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Morn Hyland

is one of those characters that arise from an author's subconscious mind and take on a life of their own by virtue of certain obsessive qualities of imagination. In a mythopoetic sense, they represent archetypal beings that inhabit the collective unconscious of human culture. In the context of a science fiction story, a character like this could represent a political force, or a radical departure from reality.

Morn is first revealed to us as a classic victim-maiden-in-distress. She is in the possession of Angus Thermopyle, the putative villain of the story. "When Morn Hyland and Angus Thermopyle came into Mallorys, the men in the corners noticed the way her whole body seemed to twist away even when she sat close beside him. They heard the dull, almost lifeless sound of her voice when she spoke -- a tone of suppression unexpected from someone who had presumably spent weeks or months away from people and drink. And they opserved that he kept one hand constantly fisted in the pocket of his grease-stained shipsuit."1

Scratch the surface of this picture however, and just as you might expect, there are complex forces at work that reveal Morn to be more than what she would appear. She is a member of the elite UMCP, the United Mining Corporation Police; as was her father, mother and siblings. She is responsible — because of an heretofore undiscovered neurological weakness called gap-sickness2 — for the destruction of her family's starship, Starmaster, and the death of her crew. When she doesn't seem particularly grateful for Nick Succorso's rescue, we learn of the deal that she made with Angus for her release and the control of her zone implant in exchange for her secrecy regarding Angus' illegal pirate exploits. Ironically it is this further descent into subterfuge that allows her to use the zone implant to modulate her gap-sickness2.

Morn is drawn into a conflict that places her life on the line as she uncovers a secret government conspiracy that threatens to betray the human race to the alien Amnion. Through the development of the Gap saga she is transformed over and over again from victim to hero and villain. She is not above treachery and manipulation to gain her freedom and prevent the assimilation of her race. Morn chooses to bear a son that was the product of her rape by Angus. Her son becomes the subject of experiments by the Amnion and is given all of her memories — even the ones which Morn had blocked in the aftermath of the destruction of Starmaster. The subsequent events test Morn more than any other times in the story. Each time she is at the limit of her endurance and strength, she manages to find a way to overcome her weakness as she defeats her ememies. The depth of her suffering and the intensity of her struggles are drawn in almost painfully intricate detail by the author; Morn is transformed more deeply and disturbingly than Thomas Covenant or Terisa Morgan. As with Donaldson's other characters, it would be hardly possible to know Morn and not come away yourself transformed by the experience.

1. The Gap Into Conflict -- The Real Story, by Stephen R. Donaldson; ©1991; Bantam Books.

2. Gap-sickness: An altered state of consciousness triggered in susceptible individuals by hyperspace travel. Morn Hyland describes her experience, "The whole inside of my head was different. I was floating, and everything was clear. It was like the universe spoke to me."cf While in this state, the victim is dissociated from their surroundings and will frequently act in such a way as to place their own lives and those around them in danger.

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