The Gap Cycle
by Stephen R Donaldson
is a five part Science Fiction
Epic, borrowing heavily from Richard Wagner
's Ring Cycle. The setting is in a dystopian future where Earth is dependent on the resources of deep space and governed by a man who is in control of both the police [UMCP] and the biggest company in human history [UMC]. Most of the plot is driven by an Evil Plan
of the UMCP director, seeking to undermine the control of the UMC CEO. The Storyline follows several branches and perspectives which are brought together as more and more information is revealed about what is going on behind the scenes.
Contains examples of:
- Aerith and Bob: Weird names are everywhere
- Axe Crazy: A small percentage of the population experiences mental disturbances called "Gap sickness" after going through hyperspace. Symptoms vary from individual to individual, but they usually add up to Axe Crazy.
- Big Bad: UMC CEO Holt Fasner
- Break the Cutie: Morn Hyland
- Black and Gray Morality
- Consummate Liar: Hashi Lebwohl makes no psychological distinction between saying true things and false things.
- Crapsack World: The characters are trying to avoid this.
- The Dragon: Wardon Dios, and Cleatus Fane is the Dragon's Dragon.
- Dragon with an Agenda: Warden Dios
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Fiction500: Holt Fasner owns most bigger Enterprises, the Police and buys the World Governments' support whenever he needs it
- Freudian Excuse: Angus Thermopyle's childhood was not pretty, and he'll do anything to avoid being in a position of being helpless again.
- Hard SF: It isn't. Many of the contemporary reviews of the series described it as hard SF, probably because it shares a gritty sensibility with that genre. However, none of the science in the series makes any kind of sense.
- The technology is consistent, rarely shows up suddenly to save the day, and rules aren't bent for convenience. The explanations in interstitial chapters are so much technobabble, but it all hangs together. The Amnion make less sense and get less explanation, but it fits. The humans in the series don't really understand them or their tech either.
- The link between technology and society is completely unexplored though, or more like extremely unbelievable. The technology exists only in the form of plot devices and not a worldbuilding element. Therefore it is not Hard SF.
- Herr Doktor: Hashi Lebwohl is a possible example of this, based on his surname. He lacks the accent, but he makes up for it in utter lack of morals. He's not immoral, but he's so amoral that he fundamentally makes no distinction between truth and lies.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every chapter is titled with the character from whose perspective it is written.
- Insufferable Genius: Hashi Lebwohl and Lane Harbinger
- It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: Angus's surname is pronounced Ther-mo-pi-lay. He gets very annoyed when Nick calls him Thermo-pile.
- Lima Syndrome: Angus, for Morn
- Living Lie Detector: Warden Dios's prosthetic eye enables him to read IR emissions and detect signs of stress associated with lying. (As described above, Hashi Lebwohl has no such stress, so is unreadable.)
- Mind-Control Device: Zone implants.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: A few pages of exposition explain why: Humanity's prejudices and fears (especially fear of the Amnion) have ensured that people haven't changed their biology. Holt Fastner isn't happy about this.
- One Nation Under Copyright: Most of humanity's corporations and half of the government are ruled by the United Mining Companies.
- Recycled In SPACE: In the Author's Note at the end of the first book, Donaldson says that the books after the first one are a retelling of Wagner's Ring Cycle.
- Reforged into a Minion: After the events of the first book, Angus Thermopyle is turned into a mind-controlled cyborg.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Averted at points, but mostly played straight. For example, the economy of the world seems built on mining the deep space, despite the fact that the asteroid belt in the solar system alone would fulfil Earth's needs for millions of years. Another example, speaking of asteroid belts: such a place is not a place where you actually have to manoeuvre between rocks to avoid collision, since it's still pretty damn empty. The world was clearly built to allow for the plot, not to be logical from the logical point of view.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money! / Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Holt Fasner literally owns the police.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Not to the extent as The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, and it varies depending on the current viewpoint character. Hashi's chapters are full of it, while Davies's or Morn's are comparatively simple.
- Sociopathic Hero: Angus Thermopyle, after his Hazy Feel Turn. He's still just as monstrous, but this time his targets actually deserve what they get.
- Space Is an Ocean: Also asteroid fields are dangerous reefs and starships manoeuvre much like sea vessels. Averted with hyperdrives and g-related issues.
- Space Opera
- Starfish Aliens: The Amnion. They find humanity just as incomprehensible as we find them.