SERIES: “Dock Five” series, #1
AVAILABILITY: still available
The back blurb:
“After a decade of piloting interstellar patrol ships, former captain Chasidah Bergren, onetime pride of the Sixth Fleet, finds herself court-martialed for a crime she didn’t commit–-and shipped off to a remote prison planet from which no one ever escapes. But when she kills a brutal guard in an act of self-defense, someone even more dangerous emerges from the shadows.
Gabriel Sullivan-–alpha mercenary, smuggler, and rogue–-is supposed to be dead. Yet now this seductive ghost from Chaz’s past is offering her a ticket to freedom–for a price. Someone in the Empire is secretly breeding jukors: vicious and uncontrollable killing machines that have long been outlawed. Gabriel needs Chaz to help him stop the practice before it decimates Imperial space. The mission means putting their lives on the line–-but the tensions that heat up between them may be the riskiest part of all.”
Gabriel’s Ghost was the first book I read by Linnea Sinclair. It also was one of the first romances I’ve read written in first person POV and I really liked how Sinclair made it clear that Sully was in love with Chaz even though I didn’t get his POV (my comment then). This was around Christmas 2006. After I finished it, I went on my first author glom.
It was a few weeks later that I read the author’s note and learned that “Gabriel’s Ghost was inspired by and written to “Put Your Lights On” featuring Everlast on Santana’s album Supernatural, one of my favorite songs on that album.
More important and way cooler (though not surprising): song and book are a great fit.
The first sentence in Gabriel’s Ghost reads: “Only fools boast they have no fears.”
Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about fears – fears of rejection and fears of the unknown and unexplained. And it’s a story about trust – trust that someone will still love you even knowing all your hideous secrets and trust in someone who asks you:
“Can you accept me as I am now, on faith? With what you know, and nothing more?” He paused. “I fear that your need for facts, your need for explanations, for things that perhaps can never be explained, will destroy the only chance we have. And I’ll lose you.” (154)
Chashida Bergren, Chaz, is a woman who operates on facts. It’s what she was trained to do as Fleet, it’s what she does when she feels stressed: she gathers and analyzes facts to keep unwanted emotions or thoughts at bay until she is ready to deal with them. She’s confident and sure of her skills as a pilot. She does what she must do and she knows that it’s important to keep personal feelings from influencing a task that needs to be done. She wouldn’t withhold information just because she’s in a spat with someone. She’s a strong woman but she also knows fears because “only fools boast they have no fears.”
Gabriel Sullivan, Sully, is a ghost. He was believed dead for two years when he and Chaz meet again. He’s a man with many identities, although he is far from at peace with himself:
I’m already damned, consigned to a Hell I can never escape. It haunts me, consumes me. Until all that’s left are things that make me feel a pain I hope to God you never have to feel. Anger and pain are very valid reasons for what I do. Remember that. (64)
He wants to stop the jukor breeding and he needs Chaz’s help for that.
There are quite a few secondary characters in Gabriel’s Ghost, most important the crew of Sully’s ship the Boru Karn and there most important Ren. Ren is a Stolorth, a race with a humanoid form and feared, or at least viewed with wariness, by humans because of their mind talents. They are also known as mind-fuckers, and it’s widely assumed that meeting a Stolorth means he/she will play with your mind.
Besides Stolorths, there’s another non-human race in Gabriel’s Ghost, Takans. I pictured them like Wookiees though they can talk. Takan females are used for the breeding of jukors. Jukors are more like animals, once breed to combat the mind skills of the Stolorths. They are vicious, have wings, and smell like garbage. They also only have one spot where they are vulnerable. Some years before the events in Gabriel’s Ghost, it became clear that jukors couldn’t be controlled so they were all ordered to be destroyed. That someone seems to have taken up the breeding again in secret is bad news.
Gabriel’s Ghost is science fiction. It’s a world with a different society, with its own politics, different groups vying for power and influence, and a religion that centers around mythical beasts with the mind talents of the Stolorths and a shape-shifting form jukors are supposed to resemble.
Gabriel’s Ghost might sound like a action-driven novel and in a way, it is: the mission to destroy the jukor labs delivers the frame for the story: what Chaz and Sully do and where they go. But the story isn’t how they go about destroying the labs, it’s about a secret, darkness, and identity. And as often in such stories, there is an angel.
The action forces the secret out into the open step by step but Gabriel’s Ghost isn’t one of the stories where you want to bash the characters over the head because they just don’t talk with each other. No. The reasons for keeping things secret are vital. In Gabriel’s Ghost, the secret has to do with identity. Revealing it means being shunned, probably hunted, throughout the known world for what you are, for the darkness in you. Revealing it probably means losing the love of your life, your angel. Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about prejudice and about taking risks.
At the beginning of the story, Chaz knows Sully as a mercenary and smuggler who loves to play with words. She knows him as someone she hunted for six years because as Fleet that was her job. She interrupted his illegal escapades and shared conversations laced with innuendos with him then. She also knows him as someone she shared a few passionate kisses with in a seedy bar one night.
A short time later, she knows and says this about Sully:
Known terrorist, smuggler, mercenary. A passionate, volatile man. Angry, for valid reasons, he’d said. Gabriel Ross Sullivan. Poet. Warrior. Lover. (130)
But that is not the end of her discoveries. Discoveries hindered by her promise not to ask questions, to accept Sully on faith and to trust him; discoveries helped along by the mission to stop the jukor breeding. With Sully, it seems that for every question answered, several new ones pop up. Her discoveries – the revealing of the secret – are reflected in the list of words she uses to characterize Sully. Each discovery adds to or alters words on the list. Until Chaz knows all, she’s in for more than one big surprise and test of her trust. Then, her words for Sully differ greatly from the two she had in the beginning: mercenary and smuggler.
And all along the way, your heart will break for Sully. Chaz wants truths and facts, and in Gabriel’s Ghost she is thrown into a situation she is asked to base her decisions not on facts but on trust. Sully wants Chaz, and in Gabriel’s Ghost telling Chaz the truth about himself might mean losing her. Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about truth and lies.
Chasidah. Angel. I have lost those words that used to come so easily to me. They have all fled, shamed to be in my company. I’m left now with only a few simple ones. They are inadequate. They cannot begin to convey all that I feel. But they are all I have.
Chasidah. Angel. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.
Chasidah. Angel. The grievous wrong isn’t as much in the questions you couldn’t ask, but in the only real truth that I could tell, and did not.
Chasidah. Angel. I love you beyond all measure. That is the only real truth. (207, 208)
Reading Gabriel’s Ghost again for the challenge, there were two things I really noticed: 1) allusions and hints to the secret are present from the first chapter on; 2) the masterful way the different elements come together in this story – Gabriel’s Ghost is a rather layered story. I also think it’s neat that though Gabriel’s Ghost is written in first person and told from Chaz’s POV, it almost seems more like it’s Sully’s story rather than Chaz’s story.
One more thing, the most important one: most of all, Gabriel’s Ghost is a story about love. Love sometimes asks you to trust without knowing all the facts, love sometimes can be destroyed by keeping facts to oneself, love means opening yourself up to someone else with your whole self, trusting that you still will be loved with all your hideous secrets and darkness out in the open. Gabriel’s Ghost explores all this.
The last sentence of the novel reads: “Only fools underestimate the power of love.”
Verdict: The more often I read the novel, the more I appreciate it. Gabriel’s Ghost only gets better with each read for me. 5/5
Listen to Put Your Lights On, listen for the words darkness, fear, and angel, and you’ll have an idea what Gabriel’s Ghost is like.