Black Hole by Charles Burns

I read Black Hole for my graphic novel class. I had never heard of, and had no idea what to expect. Although it doesn’t have page numbers, Goodreads says it is 352 pages long. It felt a lot shorter than that, as it moved extremely quickly. I finished it in two sittings. However, the content makes it seem longer — this was a strange book.

Black Hole

I honestly got confused with this plot, which isn’t something I can say about a lot of novels. This may have been, in part, because of the fact that two male characters (and even the main female character) all looked alike — they all had black shoulder length hair with short bangs. I plan to go back through, and reread the novel again knowing that the two guys, Keith and Rob, are not the same person. Now this may have been a hard mistake to make for some, but it made things a little confusing at first for me.

I believe the basic plot takes place in the 70s and is structured around Rob and Chris, who have a rocky start to a relationship, and their various friends. The other possible main character is Keith, who I figured out was a separate person from Rob about halfway in… All these people are somehow dealing with a type of ‘bug’ or disease that is being spread through sexual contact/saliva that physically disfigures people in strange ways (facial restructuring, growing new body parts — Rob’s second mouth, for example). This was really odd, and not well explained, but interesting all the same. This disease is incurable, and makes people social outcasts. Many who have it resort to living in the woods, stealing food to get by, and avoiding normal society.

One thing that really struck me about this book was, unsurprisingly, the artwork. Partially because the characters do drugs quite a bit, and also partially due to the weirdness of their world, the artwork was beautiful and mind-opening, and just absolutely wonderful in every way. I know it sounds like I’m fawning over the art — probably because I am. One character does artwork throughout the book, and you get to see some of it, and even that is wonderful in a weird, disturbing way. I spent much longer taking in the details of the strange layout (when Rob is tripping on LSD) than looking at the words that just described what he was seeing. The panels start to get wavy, start to weave into one another, and start to change shape when things get trippy — I feel this was a fantastic way to help the reader know what the characters were experiencing.

If you don’t have an open mind about drugs, sex, and horrible teenage actions, I would warn you away from this book. However, if you are open to that sort of thing, I would highly recommend it. Even the ‘sexual’ drawings, shoot, even the art from the pornographic magazines, didn’t feel out of place or negative. It all fit in so well with the content of the story, that I think it really worked. The only downside (if I can even call it that) is the confusing plot. I think on a second read, everything will clear up a bit. Though I know some of it won’t — that’s part of the mystery of the book; the full spreads of black pages with a few white, spiraling objects makes you question the story, the characters, and their motives. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and definitely plan to reread it soon.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: 31 Day Book List: Week 1 « Realm of Reviews

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