Friday, January 13, 2006

Forbidden Knowledge, Stephen R. Donaldson

Forbidden Knowledge
Stephen R. Donaldson

Forbidden Knowledge is book two of the Gap series. Book one - The Real Story - basically stood on it's own. Book two, however, is clearly an introduction. Donaldson sets his board up carefully, and then it ends, leaving you (or me, in this case) hanging, and needing to go read the next book - A Dark and Hungry God Arises - which I will do shortly.

The writing in here is well done, and well paced. As with the previous volume, this is a space opera, and the story is getting larger. Many of the things that I wondered about while reading The Real Story are now explained, or at least fleshed out in enough detail that I have a clue about them.

I enjoyed this, but frankly I expected him to end it without a huge cliff hanger. He's got major characters in peril at the end of this, and then, poof, it's over. Thankfully I own the next volume already.

If I have any complaints, they are pretty minor. Donaldson didn't anticipate the rate at which digital data storage would grow. He writes (in one location) that a particular kind of storage device contains "thousands of gigabytes." He wrote that in 1990 or 1991. But even then, I suspect that the term "terabyte" was being thrown around in various places, and it would probably have been better if he's just avoided mentioning data capacity at all, and instead said it was gigantic. But that's a nit, really.

The other concern I have, if you want to call it that, is that I keep thinking there must be some other solution or way out for his characters. To make an example from a book I dearly love and that I probably can't spoil for anyone: why did Frodo and the rest of the members of the original quest party have to walk all the way from Rivendell to Mordor? Gandalf had connections with the eagles, and could, in theory, have called in some favors, and had them all flown there in record time. Why did they walk?

I haven't found a plot breaker in the Gap series yet, but for some reason I keep feeling like there might be one there somewhere. Don't get me wrong. I am enjoying these books, and will plow on into the next one ASAP, but at the back of my mind, I keep wondering if there isn't something obvious that I (and thus the author) have missed. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

Oh, and one more thing. Like all of Donaldson's works that I've read, and as I mentioned in my review of The Real Story, none of his main characters are simple, nice heroes or heroines. They're all a mess, with complex (and sometimes horrific) back stories and histories. Even the most heroic figure from The Real Story is showing his other side in many ways by the time you're half way through this book. If you read these, be prepared to deal with the nasty, scummy side of human nature.

In short: recommended, but since I haven't read the whole series yet, I can't yet address the entire thing as a whole.