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reading tiger

Whatcha Reading?

Black Hole by Bucky Sinister is a pretty fast, easy, satisfying read, considering it's a member of the question-reality drug narrative genre. In fact, I think it may be my favorite of that genre. Maybe because I recognize the milieu it's set in -- the last 25 years of the San Francisco Mission district. I mean, I don't just recognize it, I feel a deep "you know me, I know you" feeling about it.

Because, see, I find most time-is-funky reality-is-questionable drug novels really fucking dull. Repetitive, episodic, and boring as dirt. Maybe b/c I'm not a user and never have been, I don't know. All I know is that I bounced out of Laurie Weeks' Zippermouth, which was hugely anticipated and fairly well acclaimed (it won a Lammy). I read a Scanner Darkly but at this moment I can barely remember anything that happened in it. I could go on, but you get the picture. I have given it the old college try, is what I'm trying to convey here.

But I liked this one. "Chuck" does not have a heart of gold and he makes many really bad choices. Not minor bad choices, but morally reprehensible bad choices. So it's not because I liked or identified with the main character. And it's not because it has much of a plot, to be honest, at least not a traditional one. But it still manages to have enough forward momentum, enough "I want to figure out what happens"-ness to keep you reading. I think that's really what tends to bog me down in most books of this type -- the repetitiveness. The details of the weird shit vary, but the pattern is the same, and do I really have to read a whole book of this stuff? Black Hole manages to slip that trap, thank goodness.

(OK, maybe another reason I dislike this genre is because the protagonists, whether or not they are likable, are usually profoundly narcissistic. I know that's an overused word right now, but bear with me. If you don't really know if another character is real or a hallucination, for example, it's hard to work up a lot of empathy for their ultimate fate, you know? In this, I think Black Hole managed to convey a separation between Chuck's druggie self-centeredness and the author's POV, which is both more generous toward the bit players in this narrative.)

Another reason I might dig this one more than I dig other novels of this type is because the satire is dialed up a notch and also sharper than average. I mean, Chuck's day job is cleaning the tanks of the mini-whales that techbros buy as status pets. The owner has gotten rich off his biotech innovation, but he's scamming his clients with glitchy DNA. This is all background, though, because Chuck, he just scrubs and procures drugs for his boss. Another way of saying what I'm saying might be to point out that Bucky is a stand-up comic these days as much as he is a writer, and dark humor abounds.

BTW, if you can't tell from my use of the familiar, I am friends with Bucky Sinister. He used to be my neighbor, in fact, before he skipped town and moved to L.A. a few months back. But as I've mentioned before, if I didn't like the book I just wouldn't mention it at all. (Sometimes I don't mention books written by my friends even when I *do* like them.) But Black Hole, I think, is unjustly overlooked, and worth circling back to if you missed it the first time.