The Cipher by Kathe Koja (1991)
“The stage is not only a world apart, it is a myriad of worlds, and in those worlds a man can have anything he fancies, if only he believes in what he sees.”
Nicholas and his friend Nakota one day discover a bizarre and endless black hole in the floor of an abandoned storage room in his apartment building. They are so fascinated and obsessed by it that they perform experiments to see what the “Funhole” will do. First they put a jar of insects next to it, then they dangle a mouse over it, which all come back violently mutated. Next, they lower a camcorder into the hole to record the action within. The videotape they retrieve is spellbinding, but there’s a catch: what Nicholas sees is different from everyone else’s vision.
The concept behind “The Cipher” is so interesting, original and intriguing, that once the protagonists start experiencing with the “Funhole” you won’t be able to put it this book down. It is great, creepy and uncomfortable. You will start asking questions: “What is the funhole? A portal into another world? A gap in reality?” In the end some of the main questions are left unanswered, but that was a clever choice.
This is by no means a perfect book, unfortunately it loses some steam halfway in and the writing tends to be a bit awkward. Maybe it would have worked better as a short story. Kathe Koja is a talented writer and this is a unique horror book, although flawed, it is still an impressive debut.