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I read a set of sci fi books during the early 1980s. The population were escaping a cataclysmic event using star gate type portals and there was a decline into a galaxy wide interregnum.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! Do you remember any of the cover art, or any names of characters or places? No detail is too small! :)
    – DavidW
    May 20 at 19:21
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    Were the portals based in space, or located on planets? Was there advanced technology or only regressed technology? Do the names "Nhi Vanye" or "Morgaine" mean anything?
    – DavidW
    May 20 at 19:23
  • So the entire galaxy was between governments?
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 20 at 19:32
  • Hi, definitely not the Morgaine books. The portals were sites on planets and were used for general travel, the civilisation was advanced. The portals were left by a previous civilisation. Yes, a galaxy wide interregnum. The cover art was a city.
    – Asta H
    May 25 at 20:05

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In the absence of additional details from the questioner, I'm going to propose Well of Shiuan (1978) by C.J. Cherryh as the book most directly identified. It is the middle book of the original trilogy, coming between Gate of Ivrel (1976) and Fires of Azeroth (1979). All the books were published shortly before 1980, so the trilogy could definitely have been read in the early 1980s.

The overall arc of the trilogy is Morgaine's quest to shut down all the gates between worlds, as seen through the eyes of Nhi Vanye, an exiled native of one of the worlds she is passing through, who joins her at the start of the first book. Most of the worlds have been cut off from one another and within the scope of the story there is no longer any space travel; there is a definite sense that technological civilization is slipping away.

(Not all worlds are like this, or at least they were not within Morgaine's memory, since from her description she started from a fairly technological world with space travel. Certain other people encountered in the stories also have an understanding of technology at least as demonstrated in their manipulation of the gates.)

The gates are powered by "core taps" that draw power from the worlds they are sited on, so they are definitely technological, not magical, constructs.

In the second book in particular, Morgaine and Nhi Vanye (and Chya Roh who opposes them) end up on a world whose land is slowly subsiding into the ocean, and which will shortly become uninhabitable. They do not intend to save the world's population but by each raising a faction of the population against the other they end up with a situation where when they open the gate almost everyone from the world chooses to flee through the gate with them.

Cover of "Gate of Ivrel" showing an underdressed Morgaine and Nhi Vanye standing on a rock below a blue sky with a setting sun in front of a gate opening on a cloudy dark sky. Cover of "Well of Shiuan" showing a mounted Morgaine wielding her sword over a bound Nhi Vanye in a stormy setting with rock walls Cover of "Fires of Azeroth" showing Nhi Vanye, on foot, leading a mounted Morgaine through a forest

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  • My first thought also.
    – Ethan
    May 20 at 23:49

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