Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review – “Bleak History” by John Shirley

From the Bookcover:
Subject: Gabriel Bleak. Status: Civilian.
Paranormal skills: Powerful. Able to manipulate AS energies and communicate with UBEs (e.g. "ghosts" and other entities).
Psychological profile: Extremely independent, potentially dangerous. Caution is urged....

As far as Gabriel Bleak is concerned, talking to the dead is just another way of making a living. It gives him the competitive edge to survive as a bounty hunter, or "skip tracer," in the psychic minefield known as New York City. Unfortunately, his gift also makes him a prime target. A top-secret division of Homeland Security has been monitoring the recent emergence of human supernaturals, with Gabriel Bleak being the strongest on record. If they control Gabriel, they'll gain access to the Hidden — the entity-based energy field that connects all life on Earth. But Gabriel's got other ideas. With a growing underground movement called the Shadow Community — and an uneasy alliance of spirits, elementals, and other beings — Gabriel's about to face the greatest demonic uprising since the Dark Ages. But this time, history is not going to repeat itself. This time, the future is Bleak. Gabriel Bleak.
Bleak History is set in a near future New York City after yet another catastrophic terrorist attack in Florida. The existence of people with paranormal gifts is known to the government and they form a special division (CCA) to corral the talent and use it for their own purposes. The hero Gabriel Bleak is a veteran from Afghanistan, making his living as a bounty hunter and trying to keep a low profile using his talent as little as possible. He suddenly finds himself in the sights of the CCA and agent Loraine Sarikosca.

In some ways the title of the book is both a pronouncement on Bleak’s life and on the state of the nation. Civil rights have been severely curtailed and the President is only steps away from suspending elections as part of a larger more insidious plan. There are also conspiracies residing within the military for control over the CCA’s ‘assets’, but do they arise from political motivation or something more sinister?

The world-building is challenging and different. The source of the power for the supernaturals arises from the Hidden which includes forces of light as well as a feared region known as the Wilderness. The energy is on the rise resulting in people with new untutored abilities that may expose the Shadow Community to the public. The back story contains several elements worthy of the Da Vinci Code and its brethren with ancient artefacts and links to Isaac Newton and secret societies.

Alternating points of view between Loraine, Gabriel, the Generals and other characters ensure that we are introduced to several intertwined plots and subplots with insight into the “big’ picture. One of the subplot threads reveals a mystical connection between Gabriel and Loraine and their loyalties are tested as they become more supportive of one another as their objectives begin to coincide. There is a romantic connection in the offing and one of my few complaints is that I would have liked to have seen their relationship develop more.

Action scenes are frequent and varied ranging from the fascinating whenever paranormal powers are demonstrated to the horrific when experiments on inmates at the CCA facilities are portrayed or when the minions of the Wildness are involved. Events are not without their moments of levity, especially scenes with Gabriel and ghosts he encounters. Here the author pokes a little fun at scientist stereotypes -
"You're saying—he's a victim of neurological redirection by an Unconventionally Bodied Predatory Entity?"
"And what the hell's that mean?"
"The conventional term is ... possessed." Helman looked nervously at the door.
"Possessed? I wouldn't use that term. That's like you're talking demons.
Bleak History is strongest on the action and it sometimes overwhelms the character development, but still delivers an energetic thriller that will satisfy readers with a craving for something a little different on the urban fantasy landscape.


Official John Shirley Website
Official John Shirley Blog

Simon & Schuster/Pocket
Published: August 18, 2009
ISBN #: 9781416584124
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 370

Read an excerpt.

John Shirley is the author of more than 30 novels including Bleak History (forthcoming, 2009, Smon & Schuster) Demons, Crawlers, Wetbones, and In Darkness Waiting. His novel City Come-A-Walkin' and theA Song Called Youth trilogy -- Eclipse, Eclipse Corona, and Eclipse Penumbra are considered landmarks of cyberpunk science fiction. His short stories have been collected in half-a-dozen collections. He is the recipient of the Bram Stoker Award and the International Horror Guild Award for his collection Black Butterflies (Mark V. Ziesing). Shirley's fronted punk bands and written lyrics for his own music, as well as for Blue Öyster Cult and other bands. A principal screenwriter for The Crow, Shirley now devotes most of his time to writing for television and film.


  1. Bleak History sounds fascinating and it's nice to see a stand alone novel for a change. I'd love to read it.

  2. Okay, I just want to know where you find these great books?!? This one sounds freaking awesome too!

    Dottie :)

  3. I thought the book was pretty good but more so because of the premise. I did not find myself really getting into Bleak's character. I felt like Loraine had more to her.

  4. S it was a pretty good read.

    Dottie I have a little magic :)

    Debbie I'd agree Bleak was more interested in remaining neutral about things whereas Loraine had more of a social conscience making her seem the more interesting.


  5. شركة نقل عفش واثاث بالدمام ابيات الشرقيه لخدمات نقل العفش والاثاث بالدمام
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    نقل عفش بالخبر
    شركة نقل اثاث الدمام
    نقل عفش الدمام
    نقل عفش بالدمام
    ان اردت نقل عفش منزلك بالدمام ابيات الشرقية من اهم شركات نقل العفش بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والقطيف والاحساء


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