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Forbidden Knowledge
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The chain of events begun in The Real Story (Bantam, 1990) continues to unfold as former Com-Mine security agent Morn Hyland and charismatic space pirate Nick Succorso escape pursuit by fleeing into the ``forbidden zone'' of space. There, Hyland's dark secrets and Succorso's lust for power collide in a vicious battle of wills that leaves little hope of victory for either. Although Donaldson's sf prose style is sharper and more focused than his fantasy ``voice,'' his subject matter retains an inexorable grimness at once com pelling and disturbing. Fans of his ``Thomas Covenant'' titles will find that only the trappings have changed. Purchase where demand warrants.

The second novel in the Gap Cycle (begun with The Real Story ) continues the story of Morn Hyland, security cop for the vast United Mining Companies, and her travails among space pirates. Having escaped the clutches of tormentor Angus Thermopyle, Morn sides with Angus's arch-competitor, Nick Succorso. Morn uses her ``zone implant'' (a device for regulating bodily sensations) to feign desire for Nick while trying to thwart his plans for her and recover from her trauma with Angus. Gradually she exerts influence over Nick, but incurs his growing distrust. Their battle of wills takes them to the forbidden Amnion, where they struggle to get what they need from the aliens without losing ground to each other. Donaldson combines detailed character analyses and some perverse plot twists with the stuff of standard space opera, and this unusual mixture raises the story far above the average. But the characters remain largely unsympathetic, the plot is bogged down by Morn's self-pity, and the constant refrains of cruelty, hatred, self-loathing and egocentricity are suffocating. Readers willhope Donaldson reveals his characters' good sides in subsequent volumes. (June)

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