While everyone else seems to be making New Year’s Resolutions or preparing themselves for another party, I spent today finishing the book I was reading, so I could add it to the list of books I read in 2011.
Sad but true.
So I just finished reading Bleak History by John Shirley. I grabbed this book from the library on the strength of the statement: “John Shirley is co-screenwriter of the cult film The Crow.” To be honest, I didn’t even read the jacket copy. I just read that statement on the book cover, along with a blurb from Clive Barker, and figured I’d like the book.
It was only after was about halfway through that I read the back of the book.
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.
If I’d read this before I started reading the book, I would have had certain expectations.
- Gabriel Bleak would utilise dead people (ghosts) regularly in his line of work.
- It would be widely known that Gabriel Bleak is the strongest “human supernatural” recorded, if not by Gabriel himself, then certainly by other major characters.
- Early in the book, it would become clear that the bad guys want to control Gabriel in order to access the Hidden.
- Gabriel would be aware of this threat, and would join forces with the Shadow Community (and other creatures) to quell a demonic uprising.
But here’s the thing.
- Gabriel Bleak doesn’t use ghosts in his line of work. Ever. Although he does (on occasion) talk to them, it’s only to tell them to move along.
- I don’t think it’s ever mentioned that Gabriel Bleak is the strongest “human supernatural” on record. It is implied, but that only happens about 2/3 of the way through the book. Prior to that, he’s just another dude with super powers who happens to be the protagonist.
- Gabriel spends the majority of the book trying to work out what’s going on, and avoiding the bad guys without any clue why they’re so interested in him. This tidbit of information is finally revealed on about page 340. There’s 370 pages in the book.
- As above, Gabriel spends most of the time just trying to survive. The Shadow Community try to recruit him, not the other way around. And even the demonic uprising isn’t revealed until the final 60 pages.
So, my question is this: Why provide information on the jacket copy that is either (a) incorrect, or (b) a major reveal at the end of the book? Is it because it helps to know this information before you start reading? (Otherwise, you have no idea why Gabriel’s being hunted at all.) Or is it to make the book sound more appealing?
Sure, if the blurb read: “Gabriel Bleak is just another guy with supernatural powers. But now he’s being hunted down by a division of Homeland Security.”, that would be too little information. It’s not appealing, it’s not enticing, and it’s not going to sell books.
But revealing one of the final reveals of the book feels to me like it’s too much.
What do you think? Would you rather too much or too little info in the jacket copy? And what do you consider to be “just right”?
** Note: This is not a review of the book itself, which I quite enjoyed. This is just a review of the back cover copy.