If there were a drug that brought you back to the time when you were happiest but had devastating consequences in the present, would you take it?
That's the central question of Bucky Sinister's hilarious novel about hardcore drugs and time travel.
Black Hole is set in a near-future San Francisco where massive gentrification has ruined the city Chuck loves. Chuck, a hard-partying old punk, lives in a rented room and works for a startup that sells genetically modified miniwhales to the super rich. But his real passion is drugs.
"I don't remember the last day I wasn't on something, coming off something, or recovering from something; usually it's a mix of all three in varying degrees, like three colors of light that sometimes, occasionally, when I get the mix right, burns a perfect pure white."
Chuck seeks out the latest, greatest, and not-yet-illegal designer drugs. There's pump: a thermogenic hallucinogen that's a cross between ecstasy and Viagra and also burns calories so you lose weight while you party. Or, to make the good times last longer, there's remote, which slows down time so you can savor every second. It's great when you're having sex but a real drag when you're in pain. Whatever the drug, Chuck is a connoisseur:
"The first time you get high on anything, it's full of promise, potential, probable bliss. Maybe it's going to be your favorite. Maybe it's the best yet. Maybe it's the drug that finally fixes you. But whatever it is, that first time is special. It's the one that feels the best. It's the time you use to judge all following usages of that drug."
While partying with his boss one night, Chuck is introduced to black hole—a strange new substance that delivers a high like nothing else he's ever experienced: "The world is a good place. It's full of love and I am a vessel for its energy. Energy and matter. That's all we are and we think we're special and unique but from the point of view of the universe, we're all just slow energy that fucks and eats and kills."
However, after repeated uses, black hole starts to affect his sense of continuity in the time stream. He keeps blacking out and waking up in the past. For Chuck, his happy place is the Mission District in the early '90s when rent was cheap, drugs were plentiful and everyone was authentically cool. In other words, the opposite of the way things are now. This discrepancy allows for some of Sinister's most scathing criticism of modern day gentrifiers.
"How many purebred dogs will you go through in one lifetime? How many hybrid cars will you purchase? I hope you had a nice time with your life. I did stuff. I may end up with nothing, but we'll both be dead and it won't matter."
Sinister rails on everything from Starbucks ("I'm against these marketing fuckers branding something that didn't need it.") to brunch ("Brunch is the disco of this decade.") However, his travels into the past take him to some dark places that prompt him to re-evaluate the past. Were the good old days really that good?
It's a question one senses that Sinister, who is roughly the same age and background as Chuck, has wrestled with. Although Black Hole is Sinister's first novel, he's an experienced storyteller. He uses his experiences as a punk and a drug addict in his poetry, recovery writing and stand-up routines. While Black Hole is too raw to call polished, it rips along at a breakneck pace and is written with the authority of someone who "did stuff":
"Two junkies are fighting over a glove. Each one has a glove and claims the other stole the other glove. This is the kind of thing that matters down here. This is what you get stabbed over, what you get a brick in the back of the head over, what gets you pushed in front of the 27 Bryant."
While the Internet is full of stories bemoaning the changes taking place in major American cities, none are as wild and raucous as the twisted world Bucky Sinister reports on and imagines in Black Hole. He also has some wise words about addiction, drug use and never wanting the good times to end:
"Sure there're drugs and sex and loud music but they only frame the hole; they don't fill it."