zone implants, and an implant computer to manage them. The zone implants are so powerful that the computer can control his body completely, and the computer is so sophisticated that it can understand and react to events so naturally that no one will know Angus is being controlled. As Holt and Warden instructed him, Hashi programs Angus to go to alien space, find and kill Morn, and destroy an infamous pirate shipyard.

However, at the last moment before Angus leaves, Warden secretly replaces his program with alternate orders: go to alien space, destroy the pirate shipyard, rescue Morn, and bring her safely back to Earth. Warden explains that although as a naive young man, he helped Fasner build up the UMC's power, he now believes Fasner to be irredeemably evil. Rather than continue to allow Fasner to rule space through his private police, Warden wants the government to nationalize the UMCP, making them answerable to the state. Fasner's political influence is so great that Warden doesn't think the government can be persuaded by ordinary activism, and he fears that Fasner will have him killed if he supports a reform movement openly. Warden believes the only thing that could persuade the government to reform the police would be a scandal so devastating that it utterly discredits their moral authority and implicates the CEO, Fasner, and so Warden has decided to make that happen. His plan is to manipulate Fasner into using the police for a variety of heinous crimes—such as bribing station security, working with pirates, or murdering witnesses—and then deliberately fail the cover-up, without allowing Fasner to realize that he is trying to fail.


The events of The Gap Cycle can be separated into twin plot arcs – those taking place out on the edges of human-occupied space; and those set on or above Earth. The characters can likewise be distributed.



  • Captain Angus Thermopyle
  • Captain Nick Succorso
  • Mikka Vasaczk
  • Ciro "Pup" Vasaczk
  • Dr. Vector Shaheed
  • Sib Mackern
  • Captain Sorus Chatelaine

UMCP (rank and file)[edit]

  • Morn Hyland
  • Captain Davies Hyland (Senior)
  • Captain Dolph Ubikwe


  • Milos Taverner
  • Marc Vestabule

Other characters[edit]

  • Davies Hyland (Junior)



  • Cleatus Fane
  • Holt Fasner

UMCP (leadership)[edit]

  • Warden Dios
  • Min Donner
  • Hashi Lebwohl
  • Koina Hannish
  • Godsen Frik

Other characters[edit]

  • Captain Sixten Vertigus
  • Maxim Igensard

Scientific credibility[edit]

Books of The Gap Cycle reference terms commonly used in cosmology, physics and advanced computer technology.



  1. ^ "Bestselling Fiction & Non-Fiction Authors". The Orion Publishing Group. Retrieved 27 June 2016.

External links[edit]