The Real Story

Stephen R. Donaldson
The Real Story Cover

Competently told, but too harsh on female character


The premise of this book is that the conflict over a woman between a dashing rogue space captain and a dirty, disgusting pirate did not happen the way people thought it did. Donaldson wants to present a situation where you think you know the cliched roles everyone is supposed to inhabit and then flips them around. It sort of works, and the book does some interesting things with spaceships and technology, but what keeps me from recommending it higher is the utter degredation of the central female character. Beaten, demoralized, and raped, Morn (said female character) is a victim of the aforementioned pirate, Angus, but the way she turns her victimization into a kind of strength and defiance in both this book and the second in the series wasn't enough to keep me from turning away from the series. To be honest, Morn's continued victimhood made this book and the second (Forbidden Knowledge) feel like a soap opera for masochists and sadists. It's not pointless violence, but it's so pervasive and, after a while, over the top that it becomes the dominant affective theme of the novels.

The Real Story is short enough that you can give it a try and see if it is to your taste. The writing is competent and it focuses on the interplay between very few characters, making for tense moments, but if you're bothered by the kind of fetishization of women in peril or the victimization of women, don't bother. I can enjoy a damsel in distress story even if I find problems with it, but this was too much.