Saturday, August 23, 2014
Subconscious Ghostwriter: Black Hole Butterfly, a novel by Salem
Salem presents an algorithm of the mind in Black Hole Butterfly, inviting readers to play a blind chess game starting at a point approaching chaos then working toward increasing levels of reality. We are limited in our ability to play the game by seeing the world through the mind’s eye of Rook Black, a private detective who solves crimes in a futuristic almost unrecognizable New York City. He seems to have had some success in his cases brokered and supported by an information technology specialist Cosmo. Angela is the agent of action who takes the case information from Cosmo and gives it in disguised form to Rook (he likes a good challenge).
Rook has a good tolerance for unreality and investigates unusual people and events with enthusiasm. The case that dominates Rook’s mind is the murder/suicide of his genius master chess playing father, the man who taught Rook the art of playing chess while blindfolded. This tragic event seems to have triggered an addiction in Rook with mind altering consequences. He has a dominating need to seek out parallel realities, multiple levels of experience determined by the written and spoken word. Language includes codes that can exist in multiple levels of consciousness.
In the beginning of the novel, Rook’s life has been transformed as if an “internal, subconscious ghostwriter was penning” his realites. Rook is helpless in his addiction, reclining on his “psychonaut” couch experiencing infinitely modified reiterations of a week long experience. The experience is a self-authoring state, like automatic writing used by existential surrealist writers of the mid-20th Century. It is like tuning in to a cosmic radio with many channels broadcasting the fundamental conscious nature of the universe. Chaos is channel 0, while Rook’s personal channel is 113, an anchor for all the characters in the novel, the eye of the storm. If competing forces can dominate Rook’s channel, they will be able to self-author reality and control the New York area.
As he comes to understand he is the eye of the storm, Rook keeps trying to find out why he is the chosen one. A cast of characters attempt to hijack Rook for survival reasons because if he dies, the ghostwriter’s work comes to an end and they all die. He keeps trying to find out who he is but his identity is elusive. The cost of his psychonaut addiction is a proliferation of black hole butterflies that flutter around him sucking his consciousness into quantum shadows, the archetypal forms behind classical reality. Even though Rook is living a cycle of seven, the same seven day week over and over, there are black holes in his memory.
The ghostwriter starts Rooks narrative on the edge of chaos and doles out a bit more reality with each week, a bit less interference with black hole butterflies. Readers are set free of the limitations of Rook’s impaired consciousness in a great reveal at the end of the novel. Although the novel is written backwards requiring readers to remain in a hallucinogenic state for most of the novel, the theme is positive. Rook moves from hopeless addiction to parallel realities to an acceptance of his real emotional reaction to his father’s death.
Salem has written a novel that some may consider a “bad trip.” But, I would say that the only thing you have to fear is retrieving memories from your own black hole butterflies.