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Literature / The Gap Cycle

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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:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: After Warden frees Angus from all control and gives him everything in his secret database, Angus goes into a laughing fit, realizing the Irony.
    “It’s got to stop,” he croaked at Davies as if that were the funniest thing he’d ever heard. “It’s got to stop.”
  • And I Must Scream / Fate Worse than Death: Bio-retributive cyborgs are people not only enslaved with zone implants, but Body Horror cases where they've been completely altered. One poor woman has massive breasts that she cuts off against her will with a dull blade - on a nightly basis.
  • And This Is for...: Davies punches Hashi in the face, breaking his jaw in three places.
    Davies: That’s for Angus. He wanted to do it himself. But he was afraid you would fry his brain.
  • Asteroid Thicket: A pirate moon is surrounded by large rocks. Justified in that they're not actually asteroids but parts of the moon blasted off by some recent collision with another body.
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  • The Atoner: Warden. His Catch-Phrase of "It's got to stop" is sincere. He acknowledges he's as responsible for the fucked up state of space exploration and mining as Holt. He even refuses to be completely cured of the mutagen, and tells Angus before he dies in an explosion to "tear [Holt's] fucking heart out", the only time he's not The Stoic. Angus naturally approves.
  • 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.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Morn starts out as gorgeous but is a complete mess by the end of the books. However, she's moved beyond her looks by then.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Amnion are appropriately alien with a Hive Mind. They can't understand why humanity would reject their Body Horror gifts.
  • Cloning Blues: Poor Davies has the mind of a woman in the body of the man who raped her.
  • Consummate Liar: Hashi Lebwohl makes no psychological distinction between saying true things and false things.
  • Corrupt Cop: An unusual case. The UMPC is divided by those truly dedicated to justice and law (led by Min Donner), and the fact that it's not a governmental agency leaves it wide open for abuse by the higher ups in United Mining.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Morn gives her son the name of her father, because she's more than partly responsible for his death.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ciro, out of guilt of nearly killing everyone including his sister. Angus puts that self-destruction to good use in the climax.
  • Fantastic Drug: If a person with a zone implant gets the controls to their own implant, they quickly become junkies to being able to give themselves pleasure and power anytime they like. Morn quickly finds that pleasure + pain = sexual ecstasy, which allows her to be attracted to anyone, no matter how disgusted she is by them. Turning off the implant is akin to the crash after a drug high, only more intense.
  • 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.
  • Gambit Pileup: And how. Everyone has their own motives and secret plans. Much of the fun in the books after The Real Story is about how people wrongly interpret the actions of others, especially after the reader knows the real reasons for their actions.
  • The Gloves Come Off: Doubles as Wham Line, when Warden tells Angus: "I’ve heard how you justify yourself, Angus. Now I want you to hear me. We’re facing a total crisis here. An outright apotheosis... Are you listening, Angus? Vestabule has his guns aimed at Suka Bator. If we don’t do what he wants, he’s going to give us a super-light proton vasectomy.” Those words both free Angus from his programming, then gives him access to every single file in his database.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The entire series shows how someone who is utterly loathsome and seemingly irredeemable can find himself becoming a hero, even if he's more of a '90s Anti-Hero.
  • 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.)
  • Meaningful Rename: As a result of the events, the United Mining Companies Police (UMCP) becomes the Space Defense Police.
  • Mercy Kill: Angus accedes to Norna's request for euthanasia, because being kept alive and immobile in a bed is particularly offensive to him. "I wouldn't do this to a fucking Amnion".
  • Mind-Control Device: Zone implants. Originally discovered by someone who was trying to find a cure for epilepsy, zone implants offer what amounts to total mind control in the hands of someone who knows how to use them. They may only legally be used for one very specific purpose: If someone has gone Ax-Crazy from gap sickness, every member of the crew testifies that the use of zone implants was necessary to keep them alive, and the implantee themselves testifies that their will was not violated in any other way. But nevertheless, every ship carries them, just in case that nightmare comes to pass.
  • 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.
  • Power of Trust: Becauase Morn trusts Angus, her rapist, Warden decides to trust him too.
  • 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.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Warden believes this wholeheartedly. See The Atoner.
  • Reforged into a Minion:
    • After the events of the first book, Angus Thermopyle is turned into a mind-controlled cyborg.
    • The Amnion do this to several characters using a mutagen.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Once Nick discovers that Soar is captained by Sorus Chatalaine, all bets are off. Everything, everything he does is aimed at taking Sorus down, and everyone is expendable.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The economy of the world seems built on mining deep space, despite the fact that the asteroid belt in the solar system alone would fulfil Earth's needs for millions of years. An asteroid belt 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. It's also justified in that most of them want to be far, far away from Earth for various reasons.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money! / Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Holt Fasner literally owns the police, and is the most powerful man in the human race.
  • 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.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Also asteroid fields are dangerous reefs and starships manoeuvre much like sea vessels. Averted with hyperdrives and g-related issues.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Amnion. They find humanity just as incomprehensible as we find them. In fact, they constantly change their form at will through genetics to suit specific tasks.
  • Quantity vs. Quality: Amnion technology is, by and large, superior to that of humans. But their Organic Technology manufacturing processes are so inefficient that humanity can massively outproduce them. This is why the Amnion do not seek a conventional war with humanity: they know they would lose.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Inverted. Holt's main motivation is immortality, and everything he does in the books is to unlock the Amnion's secret to it.