Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bleak History by John Shirley

Bleak History



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."

First of all, I'll set forth a disclaimer that this is a very lazy blog on my part, because mostly I'm quoting the book, and a review of it.
My opinion, after reading this book, is that it's a page turner, but definitely not deep or heavy reading. It is at times humorous, dark, action-packed, etc. And, if you were previously at all knowledgeable in the occult/metaphysical/paranormal, then it is apparent that Mr. Shirley has done a fair bit of research in those fields, which means certain of his ideas make plenty of sense, while others are just entertaining.
There are a few negative points however, (with which I agree) which are touched upon quite succinctly in the following review by Publishers Weekly.
There are two primary negative points with which I agree. First: That the book reads like the script of a movie. Absolutely correct. While I definitely enjoyed the book, I feel it would do better as a film, which makes perfect sense considering that John Shirley has spent a considerable portion of his career writing screenplays.
Second: There simply weren't enough pages in the book to further flesh out the protagonist and supporting characters. Also, the plot rather hurried along, leaving the story with too many loose ends, which can add up and become frustrating.

"From Publishers Weekly
This urban occult fantasy from cyberpunk author and screenplay writer Shirley (Black Glass) reads like the script for a bloated summer blockbuster, loaded with action, expository dialogue and stock characters. Like other members of the Shadow Community, army ranger–turned–bounty hunter Gabriel Bleak can tap into the Hidden, an invisible metaphysical realm, and conjure magical weapons and allies. After a devastating terrorist attack on Miami, the Pentagon funds a search-and-capture initiative to neutralize the entire Shadow Community. Bleak runs from government agents and heads into battle against the mythical Moloch, which threatens to throw our world into utter chaos. Steeped in its own detailed mythology, Shirley's fast-paced romp through the occult is clever in concept but awkward in execution, with one-dimensional characters (including a painfully caricatured voodoo priestess) and telegraphed plot points that shout when they should whisper. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

All in all, I feel like this was a good book. Anything that keeps me turning the pages, while generally not the deepest of works, will get a good score from me. Sure, it had a few flaws, and I think it would make for a good series rather than a standalone, but I've already recommended it to fans of urban fantasy.
...abrupt ending of blog...

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