Book Review

Gabriel’s Ghost by Linnea Sinclair: A Guest Review by CarrieS


Title: Gabriel's Ghost
Author: Linnea Sinclair
Publication Info: Bantam Dell November, 2005
ISBN: 0-553-58797-8
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Gabriel's Ghost: the cover is very blue with some guy kissing some girl's neck, and her jaw is a perfect right angle. Neat. Several people in the comments threads had mentioned Linea Sinclair as a great writer of Science Fiction Romance so I tried out Gabriel's Ghost

Guys, I am not getting it.  Help me out here!  The writing is solid enough, the world building is decent, but I barely made it through this book.  What am I missing?

Feel free to turn this plot synopsis into a drinking game – for there are many clichés to spot including an evil Empire that is TOTALLY NOT THE ONE IN STAR WARS.  Chasidah was sentenced to a prison planet for a crime she did not commit (naturally).  A handsome and mysterious rogue, Sully, with whom she has something of a history, rescues her.  Said rogue wants her to help him destroy the Empire's Jukor breeding project – Jukors being these very dangerous animals that are being bred to use as weapons. 

Chasidah and Sully proceed to steal spaceships and flirt and do all the spacefareing things I normally love to read about, but I was bored and annoyed.  I soldiered through for you, dear Bitches, but I kept thinking about all the other things I could be reading instead – and that should never, ever happen when spaceships are involved.

Chasidah is a military pilot but, somewhat refreshingly, not one described as a “hotshot”.   Her most important skill is a good memory for military codes.  When it comes to codes and analysis, she is actually allowed to seem competent.  Later in the book she achieves a certain “only sane person” status as she tries to be calm and manage all the secretive and hostile characters that surround her.  Sadly, she spends the first half of the book getting rescued and whenever she tries to actually pilot a ship her crewmates ignore her orders and/or she winds up unconscious. 

The book is narrated in first person from Chasidah's point of view, which means we know exactly how fearful she is at any given moment but have no sense of how other characters perceive her.  She's endlessly understanding and forgiving of Sully, who SPOILER:  mind rapes her, more than once, and to various degrees

Chasidah is also on the receiving end of ugly sexism: she's constantly referred to as a bitch, sometimes affectionately and sometimes not, she is threatened with rape, her husband divorces her because she won't have babies, her partner orders her to not ask questions about him and SPOILER  robs her of her sexual and emotional agency.  I'm not suggesting that there won't be ANY sexism in the future, but I do think a futuristic story should not read like a 1980's book.

Meanwhile, I have no sense of Sully at all except that he's manipulative and vaguely tortured.  I don't understand why he is in love with Chasidah or why she is in love with him – I can appreciate their sexual chemistry, but that's not love.  Wanting two people to go ahead and have that great night of sex they've clearly been destined for is not the same as wanting them to have a relationship.  They don't have a relationship – he won't tell her anything.  A man who constantly orders his girlfriend to stop asking for vital information is not a man that sweeps me off my feet.  He keeps doing terrible things, saying he's sorry, and doing them again.  By the end of the book I felt more sympathy for him, but I still thought he had not reformed and would always be secretive and dishonest, although possibly he would be better at respecting boundaries.

Technically, this book is much better written than lot of books I give good grades too.  I try to evaluate a book based on a lot of technical factors including the author's ability to use spell-check, but ultimately romance is a genre based on enjoyment and emotional impact and if I have no fun, and I'm not interested in the characters at all, I grade with a heavy hand, whereas I give a ton of slack to books that have original ideas and/or convey a true sense of excitement and romance even if the writing is otherwise clumsy.  While I'm grateful that Linnea Sinclair can write a good description and can spell, Gabriel's Ghost held no excitement for me and I was completely uninterested in the fate of the main couple.  I'm grading it pretty ruthlessly because I had to invest so much time in reading all 447 pages about a doormat and her asshole boyfriend.  What am I missing about an author that clearly many people adore?

This book is available from  Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    PointyEars42 says:

    Gabriel’s Ghost was excruciatingly bad on SO many levels. The repetitive descriptions of rainbows alone still gives me nightmares. It was the book club pick a few months ago (Vaginal Fantasy Hangout at GoodReads) and was almost universally hated, so your D+ rating looks generous by comparison… but you really should read book #3, Hope’s Folly. It’s about Chaz’s ex-husband who – unlike her current douchey beau – actually stops being a douche and acts like a grown up- in fact Phillip is pretty amazing when he’s with someone other than Chaz. In addition, the difference in quality between books #1 and #3 is so notable, you’ll find yourself wondering if its even written by the same author. The characters, the military science fiction plot, the fact that the two the leads and their romance are believable and relate-able, the writing in general and lack of repetition in the vocabulary in particular – are all vastly superior to Gabriel’s Ghost. VASTLY. It is a much better representation of what a sci-fi/romance novel can be.

    I’ve been told that it also is more representative of the author’s talents. Unfortunately, I’ve been so badly burnt by Gabriel’s Ghosts’ mind-raping, emotionally abusive, rainbow-shooting epic levels of tediousness and WTFuckery that I can’t bring myself to risk anything else she’s written. Er, but you should read Hope’s Folly though.

  2. 2

    This book was awful. I read it as part of the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout as well… Felicia Day seemed to be convinced that her other books are way better, and kept apologizing for picking this one for the club without having read it herself. Unfortunately I won’t be trying any more books by Sinclair. Sully had no personality, Chaz was a pushover even though we kept on being told how strong she was… In the beginning I felt like I had missed a prequel due to how quickly it jumps into things and expects you to just go along with almost no explanation or background… Their alt book that month was Grimspace which was SOOOO much better. I’m on the third book in that series and I find it a much more satisfying read…

  3. 3

    I read it for Vaginal Fantasy, too! And I had totally forgotten about those damned rainbows until you mentioned them… Blocked them out to save my sanity I think… I’m in the same boat as far as avoiding anything by this author. I just don’t want to risk having to slog through anything like Gabriel’s Ghost again… Ugh, the memories…

  4. 4
    M— says:

    I greatly disliked Gabriel’s Ghost too, but the first book of Sinclair’s I read was Finders, Keepers. It’s by far my favorite at a solid B, B+.

  5. 5

    That’s too bad. I agree with M—Finders Keepers was really good. I wonder how Gabriel’s Ghost ended up so off course?

  6. 6
    Jaelwye says:

    Too bad you started with the one mediocre book Sinclair wrote! Games Of Command is my ‘frayed cover’ book. Love me some male virgin/cyborgs.

  7. 7
    Hannah E. says:

    Gabriel’s Ghost and its sequel, Shades of Dark, are my two least favorite Sinclair novels.  I really didn’t like Sully, especially in Shades of Dark, and I couldn’t forgive him for some of the things he did.  But Sinclair is still one of my absolute favorite romance authors.  Finders Keepers is my personal favorite of her novels, but Games of Command and Hope’s Folly (in which Chasidah’s ex husband is a protagonist) are excellent too.

  8. 8
    MelMel says:

    I loved Finders Keepers and Games of Command. I enjoyed Wintertide and An Accidental Goddess. But I hate hate hate Gabriel’s Ghost. I so wanted the heroine to kick the “hero” in the groin and run off with her ex when she had the chance. I never understood the love for Sully over on Linnea’s web site. He’s not a “bad boy” hero, he’s just bad.

    PointyEars, I’m glad to hear that Hope’s Folly is a better book. I actually purchased it because Philip was the only character I liked in Gabriel’s Ghost then I was scared to read it in case he got messed up. I think I’ll move it higher in the TBRs.

  9. 9

    This is a Sinclair I haven’t actually read. I’ve also read Finders Keepers, though it didn’t do much for me. The Down-Home Zombie Blues, on the other hand, I liked quite a bit. :)

  10. 10
    Barb in Maryland says:

    CarriueS—you made it about 400 pages further than I did in this one!
    I remember mostly enjoying “Finders, Keepers” but then the author fell off my radar.  I picked her back up with “Gabriel’s Ghost” and then scratched her off my list for good.
    Too many books, too little time to bother with an author I’m not in love with.

  11. 11
    Sayuri says:

    I am the lone voice of disagreement here and acoording to everyone so far, I must have been high on crack when reading this book as I have a vastly different perception of it.

    I LOVE this book. I love all of Sinclairs books but I do love this especially. *shrugs* commence the vegetable throwing. :)

  12. 12

    I didn’t care for this one either, but I LOVED Games of Command. The funny thing is I have a friend who’s “meh” on Games of Command, but Gabriel’s Ghost is one of her all-time romance novels. Go figure!

  13. 13
    Emily E says:

    Your missing her other books.  I much prefer Finders Keepers or An Accidental Goddess.  This series has been sitting on my TBR pile as this first one is a stumbling block for me.

  14. 14
    cleo says:

    I’ve only read Games of Command and Accidental Goddess and I enjoyed them both.  Based on your review, I’m so glad I didn’t start with Gabriel’s Ghost.  I hate asshole heroes.  I think you might like GoC – based on your reviews, we have similar taste in SFR (but wait awhile for the trauma to subside).  It’s a rivals to lovers story, with a straight laced cyborg hero and kickass, slightly disreputable, heroine.  And psychic cats.

  15. 15
    Randi says:

    @Sayuri: You’re not along with liking Gabriel’s Ghost; I did too. Maybe we were both on crack!? I don’t know – I couldn’t finish Down Home Zombie Blues; Accidental Goddess was a meh for me; but the entire Dock Five universe are keepers for me.

  16. 16
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    Re: the spoilers, WTF? Thank you, CarrieS, for including those, because without them I might have still been curious enough to read this book, and that situation is my own personal berserk button. When a protagonist pulls a stunt like that, I want to shriek. That is not heroic behavior. That is villainous behavior. Jesus wept.

  17. 17
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    @Sayuri, I would never throw vegetables at you for liking an unpopular book. For one thing, vegetables are delicious, but more importantly, I may mock a book, but I would never mock the people who enjoy it. People have a right to read whatever they want without being shamed or judged. One of my favorite things about SBTB is that it offers a safe space for people who enjoy a frequently disrespected genre. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is rock on with your bad self. :-)

  18. 18
    cleo says:

    Oh yeah.  I loved their first sex scene together. 

  19. 19
    CarrieS says:

    No veggies, I promise!  But I do want to know what you liked about the book – do you remember what made it click for you?

  20. 20
    Flo says:

    I liked it- but I was reading it as SciFi with a bad romance subplot (might have something to do with it having the original cover-… which is all spaceships and aliens to me). I had sense of wonder with the world building and was speed reading the Jukor and the prison planet like the B movies “Escape from LA” or “Armageddon”, which made it fun, fast, and very enjoyable to read (other than the middle, which was a lot of getting there).

    I was not looking for deep themes or meaningful relationships. (Honestly, I liked Chaz and Ren the alien’s developing relationship much more than the Chaz and Sully interactions.)

    I may also have granted waaaay too much leeway on “Is this guy socialized as fully human? no?” then ‘he’s part alien’ becomes ‘he’s an asshole’ and to me that’s weak plotting and something I try to get past to get to the better parts… but if I reframe it in my mind as a romance with a SciFi background, suddenly I’m all kinds of uncomfortable with the alphahole anti-hero.

    I’d have given the book a B as a SciFi summer read, but if it’s a romance, then it goes into creepy stalker/controlling, possessive boyfriend territory and a D+ seems about right.

    So… Thanks for making me be of two minds about this book.

  21. 21
    Carrie says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I’ve read everything Linnea Sinclair has written and only wish she would write faster! By the way, Sinclair’s books were originally published as SF, not SFR and sold in the SF section of bookstores. I have several books with the original, science fiction covers, which are way better than the silly romance covers they were given when re-released.

    I am forever trying to figure out why so many people rave about (insert small town romance series everyone LOVES) but I can’t stand the stories or the writing. People will simply disagree on what makes a good book, and part of that is what pushes your buttons. What bothered you didn’t push my buttons, and I thought the portrayal of Sully was really interesting. It gets even more interesting in Shades of Dark.

    These aren’t my favorite Sinclair books, but I did enjoy them. I would recommend some other Sinclair books, but I won’t bother because others already have, and if you don’t care for her writing you probably won’t like anything else she’s written. There isn’t one I haven’t enjoyed and reread, so obviously I’m biased. Until Linnea comes out with another, I’ll have to hope more writers with her talent will take up writing SFR.

  22. 22
    Jody Wallace says:

    Games of Command was my favorite Sinclair and one of my favorite romances, period. I read Gabriel’s Ghost a VERY long time ago, before even its NY-SF incarnation. Games I have read in every incarnation :)

  23. 23
    MelMel says:

    Jody, did you read Games of Command back when it was Command Performance and only the first part of a duology? Did you get the impression that Serafino was a proto-Sully? I felt she toned his “I get to be an abusive asshole to everyone around me because I’m different” persona a lot in the rewrite. Or maybe he just irritated me a lot less the second time around because Sully’s character was the new watermark in creepy and abusive.

  24. 24
    jordan says:

    YES!  I really loved Games of Command – once you’ve cleansed your palate, CarrieS, you should try this one!

  25. 25
    Roxie Allen says:

    Yes this! They bore me as Sci-Fi and bore me as romance. It all seems like it should work but just doesn’t. I have actually read most of her books, trying to find a way to like them. They have a clunky, trope heavy, character light feel that makes them seem like the work of a committee. Nothing too, too objectionable but nothing that makes them compelling reading. They really can’t stand a comparison to Bujold, Huff, Moon or Asaro though Sinclair is writing primarily for a romance audience versus a primary science fiction reading audience.

  26. 26

    I’ve read the four Dock Five novels – and I enjoyed Gabriel’s Ghost, felt out of sync and weirded out by Shades of Dark, LOVED Hope’s Folly and was just meh about whatever the fourth one was called…

    What did I like about GG? I actually liked that it read a bit like Star Wars or some of the Anne McCaffrey space series I devoured when I was a pre-teen. It was a nice touch of nostalgia – and it had been AGES since I read anything in space. I love space opera/space Westerns (how had I forgotten?)!

    Anyway, I don’t really like tortured alpha heros and based on my notes/review on my blog, I liked that Chaz was a heroine who was actually competent but who also ACTUALLY ACCEPTED HELP FROM HER FRIENDS instead of running headlong into every dangerous situation to prove that she doesn’t *need* help and then needing to be rescued (*coff* wayyy too many urban fantasy heroines *coff*). I liked the flirtatious banter between Chaz and Sully. I did not care for the weird tortured alpha intimacy issues, but I didn’t react as strongly negatively to Sully and his actions. I didn’t like how easily it seems Chaz turned around and forgave him. But it didn’t set off any emotional triggers or anything… *shrugs*

    I second – third – whatever number the Hope’s Folly suggestion. That one was by leaps and bounds my favorite of the Dock Five universe.

  27. 27
    Reneesance says:

    Games of Command is definitely worth a read.  A nice palate cleanser from the cracktasticness of Gabriel’s Ghost.  I didn’t actively loath it when I read it a few years ago but Sinclair has done so many better books than that.

  28. 28
    Shel says:

    I think I’ve read most of the Sinclair backlist, and other than Hope’s Folly I don’t remember loving the Dock 5 series like many do. Ditto what others have said: I did like the standalone books An Accidental Goddess, Games of Command, and Finders Keepers – once some time has passed, you could try one of those.

  29. 29
    MaddBookish says:

    I haven’t read the Dock 5 books, but Games of Command and Accidental Goddess, I really liked. My absolute favorite Sinclaire book, though, is The Down Home Zombie Blues. It’s been ages since I’ve read it, so I don’t remember why exactly, but even years later, I remember the title and that it’s my favorite of her books.

  30. 30
    Wenchmatic says:

    With ya!  I like it so much I was actually considering buying a Kindle copy in addition to my used paperback, just so it could be re-read at a moment’s notice….

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