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CLASSIFIED: APPARENT SUPERNATURAL 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 CLASSIFIED: APPARENT SUPERNATURAL 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.


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CLASSIFIED: APPARENT SUPERNATURAL 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 CLASSIFIED: APPARENT SUPERNATURAL 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.

30 review for Bleak History

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Agranoff

    Anyone who has read my blog knows that John Shirley (Co- Screenwriter of the crow) is one of my all time favorite authors. An underrated trailblazer in both science fiction and horror, Shirley's cyperpunk pre-dates William Gibson and his psycho-sexual splat punk horror pre-dates Clive Barker. While Shirley doesn’t have the sales they do he has the respect and blurbs of his peers. I suspect in this culture where TV and movies carry more weight than cult novels, one great adapatation is all it wil Anyone who has read my blog knows that John Shirley (Co- Screenwriter of the crow) is one of my all time favorite authors. An underrated trailblazer in both science fiction and horror, Shirley's cyperpunk pre-dates William Gibson and his psycho-sexual splat punk horror pre-dates Clive Barker. While Shirley doesn’t have the sales they do he has the respect and blurbs of his peers. I suspect in this culture where TV and movies carry more weight than cult novels, one great adapatation is all it will take for Shirley to get discovered out of the genre ghetto. The project that is most likely to do just that is Bleak History. Shirley’s most mainstream novel BH is more easily tagged in the popular highly marketable genre of Urban Fantasy. In the first 100 pages I was worried this would be my first negative review of a John Shirley novel. The idea seemed simple and almost designed to be marketed in the urban fantasy thing. The plot sounds simple on the surface. The thin line between the world of the living and the dead is breaking down. Certain people like Gabriel Bleak the main character have powers over the supernatural. There is agency that is monitoring the magic outbreak and recruiting people. I’ve heard reactions to the plot as it sounds kinda like X-men, no not really but I admit I was yawning a bit in the early pages. It is the extremely weird and original plots of Shirley's novels (check out City come a walking or Three Ring Pychus for out their plots) that set his work apart from standard Science Fiction or horror. I should have trusted Shirley to rise above and make a very original piece. Once the details of the story start to unfold amazing things happen. I dog eared page 159 as the page where my imagination started cooking with the novel. It's not that exciting stuff didn't happen before that, it's just that's when the story really took flight. The hard part for me as a reviewer is that a reader deserves to discover these details as the book unfolds. As the thin line between the natural and supernatural falls apart the thin line between our rights and tyranny also falls. In many ways Bleak History is about how we as a society or a country deal with threats. What if the threat was not terrorists, but magic? Would the same country that has two political parties supporting the patriot act and one defending it's use of torture do to protect it's self from a world where the power of the supernatural was really in the hands of the people. Shirley is the master of the horror novel as political allegory. These are not beat you over the head - in your face allegory, and despite the obvious statements on rendition and torture there is deeper message. His novel Demons may be his more biting socio-political satire, but I am hoping that Bleak history will be a bridge that will bring new readers to his long chain of brilliant novels. Read it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Valorie

    Gabriel Bleak is part of the Shadow Community, a group of humans infused with special powers granted from a Hidden world. Some of them can enter minds, some see the future, some carry familiars, and some, such as Bleak, control energy to make it both weapon and tool. He also has a talent for seeing and speaking to ghosts. The CCA, a division of Homeland Security, investigates people like Bleak. They are following him closely, trying to capture him and bring him into their facility. Very troublin Gabriel Bleak is part of the Shadow Community, a group of humans infused with special powers granted from a Hidden world. Some of them can enter minds, some see the future, some carry familiars, and some, such as Bleak, control energy to make it both weapon and tool. He also has a talent for seeing and speaking to ghosts. The CCA, a division of Homeland Security, investigates people like Bleak. They are following him closely, trying to capture him and bring him into their facility. Very troubling is that the wall up North, a barrier against the flood of supernatural that could enter the living world, has weakened and is letting in things unseen before. New powers are cropping up in the hands of people who will not use them for good. A dark force is gaining strength and searching for a way to enter fully, only able to extend tendrils used to control others. Loraine Sarikosca works for the CCA, but the more she sees them in action, the more doubts she has. She also feels a strange compulsive force towards Gabriel Bleak, just as he does to her. Locked within the fortified walls of their fortress, the CCA imprison and experiment on members of the Shadow Community. They want to capture and control, use the Shadow Community to their own wishes. But a darker plot is at hand when it is discovered that the darkness behind the wall has one of its tendrils in the CCA and his plans are quite different and far more threatening. I very much enjoyed Bleak History because the concept is so unique. Rather, we have recently been experiencing an influx of ‘humans with powers’ stories because of the popularity of comic book adaptations, but Shirley has managed to make a distinctive and interesting world of his own within the genre. I liked reading about the different Shadow Community members and their specific talents. I only wish that we could have entered that world a bit deeper and met more of the people, or had more people around Gabriel helping with their own special talents. Most of the Shadow Community members are secondary and have their specific, defined roles that come and go. Characters like Scribbler could be much deeper and more defined, and very interesting. Shirley puts a lot of detail into his descriptions of the Shadow Communities powers and visions. When Shoella creates her own world, we are given a beautiful picture of it. I was fascinated, too, by the way Scribbler is portrayed in the small part he plays. His obsession and nature comes through very clear. I suspect that Shirley’s knack for detail is derived from his background as a screenwriter, but it also comes from natural talent. Shirley has an easy, clear way of writing, though sometimes the lengthy descriptions, especially when they speak of more spiritual and less tangible matters, got me a bit lost. There is a lot of action in the book between getting chased, darker forces committing crimes, and seeking out the truth of what is happening. The book barely lags or takes a breath, but there are a few moments of quiet reflection for the characters. Though there is a small love connection, the book isn’t a romance at all, which is refreshing when so much of the paranormal genre is half as much romance as it is supernatural. With an open ending, we are left to wonder what becomes of Gabriel and Loraine as they embark on another journey together.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I have to admit, I'm a sucker for these Harry Dresden novels... what? This ISN'T a DRESDEN FILES novel?! Fooled me... I mean, it's sort of harder edged, but I got the same feel. Ah well -- everyone has to jump on a bandwagon, and Shirley does do a really good variation of the form. I'll look forward to the next adventure, plus the variations on the title involving the word 'Bleak'.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cinnamon

    I could tell just from the blurb on the back that BLEAK HISTORY by John Shirley was going to be one heck of a story. I certainly was not disappointed. This book was full of tension, suspense, and a wonderful touch of the paranormal. Throw in a little romance as well as a little self discovery and we get a thrilling story with enough adrenaline pumping action to get every heart pumping. Gabriel Bleak is a “skip tracer” or bounty hunter. He has an above average ability to draw power from the Hidden I could tell just from the blurb on the back that BLEAK HISTORY by John Shirley was going to be one heck of a story. I certainly was not disappointed. This book was full of tension, suspense, and a wonderful touch of the paranormal. Throw in a little romance as well as a little self discovery and we get a thrilling story with enough adrenaline pumping action to get every heart pumping. Gabriel Bleak is a “skip tracer” or bounty hunter. He has an above average ability to draw power from the Hidden and can occasionally use UBEs (ghosts, spirits or other ethereal beings) to help him track down his prey. Although his past is dark and his attitude might not be the greatest, Gabriel is a good person. Why then is the CCA, a top-secret division of Homeland Security, chasing after him? With the ability to see himself through the eyes of anyone watching him, Gabriel has managed to evade CCA for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time until they catch up to him. Throwing a wrench into the mix is the beautiful Agent Sarikosca, one of the CCA members out to track him down. Something about her draws in Gabriel Bleak which is never a good thing when one is trying to hide. The romance adds an additional layer of color to the book, and gives something for the heart to hold on to. Also serving to add depth and complexity is the world of the Hidden. Ghosts, spirits, and other much more frightening entities reside here. Bleak and others of the Shadow Community can use the power of the Hidden as well as work with (and sometimes against) the beings in the Hidden. Shirley adds quite a bit of complexity to BLEAK HISTORY with this aspect and uses it to constantly give the story a new and unique feel. My favorite aspect of BLEAK HISTORY would definitely have to be the characters. Shirley did a great job of giving personality to each of his characters, especially Gabriel. Suffering from his own bit of PTSD as an ex-soldier, Gabriel is a character full of emotion. Shirley’s ability to pull this emotion off of the page and wrap it around the reader is quite intense. I am a fairly non-emotional reader and it takes a high quality story to get me riled up. BLEAK HISTORY did just that. There were moments where I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, racing through the pages as I fought alongside the characters on the page. Other times, with Gabriel, I found my heart twisting and tearing as my emotions mingled with his. I loved that Shirley created characters that, although often had a supernatural element, we could relate to. A story can be good if you tell it to me but fantastic if you show it to me. BLEAK HISTORY has a fairly detailed plot and it’s easy to get confused about what is going on, but Shirley somehow managed to show us the story without having to tell us a lot of the details. It might have been easier for him to give us a quick briefing and description of all the supernatural elements taking part in the story, but instead, he let Gabriel’s story unfold before us and allowed us to learn as Gabriel did. Now, I have mentioned throughout that many aspects of BLEAK HISTORY are detailed and complex. The plot can get confusing at times. There are some aspects of the story that Shirley really did have to show us instead of telling us. For this reason, I found that I occasionally was confused at first. It helps to take your time with the book and really try to understand each new concept that Shirley throws at us before moving on. Even if something is confusing at first though, by the end of the book I felt that Shirley had thoroughly explained everything that needed explaining. That bit of learning and trying to figure out how Shirley’s world worked actually made for a better reading experience and contributed to the entertainment value of the book. I would have to say that BLEAK HISTORY is a book that everyone should pick up and at least give a try. This book was refreshing in that it was something different. I hadn’t yet been acquainted with a book that involved the supernatural in the way that Shirley’s world did. Nice ghosts, mean ghosts, spirits, sprites, devilish beings – all working together with gifted humans for one purpose or another. I wouldn’t change anything about the book, but if there was anything that would make it ten times better for me, it might be the pacing. There were occasionally fast parts that I felt might have gone a little too fast for comprehension. Great book – that about sums it up; a great book that I would highly recommend to any lovers of Paranormal fiction out there. Already BLEAK HISTORY is sitting on my nightstand, waiting for a few spare days where I can go back and revisit the story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Bleak History’s story is in the not too far off future New York. John Shirley has created a world in Bleak History is not too different from our own, with the exception that the spirit world (The Hidden) has become a force that manifests itself through various “gifted individuals”, giving them special abilities. One such individual is Gabriel Bleak, an ex-Army Ranger, now turned bounty hunter. Ever since leaving the Army Gabe has been under the watchful eye of a shadowy government agency that tr Bleak History’s story is in the not too far off future New York. John Shirley has created a world in Bleak History is not too different from our own, with the exception that the spirit world (The Hidden) has become a force that manifests itself through various “gifted individuals”, giving them special abilities. One such individual is Gabriel Bleak, an ex-Army Ranger, now turned bounty hunter. Ever since leaving the Army Gabe has been under the watchful eye of a shadowy government agency that tries to use this hidden world and its gifted people in its anti-terrorism agenda. They want Gabe Bleak and will do just about anything to get him. The main portion of the plot in Bleak History is about the pursuit of our hero. The chase goes on and the story unravels in some expected and unexpected ways. Gabe’s powers make for some great action, rooftop leaping, gun play, and explosions, then mix that in with all kinds of help from the denizens of The Hidden. John Shirley knows how to draw an image in your head, which is one of the many reasons why this book is addicting. The pacing of the story is perfect for a Hollywood film, which I’m quite sure this book is destined to be (in fact according Shirley’s website the film rights have already been arranged). Having said that, I must point out that the pacing feels a little off in book form. The story flows so smoothly through 90% of the book and then ends rather suddenly, but it’s not so bad that it subtracts from my overall feelings toward the book. Basically I’m telling Mr. Shirley I wanted his book to be about half again longer, I enjoyed it that much. The characters are well developed and Shirley does an excellent job in portraying them in a way that you understand their motivations. He portrays Gabe’s inner struggle with his conscious quite well. It’s not just Gabe that has depth, but all the characters in Bleak History have more stories to tell. I hope they get that chance in an ongoing series. In conclusion I will say that this Urban Fantasy delivers on many levels. I want more books set in this world with these characters. I want to see a movie made from this book. I hope Mr. Shirley realizes he has something special here, with loads of promise. I see the same elements in Bleak History that I seen in Jim Butcher’s Storm Front. I can see Gabriel Bleak becoming as iconic a character as Harry Dresden. I highly recommend this book to any Urban Fantasy fan who enjoys a straight forward plot, interesting characters, and a fast pace.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Reyna

    MAANNN THIS SUCKED...!!! I couldn't stand the main couple, I wanted to gag or beat them over the head with a pipe, they were so annoying. Soul mates!! [email protected]%k that! I couldn't enjoy this at all. I actually have half the last chapter left to read but I really just don't care any more. I hope they all burn in "the wilderness". At the beginning it wasn't so bad, I had hope that I would get the standard Urban Fantasy type deal, with characters that you could get to know and like... but no, they just grew MAANNN THIS SUCKED...!!! I couldn't stand the main couple, I wanted to gag or beat them over the head with a pipe, they were so annoying. Soul mates!! [email protected]%k that! I couldn't enjoy this at all. I actually have half the last chapter left to read but I really just don't care any more. I hope they all burn in "the wilderness". At the beginning it wasn't so bad, I had hope that I would get the standard Urban Fantasy type deal, with characters that you could get to know and like... but no, they just grew steadily worse until I could simply not stand them any longer. They never seemed to make a choice that made sense to me, their motivations were vague and driven by Deux Ex Machina. Always doing and thinking exactly what they shouldn't be doing/thinking. I grew tired of them. Gabriel Bleak... what a joke. Is supposed to be this "hero" with military training and bla bla bla. Such a tough guy! (Yeah, sure.) He is so unconvincing in this role that I laughed half the time at his decisions and rationalisations. (view spoiler)[Like when he doesn't shoot Forsythe because he is unharmed. Like when he doesn't even react when he realises that he was raped by Shoella and wants to protect her even though she's been using and manipulating him. Like when he doesn't kill his psycho brother at any point in the story because "Oh! It's my poor little brother!!"-syndrome, and then has the nerve to criticize the only shining moment Lorraine has in the story when she does it herself! Whatever moron, die already. (hide spoiler)] I think he probably would have been more believable as a kindergarten teacher. That would actually make more sense plot wise. I felt he was a hypocrite, never wanting to hurt anyone to such extremes that he seemed almost developmentally challenged... Whatever. And Lorraine, I could actually picture her with a Victorian dress, her hands gripped before her imploringly and saying: "Oh, please save me my prince of destiny!" while her puppy eyes twinkled with unshed tears and with sad violin music in the background. (Uuuhhhggg!!! Die, damsel-in-distress, DIE!!) .... (ok, rambling over) If you want your standard UF novel you might like this, might not. It's 50/50 I think. This is not a mystery novel exactly. Bleak is no detective (definitely not with his intellectual limits!) and it is more like a movie than a book about special super powers. You might liken it more to a super hero comic than a UF novel. They say that a book is always better than the movie, but I think in this case it would be the opposite.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Gabriel Bleak is a very powerful individual. His paranormal skills are off the charts. He can manipulate supernatural energies and even communicate with other paranormals inhabiting the Hidden. The Hidden is a place that stores all the energy of life forms on planet, Earth. Bleak has learned to control his powers and put them to good use. He works as a bounty hunter or “skip tracer”. Bleaks abilities don’t go unnoticed. The CCA considers him dangerous and he has appeared on their radar. The CCA’ Gabriel Bleak is a very powerful individual. His paranormal skills are off the charts. He can manipulate supernatural energies and even communicate with other paranormals inhabiting the Hidden. The Hidden is a place that stores all the energy of life forms on planet, Earth. Bleak has learned to control his powers and put them to good use. He works as a bounty hunter or “skip tracer”. Bleaks abilities don’t go unnoticed. The CCA considers him dangerous and he has appeared on their radar. The CCA’s mission is to capture him and take advantage of him for their own needs. The CCA hopes to tap into Bleak’s powers, so that they may access the Hidden. Bleak has a plan of his own to fight the CCA. It will require the assistance of the population of an underground paranormal group known as the Shadow Community. This is one battle that will have sci-fi, paranormal, and urban fans everywhere cheering for. Bleak is the new face of superheroes. I valued the fact that Bleak History had a darker, edgier, techno feel that it. Mr. Shirley did a good job infusing all of these elements into this book. Bleak may not be your typical guy h makes for an interesting character, even his name is unique. While Bleak could hold his own, there were other characters in this story as well and they unfortunately could not do the same. This was a bummer because I was hoping the enemies that Bleak took on would be as equal a match. Though I do hope to see Bleak again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    Gabriel can communicate with the dead and uses this talent to help him get what he wants, when he wants it. Soon Gabriel is going to come face to face with reality and realize that nothing is free. Everything has a price and sooner or later, someone or something, is going to come along to collect. The government has had their eye on Gabriel for a while. As they try to determine the extent of his abilities, they are also thinking of all the ways they can use Gabriel to their advantage. Pretty soon Gabriel can communicate with the dead and uses this talent to help him get what he wants, when he wants it. Soon Gabriel is going to come face to face with reality and realize that nothing is free. Everything has a price and sooner or later, someone or something, is going to come along to collect. The government has had their eye on Gabriel for a while. As they try to determine the extent of his abilities, they are also thinking of all the ways they can use Gabriel to their advantage. Pretty soon, it becomes apparent that Gabriel may be the only chance the world has for survival. Wow! I love books about the supernatural. If you like to read about spirits, demons, etc. I think you should pick up this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    chucklesthescot

    Gabriel is a bounty hunter who can talk to the dead, and is a former US Army Ranger. He is being pursued by a government agenty who think he is dangerous but can be used to their advantage. Gabriel has no intention of being used but these people are determined to catch him, whatever it takes. There is nothing wrong with this book other than it becoming clear as I read it that it just wasn't my kind of read. No issues with the writing or plot or anything, it just turned out to be not my thing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christian - Curious Quill

    3.75 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Bleak is... well, it's his name. Gabriel Bleak is the protagonist of Bleak History, a dark urban fantasy by veteran horror, SF and slipstream author John Shirley. From that one fact you can already tell a lot about the book—in particular, that it is a little too on-the-nose, just a bit too self-consciously clever, to be truly great. What isn't immediately obvious—especially since the first couple of pages are a cliché, an acronym-heavy infodump from a supposedly-secret government memorandum on Bl Bleak is... well, it's his name. Gabriel Bleak is the protagonist of Bleak History, a dark urban fantasy by veteran horror, SF and slipstream author John Shirley. From that one fact you can already tell a lot about the book—in particular, that it is a little too on-the-nose, just a bit too self-consciously clever, to be truly great. What isn't immediately obvious—especially since the first couple of pages are a cliché, an acronym-heavy infodump from a supposedly-secret government memorandum on Bleak—is that Bleak History eventually turns out to be engaging and often even thrilling... It is the early 21st Century. Gabriel Bleak is a hardened loner, an ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan, currently a freelance skiptracer in New York City. He's also one of the relatively few people whose latent spiritual powers have been awakened by the weakening of an ancient barrier between the demon-haunted Wilderness and that tiny, fragile bubble of rationality and enlightenment that we like to call the "real world." Most people are still unaware that, to coin a phrase, the magic has returned... but for those in the know, it's impossible to ignore the fact that the Hidden is no longer hidden. The inevitable conflict is coalescing around two groups with incompatible goals. On one side, there's ShadowComm—the Shadow Committee, a loose and contentious coalition of individuals who really just want to be left alone, to develop abilities which can often be quite profitable in a world where most people are still blind to them. On the other side: the CCA. The Central Containment Authority is that entirely new thing on the Earth, a secretive Federal organization with extraordinary powers, a nearly-unlimited budget, and almost no oversight. The CCA's goal, which its agents take very seriously indeed, is to contain and, most of all, control these emerging wild talents, for the safety of America and of its (if he has his way) soon-to-be President-for-Life Breslin. A third force exists, of course—but no one on this side of the "wall in the North" is quite sure just what the beings on the other side are, much less what they intend. Bleak isn't much of a joiner anyway—he's not interested in picking any side. This, of course, makes him attractive to all. From its first few pages, Bleak History seems ripe for adaptation to the screen. It'd fit right in between The Dresden Files and Supernatural . And, in fact, it's apparently already been optioned. That's no surprise—John Shirley is an experienced screenwriter (he co-wrote The Crow , for example, among numerous other credits), and he knows very well how to write visually. Bleak History is not without its flaws, though. In particular, its treatment of gender, race and sexual roles is... unadventurous. Perhaps this is also an aspect of its Hollywood-friendliness, although some innovative casting decisions could really improve on the original in this regard without doing any damage to the story. In the book, Gabriel Bleak is a farm boy from eastern Oregon, a straight white male who distinguishes himself mainly by his collection of T-shirts. (I did especially like Shirley's name-check for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, about which more later.) Bleak is the focal point of a love triangle which—again—seems destined to play out best on-screen with the coveted 18-34 single male demographic. One of the women fixated on Bleak is Shoella, a tall, slender ShadowComm leader from New Orleans, whose magical talents, predictably enough, involve voudou. Shoella is written quite literally as—to use Spike Lee's term—a "Magical Negro," whose own considerable powers and interests seem entirely at Bleak's service. And... does any native New Orleanian actually say the slogan "laissez les bons temps rouler" (repeatedly) without irony? Maybe they do, but I suspect not as often as Shoella does. The other woman—and yes, that's an accurate term—is CCA Agent Loraine Sarikosca, pale (though with "raven hair") and nerdy—she even asks Bleak, while he's wearing that BRMC T-shirt, if he's really in a biker gang. Loraine, though she's with the CCA, is not really with the CCA. Which is good, because it's apparent from very early on that Agent Sarikosca is also destined to fall in love with Bleak, a conflict of interest which seems likely to adversely influence her effectiveness as a government agent... All these tensions do eventually get resolved, and not all of them bleakly, though there are a fair number of casualties en route. Shirley actually wraps up Bleak History in what was to me a satisfactory manner—although he is still careful to leave plenty of hooks in place for a sequel. He does not seem to have gotten around to writing one yet, though, so at this point we're just going to have to go with the history we have.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Personally, this book seems very long to me. I had to force myself to finish it, since I'm a person who absolutely have to complete a book once I've started it. That is unless the book is really really really REALLY boring. The author do not focus on the main character but everywhere at once, and that is very frustrating since I only wanted to read about about Gabriel and not the bad guys.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This review was originally posted on my review blog : Falling Off The Shelf. Gabriel Bleak has quite a few supernatural abilities that have distanced him from the people around him. He is able to create energy bullets do defend himself when in a bind, and can even see and talk to ghosts that have not passed to the After. He lives in New York City, and there are others like him, although they have their own specialies. These others are apart of a community of supernaturals, called the ShadowComm, This review was originally posted on my review blog : Falling Off The Shelf. Gabriel Bleak has quite a few supernatural abilities that have distanced him from the people around him. He is able to create energy bullets do defend himself when in a bind, and can even see and talk to ghosts that have not passed to the After. He lives in New York City, and there are others like him, although they have their own specialies. These others are apart of a community of supernaturals, called the ShadowComm, and he's going to need their help to destroy the demonic forces set to take over the world. Agent Lorraine Sarikosca is part of a top secret part of the government called the Cental Containment Authority, also known as the CCA. They're goal is to find supernaturals in the world, to contain them, and study to. They believe that the powers that these supernaturals wield is dangerous, and may be a harm to the United States. Her first job, to capture Gabriel Bleak. Can she do it? At first it was difficult for me to get into this story, but I soon became curious as to what would happen to Gabriel Bleak. I kept getting sidetracked, whenever they would skip from his point of view to those of the government suits. I know that I needed to know their side of the story to grasp the whole concept, but I was just not a fan of their side of the story. All I wanted to know was how Gabriel Bleak came into his powers, and how Agent Lorraine Sarikosca was to fit into his life. I'm a sucker for a romance, and I smelled one brewing from the very start. In a whole, I enjoyed this book, although it took me a little longer to read than most books do. I gave this book a rating of a 3.5, because I did very much enjoy the paranormal aspect, but couldn't seem to get over how the government was trying to control them. It seemed rather harsh, and cruel, to treat another race of peoplet that way, but I guess that is what we call prejudice. This is the first time I've read a book by John Shirley, and he has made a good impression on me with this novel. He is very good at describing the paranormal abilities of his characters, and it drew me in. This novel was action packed, and I'm hoping there will be a sequel, as I would love to know more about Gabriel Bleak and the Shadow Community. I'd like to personally thank Sarah Reidy of Pocket Books for allowing me to read and review a copy of this book. It was a pleasure to have been one of those few to be apart of the blog tour for this title, and I look forward to working with both Reidy, and Pocket Books in the future.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gaby

    Synopsis: Set in some parallel dimension of New York City, Bleak History describes a world where a subset of the population have special powers. A top secret division of Homeland Security has been monitoring the growing emergence of human supernaturals. Capturing and co-opting them for military purposes, the CCA has seemingly limitless power. At the start of Bleak History, CCA has set agents to capture Gabriel Bleak, one of the strongest of the supernaturals. CCA believes that Gabriel Bleak is th Synopsis: Set in some parallel dimension of New York City, Bleak History describes a world where a subset of the population have special powers. A top secret division of Homeland Security has been monitoring the growing emergence of human supernaturals. Capturing and co-opting them for military purposes, the CCA has seemingly limitless power. At the start of Bleak History, CCA has set agents to capture Gabriel Bleak, one of the strongest of the supernaturals. CCA believes that Gabriel Bleak is the key to accessing the Hidden, an entity based energy field that connects all life on Earth. Gabriel Bleak stands out because of his level of control and the strength of his power. Even as a child, Gabriel could communicate with the dead, pull energy from the Hidden and force energy to take shape. Aside from his supernatural abilities, Gabriel has the skills learned from military service to help him to keep this power hidden and stay under the radar as a bounty hunter or "skip tracer". CCA's aggressive campaign forces Gabriel Bleak into an alliance with a growing underground movement known as the Shadow Community. CCA agent Loriane Sarikosca is a key player in the campaign to capture Gabriel Bleak. New to the agency, Agent Sarikosca is troubled by her superiors' willingness to sacrifice civil liberties and their callous treatment of captured supernatural. As she dives into her assignment, Agent Sarikosca keeps recalling Gabriel Bleak's question: "Way it is now, anybody can be detained. So I guess I won't ask what authority you have. But what excuse do you have?" Review: Fast paced and action packed, Bleak History read like a movie. John Shirley carefully built up the alternate reality and the references to New York locations added to the books appeal. While the villians of the piece weren't complex, Gabriel Bleak and Agent Sarikosca were strong, sympathetic characters. Gabriel Bleak's strong sense of humanity is one of the best parts of the novel. I enjoy these types of fantasy novels. Bleak History reminded me at times of the TV series Heroes and of the movie The Matrix. I'd recommend Bleak History to anyone who enjoys fantasy. Publisher: Pocket (August 18, 2009), 384 pages. Courtesy of the publisher.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Krzysztof Mathews

    I wanted to like this book. I really did. Finally, however, I had to give up a third of the way through. The basic premise is a pretty common one in current science fiction/urban fantasy- a variation on the theme one finds of magic re-emerging in a contemporary society and the disruption that results and individuals find themselves newly powered with seemingly supernatural ability. This theme is elaborated on with the idea of a secret governmental agency tasked with containing such individuals. No I wanted to like this book. I really did. Finally, however, I had to give up a third of the way through. The basic premise is a pretty common one in current science fiction/urban fantasy- a variation on the theme one finds of magic re-emerging in a contemporary society and the disruption that results and individuals find themselves newly powered with seemingly supernatural ability. This theme is elaborated on with the idea of a secret governmental agency tasked with containing such individuals. Now both of these are ideas that have been extensively explored in everything from Uncanny X-Men to Heroes, Agents of Shield (substituting mutation for magic as the catalyst for powers) not to mention a whole slew of Japanese Manga and Anime series (Darker than Black as perhaps one of the strongest). The difficulty that this book has is that the characters really don’t feel like they expand beyond serving as broad archetypes. I simply don’t buy the idea of the main character as a former Army Ranger, and the description of his childhood feels threadbare. The female agent chasing him does not seem to have much function besides being conflicted by her duty, repulsed by her superiors, and strangely attracted to the hero. The head of the secret agency is a caricature. The other “ShadowComm” (I really can’t dig that name) characters feel more like they are meant to be colorful background than fully realized people. It does not help that the structure of the book gives us periodic infodumps in which we are told that there was some sort of attack/tragedy that spurred the whole police state, but the world itself still feels very thin and less than substantial. Ultimately, this book reads like a transcription of an animated series based on a role playing game.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    While I enjoy literary works of complex layers and allegory or what have you, I also like to read straight forward stories involving magic, action, and government machinations--this is one of the latter. The near future, after a magic-aided terrorist attack kills thousands in Miami. The gov't is heading towards a true police state, while a secret group--the CCA--hunts down people with special abilities, incarcerates them, and tortures them to perform tasks. The CCA want Gabriel Bleak, skip-tracer While I enjoy literary works of complex layers and allegory or what have you, I also like to read straight forward stories involving magic, action, and government machinations--this is one of the latter. The near future, after a magic-aided terrorist attack kills thousands in Miami. The gov't is heading towards a true police state, while a secret group--the CCA--hunts down people with special abilities, incarcerates them, and tortures them to perform tasks. The CCA want Gabriel Bleak, skip-tracer, former Army Ranger, and loner with special abilities. Meanwhile, a white supremacist in lockdown makes a deal with an entity from the other side called Moloch, and escapes from jail. The magic comes from the other side--the place between life and reincarnation--and usually from beings over there. A wall, possibly constructed by people, keeps magic out of the land. I like how the magic works in this world and that he doesn't tip-toe around the theological matter, just states how it is in this world. The story is pretty good, the asides condemning the gov't for violating people and the rights given to them are timely, and there's enough action to keep it going at a good clip. The writing is also pretty straight forward, with some repetition in the use of words in the same sentences bothering me a little (I don't care about writing "rules" but that is one that bothers me). Not much character development, but not expected in this kind of tale, which, in the end, is fun.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erica Anderson

    The greatest strength of this book is the character of Gabriel Bleak, a former Army Ranger who's on the run from a government agency because of his extraordinary paranormal powers. He's great. I would have been happy to spend every scene in his company. He's stuck in a crappy situation and does the absolute best he can. Happily for readers, his best involves a lot of action and quick thinking. In addition to Gabriel's character, Shirley introduces several other key players, all of whom are deftl The greatest strength of this book is the character of Gabriel Bleak, a former Army Ranger who's on the run from a government agency because of his extraordinary paranormal powers. He's great. I would have been happy to spend every scene in his company. He's stuck in a crappy situation and does the absolute best he can. Happily for readers, his best involves a lot of action and quick thinking. In addition to Gabriel's character, Shirley introduces several other key players, all of whom are deftly written. There's also a bit of romance in the form of lingering glances and pesky, disturbing thoughts. One thing that I seriously did not like is the discovery of the mysterious artifact of power. I'm an archaeologist in real life, so mysterious artifacts of power make me hack up hairballs. Throw in strange symbols and archaeologists engaging in secret-agent-y sort of behavior, and my eyes roll back in my head. [The only mysterious artifacts archaeologists run into are those pieces of bone or pottery that are too fragmented to identify. That's an archaeological mystery for you.] Okay, rant aside, I enjoyed this book despite hairball-inducing artifacts. Read it for the characters and the action. (Three stars only, because of the mysterious artifact. But I know I'm biased, so I'm throwing in an extra star because of strong characterization. And I think I'm crushing on Gabriel a little bit.)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alexia561

    The whole idea of this book really appealed to me. I like the thought of using ghosts and supernatural powers to help locate bail jumpers. And Gabriel Bleak is one of those characters that could use the extra edge his abilities give him, as his life hasn't been easy. Bleak is a bounty hunter who doesn't do well with authority, which is why he's no longer in the military and is doing his best to stay out of the clutches of CAA, a secret government agency. Any time a secret government agency is inv The whole idea of this book really appealed to me. I like the thought of using ghosts and supernatural powers to help locate bail jumpers. And Gabriel Bleak is one of those characters that could use the extra edge his abilities give him, as his life hasn't been easy. Bleak is a bounty hunter who doesn't do well with authority, which is why he's no longer in the military and is doing his best to stay out of the clutches of CAA, a secret government agency. Any time a secret government agency is involved, you know they're up to no good! The CAA is no exception, as they want to use anyone with special abilities to advance their own agenda. Or should I say "misuse", because the people they've detained are basically prisoners with no say in how they use their abilities. CAA may have started out with a noble purpose, but it's been twisted and corrupted by evil. Really enjoyed this story! I liked Gabriel and Loraine, the CAA agent sent to capture him. Didn't like several of the bad guys, which makes sense since they're, well, bad guys. Thought the plot was good, the story was well-paced, good action, things made sense, and the ending left me wanting more. Shirley is a talented writer, and I'm definitely going to check out his other books as I liked this one so much!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    If you're into government conspiracy thrillers, then this might be up your alley. I just didn't find it so alluring. I've never really been into occult/demon stuff, and while there's no hit-you-over-the-head theology involved, there's also no specificity or motive. Just evil things that do evil stuff, which I don't find compelling. Suspense factor was very good; despite not being very interested in the storyline, the action moved fast enough that I stuck with it. The physical descriptions were go If you're into government conspiracy thrillers, then this might be up your alley. I just didn't find it so alluring. I've never really been into occult/demon stuff, and while there's no hit-you-over-the-head theology involved, there's also no specificity or motive. Just evil things that do evil stuff, which I don't find compelling. Suspense factor was very good; despite not being very interested in the storyline, the action moved fast enough that I stuck with it. The physical descriptions were good, and Shirley can write one hell of a creepy individual when he wants to. Little things. Shiver. I can't shake the feeling that this is an ideal book for young men, but there's not that much in it for other audiences. Brooding antihero v. government conspiracy, coupled with black-and-white forces and under-written female characters... I probably won't pick up one of his books again.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    At first I found the narrative a bit dry to begin with but once you're introduced to the characters curiosity grabs your mind like a noose and drags you all the way through the story. Some of it can be a bit slow at times but there is always an underlying tension, a new sub-plot to dicover, secrets to learn and threats to overcome so its at least constant in a smooth flow. It is overall an enjoyable story with a well defined characters, strong exciting plot and a good sense of reality when dealin At first I found the narrative a bit dry to begin with but once you're introduced to the characters curiosity grabs your mind like a noose and drags you all the way through the story. Some of it can be a bit slow at times but there is always an underlying tension, a new sub-plot to dicover, secrets to learn and threats to overcome so its at least constant in a smooth flow. It is overall an enjoyable story with a well defined characters, strong exciting plot and a good sense of reality when dealing the paranormal feaures involved although the link to Newton is a big vague. The best way to describe it is like a different take on the whole X-man thing where there are humans with unique abilities - not becuase their mutants but because they have a special link with the powers outside our world.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lianne Burwell

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Gabriel Bleak has supernatural powers. He is also ex-army, and a skip tracer/bounty hunter. But now the goverment is coming after him. And it turns out that the twin brother who died as a kid didn't really die; he's working with the government The main story was pretty basic. What I wanted was more about the background. There are references to a terrorist action in Miami, but no explanation of what it was or who was behind it, and if this is an alternate universe where the terrorists hit Miami in Gabriel Bleak has supernatural powers. He is also ex-army, and a skip tracer/bounty hunter. But now the goverment is coming after him. And it turns out that the twin brother who died as a kid didn't really die; he's working with the government The main story was pretty basic. What I wanted was more about the background. There are references to a terrorist action in Miami, but no explanation of what it was or who was behind it, and if this is an alternate universe where the terrorists hit Miami instead of New York. The CCA organization is a lot like an alternative Department of Homeland Security. There's also hints of political machinations, with the president planning on basically cancelling the next election. These elements were what I wanted to read about. I'd definitely read a sequel, if only because I really want to know more about the background world.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    There is a lot going on in Bleak History and there is no gentle introduction to the characters or the world itself, between the conspiracies, the Hidden and the Shadow Community it's pretty complex and as it races along its hard to catch your breath and figure out exactly what is going on. Initially I felt a bit lost in the action and could't find a way to identify with the story or Bleak but that changed gradually. I think that Shirley has created a unique world with an interesting cast of chara There is a lot going on in Bleak History and there is no gentle introduction to the characters or the world itself, between the conspiracies, the Hidden and the Shadow Community it's pretty complex and as it races along its hard to catch your breath and figure out exactly what is going on. Initially I felt a bit lost in the action and could't find a way to identify with the story or Bleak but that changed gradually. I think that Shirley has created a unique world with an interesting cast of characters but I couldn't get wrapped up in in the way I would have liked ahd I found some way to find an emotional connection. I think Bleak History is probably more appealing to a masculine than feminine audience.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Its been a while since I picked up a book that I couldnt finish, but this is one of them. It took me a while to get it but when you would rather sit and do nothing on the subway then read the book you've brought with you, something's wrong. I think the story would be more suited as some kind of a cheap television series but as a book it doesnt really get to me. The characters alone are too flat and one sided, there is no connection between them and me as a reader. For the story, well... its some Its been a while since I picked up a book that I couldnt finish, but this is one of them. It took me a while to get it but when you would rather sit and do nothing on the subway then read the book you've brought with you, something's wrong. I think the story would be more suited as some kind of a cheap television series but as a book it doesnt really get to me. The characters alone are too flat and one sided, there is no connection between them and me as a reader. For the story, well... its something you've seen before. A lot of times before. If you love braindead, chliché reads (sometimes, I do that too) then this is a book for you.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ubiquitousbastard

    Oh the promise...I actually half-wanted to give this book one star, but I usually reserve that for books that I actively loathe. The soul mate angle made me want to stab myself in the stomach until I vomited blood rather than read anymore about how they're "destined for each other." When I find myself actively hoping the bland badguys win, then I know there's a big problem with the book. Only a few of the minor characters had even a smidge of individuality, Gabriel and Loraine were so stock that Oh the promise...I actually half-wanted to give this book one star, but I usually reserve that for books that I actively loathe. The soul mate angle made me want to stab myself in the stomach until I vomited blood rather than read anymore about how they're "destined for each other." When I find myself actively hoping the bland badguys win, then I know there's a big problem with the book. Only a few of the minor characters had even a smidge of individuality, Gabriel and Loraine were so stock that the almost exact same characters exist in hundreds of other books. Definitely jumping off the John Shirley wagon.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Count Jared

    Stunning. Shirley grips the existential horror of fantastic fiction by the balls and trods on its toes with both feet. He plays a symphony to celebrate its defeat. Maybe there's champagne; maybe not. But the music is sweet, mathematical, warm, and sears your heart with all the rhythmic brutality of heavy metal and the tonal subtlety of Miles playing Porter. And when it's over you wish he'd left you at the station so you could still be looking forward to the ride.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a book that takes the supernatural and makes it seem natural. Bleak uses his connection to the otherworld to jump over cars, spy, shoot energy bullets. Aside from a couple of scenes that I could have done without, and the obvious cliche of his brother being the bad guy that he has to take out to save the world (not to mention the INCREDIBLY blatant foreshadowing of that whole brother thing from the very beginning) it's a fun read overall.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rochelle

    A solid 3.75 stars, but I bumped it up because I liked the storyline so much. The book was a bit uneven and sort of Frankensteinish - there were added bits that distracted rather than added to the story, but on the whole it was a good story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sahil Patel

    Great cover. so-so story. not sure if it was intended to be the first part of a series or not. read more like a screenplay than an actual novel, which is not surprising, given that the author's big claim to fame is being the co-author of the screenplay for The Crow.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Devyn

    I enjoyed reading Bleak History. I thought it was very imaginative and thought out. I wouldn't have minded more supernatural action, though. It seemed to me that the characters didn't use their gifts as often as they could have.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bobbi

    Great story, good concept, well-written. Characters could be a little more developed.

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