The Real Story is a short but intense tale set in a future in which humans travel between the stars using "gap drives," controllable brain implants are punishable by death, and a private company called the United Mining Company runs law enforcement for all of known space. Ensign Morn Hyland lives aboard a police ship with most of her family, chasing down pirates and other illegals who prey on the weak or smuggle goods into forbidden space.
Donaldson ( The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant ) launches his new five-book series with a short futurist novel of almost no substance. The plot is presented in its entirety in the first chapter: Robin Hoodish space pirate Nick Succorso cleverly steals the beautiful female prisoner Morn Hyland from the brute space pirate Angus Thermopyle, and has him thrown in jail. The rest of the book retells the same story in more detail. But it is mightily dull detail--Donaldson imparts neither warmth or humanity to his characters; it is all but impossible to care what befalls them. Information about their backgrounds serves as mere padding; their pasts rarely bear a relationship to their current actions, which often seem rash or out-of-character. Nor does the author delve far into the technology or culture of the society in which faster-than-light travel afflicts some with irreparable brain damage. A Zone Implant can turn such a person into a zombie, to protect his shipmates, but is otherwise illegal. From high technicalities to simple human truths, Donaldson has much to develop in sequels.