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Bleak History

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  349 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews

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
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Gallery Books (first published August 6th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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David Agranoff
Jan 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: weird-crime

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
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Nov 18, 2009 rated it liked it
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'.
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-review
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
Oct 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, fantasy
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 ...more
Feb 10, 2015 rated it did not like it

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!! F@%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
Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it
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’
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it

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
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, uf-pnr, abandoned
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.
Christian - Knightingale Reviews
3.75 stars
Oct 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Dresden fans wanting darker fare; Supernatural fans seeking something a little less... bleak
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
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
Rio Aiello
Jun 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
This author is just terrible
Aug 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2009
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,
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it

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
Krzysztof Mathews
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.

Ryan Mishap
Oct 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fantasy
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
Erica Anderson
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, review-copy
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
Oct 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: paranormal, sci-fi
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
Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: paranormal fantasy
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
Lianne Burwell
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, thriller
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Apr 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: discontinued
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
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 ...more
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Count Jared
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Janus Andersen
Jun 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: horror
Jeg har før læst gode ting af John Shirley, men havde alligevel ikke de store forventninger til den her. Alligevel skuffede den grumt. Masser af dovne løsninger - "samtidig andetsteds" og ligegyldige nærfremtidselementer, der ikke rigtig bruges til noget. Øv.
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Sahil Patel
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
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John Shirley is the author of more than a dozen books, including Demons; Crawlers; City Come A-Walkin’; Really, Really, Really, Really, Weird Stories; and the classic cyberpunk trilogy A Song Called Youth: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. He is the recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award and won the International Horror Guild Award for his collection Black But ...more
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“Everyone was always in danger, after all. From cancer, from car crashes and plane crashes, from criminals. Most people managed denial; managed to pretend they were safe.” 0 likes
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