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4.1 out of 5 stars52
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 7 October 2004
This is the worst brilliant book I have ever read. As a standalone novel it is sharply disappointing, rough, violent and distasteful. It intrigues and questions, but provides cold, dark, violent and disturbing resolutions.
This book should carry a warning label for adults.
Never the less, as the first book in a series of five, I must strongly recommend this book to others.
Everyone I know who has read this book struggles initially - but for the perceptive, persevering reader who continues with the set, a work of genius is revealed.
I have read reviews that slam this work. I can understand them, had I not continued on with the series I may have even sympathised with them. But anyone who thinks this book is gratuitous, un-imaginative or shallow are SERIOUSLY mistaken.
Read this book. Be disturbed. Be outraged. Be offended. Be persistent.
Read the rest of the series and be amazed. Be awed. Be rewarded.
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on 11 May 1999
The Real Story is the first volume of the 'Gap' series which comprises five novels in all. The others are Forbidden Knowledge, A Dark And Hungry God Arises, Chaos And Order and finally This Day All Gods Die. Anyone familiar with Donaldsons previous fantasy series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, will not be surprised by some of the themes being explored here; guilt, betrayal, loss and the nature of evil. Donaldson is not content to have his characters do things just for the sake of propelling the plot along. Every action by every character has a logical basis whether it's the apparently benificent act of a hero or the evil conniving of a villain. Because of this, the overturning of your preconceptions of exactly who is good and who is bad is a regular occurence through the series. This first tome is, without doubt (and by Donaldsons own admission) the darkest and bleakest of narratives. In what might be seen as a literary exercise the author creates a character, Angus Thermopyle, who is so unremmitingly amoral and cowardly that you cannot help but be repulsed by him. Donaldson then, over the remaining novels, takes the reader on a journey of exploration to see if we can re-write Thermopyle, not as an easily written off cypher for evil, but as a human being, weak and flawed, but understandable and, ultimately, worth saving. I would urge anyone to read the series but bear in mind, the pit that the reader is dropped down in the first volume can only be escaped from by reading the other four...
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on 28 February 2001
Please don't be put off by the fact that this book is short, extremely dark and ultimately just the preview of what is to come.
It's a necessary step towards one of the best science fiction series that I've read. 'The Real Story' opens the curtain to a dangerous, dark world of the future and one woman's harrowing journey through it. If you've read the Thomas Covenant books then you'll know Donaldon's penchant for awkward, unloveable characters. This series is no different and though the first two books are more background than anything else, the momentum that they provide (used to amazing effect in the last three books) is quite something else.
I can't recommend this series highly enough - if I was marking 'The Real Story' as a stand alone novel I'd probably give it three stars. The series itself goes beyond five stars. Awesome.
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on 19 March 2007
O.K I've read this series twice now & I know that I'll read them again.

I'm not entirely sure what I hope to achieve whit this review except to add my voice to the many that are imploring you to read these books.

Yes Donaldson writes intense scenes of brutal rape, yes he writes characters that seem to have no redeeming factors, but when you get inside their heads that's when things start to change. Pity, revulsion, hate, despair, anger, sorrow and more all conflict with each other over how you should embrace these people. No-one can accuse him of writing one dimensional characters.

If you're ready to set yourself on a rollercoaster ride of deep complex emotion then you NEED to get these books.

A final word of warning, make sure you can always easily get you hands on the next book because I imagine that heroin is easier to kick then this story
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on 22 February 2001
This review realy applies to the whole Gap series by Stephen Donaldson. I found his best yet (the Thomas Covenant series is good but takes far too much from Tolkien for my liking and the characterisation is a bit strained at times).
The characterisation in the Gap series is, on the other hand, excellent. The storyline initially appears quite simple but soon becomes quite bizzare in the turns in takes and all the way through you're never quite sure who's going to do what next.
Please ignore all the bad reviews, these books are well worth reading if you like intelligent science-fiction.
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on 22 September 2000
It seems that this book has been previously slated by other reviewers...
I believe that Donaldson wrote this book a long time before it was actually published. He wrote it as an intended short story, which explains the lack of description and unfleshing out of characters. He wrote it on the basis of exploring role-changes, and shifting the roles between the three main characters. For example the tormentor, Angus, will later be seen as a victim, where as the hero Nick will later take the role of the termentor as the story unfolds.
Many authors set the plot of their novels and develop characters that interact and fit in. Donaldson on the other hand takes a different approach - he develops the characters first, and the plot works around them. The characterisation is fantastic, giving way to a plethora or attitudes, mood shifts and other intricacies, all of which tie in with the complexities of human nature.
I believe that Donaldson once quoted that he could relate deeply to the character of Angus Thermopile, the tormentor in the story, even though it shocked him to realise this. In a sense I could relate to this bond, and throughout the novels I felt a continued likeness to some of the darker aspects of each character.
I wouldn't recommend anybody to read this book as a one off. It is more of a yarn than a novel and proves to be a light, but fun, read. The full potential of the tale is explored in the following novels in the Gap series, which I found to be an excellent read, more so than the Thomas Covenant chronicles which I've now read twice over - which is an astonishing feat for a lazy bum like me.
Buy this book. Read it. Then move on to book II where the tale really begins... END
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on 28 July 2010
The Real story & Forbidden Knowledge grips from the very first and doesn't let go until the very end. It's without a doubt a more accessible work than Stephen Donaldsons 'Chronicles of Thomas Covenant', I have seen previous reviwers complaining about the fact that the book has excessive violence and disturbing scenes but frankly I disagree. The Rape and 'disturbing scenes' are there for a reason namely that they help us to understand the characters and the world which Stephen Donaldson has created, it's not a pretty world but it is a realistic and enthralling one.

Unlike many other sci-fi stories this book isn't primarily about aliens it's about the relationships -whether they be twisted or normal- between the various characters, the reasons why people have come to be as they are and the ghosts of their various pasts' coming to haunt them. Stephen Donaldson does not like some other sci-fi writers use stock characters or cliches for his characters e.g the knight in shining armour who's like that because he was raised right or the villain who was abused by his parents but explores depths of characterisation that most other sci-fi writers don't. In short by the time you've finished reading this book it's characters will feel as real to you as any 'real' person you know and not just fictional characters.

If you want a book with lots of explosions and action then look elsewhere but if you want a book with an enthralling storyline, unique characters and a dark, moody but not cliche world then you should buy this whilst I don't like this as much as 'The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant' it is one of the most unique and interesting sci-fi books I've read in a long long time.
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on 18 March 2008
I honestly have to admit that after the first book I was dubious about reading anymore. I was never a fan of his other books but once this series gets going it is impossible to put them down. The characters are so real that you feel for them( even angus)I have to date read The Gap series approx ten times and everytime I can't put the book down til I have read it from cover to cover and only then to sleep

Like I said for the title of my review if you don't read this series you will regret not giving yourself the chance to be immersed in a drama of staggering proportions

Please would George Lucas or some one make a tv series of this. Done in the style of the new Battlestar Can you imagine
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on 11 October 2011
I read this series about 10 years ago.

And I've not read anything since that affected me quite as much as this series did.

So I'm going to buy it on my kindle and read it again, because it was quite simply, Brilliant !
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on 13 October 2000
Will people please stop bitching about how the Real Story dosen't go deep enough. Firstly you obviousley haven't read Donaldson's own justification of it and secondly it is the first of a quintet. If everything was explained and made clear in the first book, what would be the point of the other four. You wouldn't just read book one of The Lord of the Rings and then walk away saying 'all very well, but what happens to Frodo?' - you'd pick up and get into the second book. The Gap series is one of the best things I've ever read and I speak as a degree level English student - so there!
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