Review: Black Hole

Black Hole
Black Hole by Charles Burns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book as I’ve not read any Charles Burns before and it was an unexpected gift, having said that it was a very original piece of work that’s still floating around my head. Black Hole concerns itself with a bunch of High School kids in any place America. The physical setting is vague as is the time period, the copy of Aladdin Sane that crops up at one point would put it somewhere in the early seventies but it could really be any-when pre mobile phones and personal computers. We see a bunch of fairly harmless kids slowly disintegrate as they fall victim to the ‘bug’ a disease that only sexually active teenagers can catch. The ‘bug’ manifests itself in many different ways, some kids are horrifically disfigured, warped, whilst others get of lightly with cute tails or the ability to shed their skin. Those obviously suffering from the ‘bug’ are shunned by society and end up living in the woods in a make shift camp site but the woods are no safe refuge as people start to go missing and strange sculptures of distorted figures start to appear strapped to trees.I’ve not long finished this and I still don’t know what to make of it. Burns creates a compelling world with his economical story telling and stylish visuals but I never really felt anything for the characters in the story, I think I stayed with it more out of fascination rather than genuine concern. My wife bought me this because it was on a top ten list in the Guardian and to be fair it is a very beautiful and twisted book it just never really grabbed me. Why do the kids continue to have unprotected sex when they can see how horrific the consequences can be? and why is there no mention of the disease in the national media, school or even at home? If its a parable for AIDs then it just doesn’t work, if its a twisted take on teenage angst then I’d like at least one of the characters to be someone I can feel something for. I liked it but I’m not sure why, it has a dark resonance like a fading dream but in the end it was all too vague for me.

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