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The Cipher by Kathe Koja

The Cipher (original 1991; edition 1991)

by Kathe Koja

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297755,961 (3.72)21
Title:The Cipher
Authors:Kathe Koja
Info:New York : Dell, 1991.
Collections:Next Up, To read, Your library, Sci Fi
Tags:horror, ebook, Nook

Work details

The Cipher by Kathe Koja (1991)

  1. 10
    Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (sturlington)
    sturlington: Urban decay and the thin spaces between realities.
  2. 00
    The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (sturlington)
    sturlington: Read these books back-to-back and they seemed very similar in certain ways.

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» See also 21 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I have finally face-planted at the bottom of the Funhole after years of being curious about this novel. I read Skin, but I did not find it quite as enjoyable because I found it harder to follow the story.
But The Cipher was such a fun and interesting story, unlike any other, completely in a genre of its own! I felt the growing sense of dread, and it slowly turned into a disgusting pit in my stomach that could not be coaxed.
I was thoroughly sickened, Yet I was still completely obsessed and enthralled all the way to the end. I simply could not stop reading until I learned more about this Mysterious Hole.
Don’t jump into the Funhole expecting any resolution or answers, and you will have yourself a fun ride.
I wanted to throw quite a few characters down into the hole as well- but these characters weren’t made to be enjoyed, they were made to be loathed! Miss Koja did quite a fine job of creating characters that you want to punch in the face.
I loved the descriptive scenes, and there were quite a few GEMS of literature are mixed up in here. You just have to crawl through pounds of blood and pus to find them.
Well worth the ride, I will definitely read more of Koja, but in small doses. Her creative stream of conscious writing takes some getting used to, and my brain needs some time to adjust back to the normal world.
All in all I loved this book, and I recommend it to all my Horror friends. ( )
  XoVictoryXo | May 31, 2016 |
Nicholas and his sometime-girlfriend Nakota discover a hole to nowhere in the floor of the storage room in Nicholas's apartment building and become irresistibly drawn to it, with bizarre results.

The hole--which Nakota christens the Funhole--is never explained. It has the attraction of the unknown, of something completely outside the realm of mundane existence, which is why Nakota is fascinated by it, despite its obvious dangers. Nicholas's fascination stems at first from his obsession with Nakota, but then he too is ensnared by the Funhole. He becomes literally infected by it and thus belongs to it and is the owner of it in some weird way, which enrages Nakota. Things do not end well.

This is a very strange book, written in almost a stream-of-consciousness fashion. Koja doesn't bother to explain what's happening; as readers, we have to accept that it is happening or go find another book. That can be somewhat frustrating, but the writing is good, and Koja brings this claustrophobic world, with its smells and oozing liquids and wounds, to life. She rubs your face in it, in fact. My main complaint is that I don't think this is quite a novel. It goes on a bit too long, and I think it would have been more effective if it were shorter. ( )
1 vote sturlington | Mar 30, 2016 |
The Basics

Nicholas and Nakota have found a hole in the storage room of Nicholas’s apartment building. It’s far from normal, holds some mysterious power, and compels them to play with fire again and again. Unluckily for Nicholas, Nakota is just the sort of person that could become entirely obsessed with the “Funhole”, as they’ve dubbed it. And he’s just the sort of guy who could become a pawn in a very complicated and existential game.

My Thoughts

Horror is rarely poetry. A lot of authors who try to be scary don’t see a need to do it beautifully, but Kathe Koja obviously does. Moreover they often don’t even reach scary, but Kathe Koja does that, too. This book is physical and metaphysical in its terror. It invites you in, sits you down, and proceeds to tear off layer after layer of safety until you feel as exposed as Nicholas does. And she keeps going until she determinedly finds something that will unnerve, and she will.

This book doesn’t have likeable characters really. Even the likeable ones are clearly flawed. The situation escalates in ways that reek of human nature, and even with this cosmic horror staring you in the face, it winds up feeling depressingly real, because it expresses a great deal about the worst in people. Everything from the mundane things thoughtless people do that are irritating and insulting, all the way up to mob mentality. None of this is a criticism, as these are some of the novel’s greatest strengths, shedding light on dark places and forcing you to look.

The poetry of Koja’s words is really astounding. I don’t think I’ve ever read prose quite like this. It’s half fever dream, half free verse poem. It reads like a nightmare, to the point that I struggled to write “The Basics”. That’s not to say it’s incomprehensible. It doesn’t suffer from that at all. Nor does it feel pretentious, like other works that aspire to such heights might. It is one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read, dancing hand-in-hand with Kafka and giving the finger to convention and banality. It’s making me use words that cost at least ten dollars, and shouldn’t that be recommendation enough?

Final Rating

5/5 Stars ( )
2 vote Nickidemus | Sep 18, 2014 |
A bizarre and haunting story of a failed poet who discovers an eerie hole in the storage room of the sleazy apartment building in which he lives. Not scary so much as creepy and sometimes morbidly funny. ( )
  CarlosMcRey | May 22, 2013 |
The Cipher is a weird, weird book. It’s scary, gross, visceral, and sometimes sexy. It has characters you won’t like. It has a hole to nowhere (everywhere?) with no explanation. It has a lot of messy, uncomfortable emotions. It has beautiful descriptions of things that are kind of disgusting. It’s dark. I loved it. It was gripping and powerful and while some of the recurring themes of filth and coldness and art turned my stomach, I couldn’t put it down. It made me want a hot shower and a fresh cup of coffee more than once. This book embodies all the things that the “bizarro” genre aims to be; mysterious, challenging, unconventional, and thought-provoking. ( )
1 vote pinprick | Aug 9, 2012 |
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Could my wish be fulfilled,
I would want to be the balm
For a sore,
By your saliva.
---Shikatsube No Magao

Conscious or unconscious, it doesn't matter in the real world.
Rick Lieder
For Rick
Impossible without you
With all my love
First words
Nakota, who saw it first: long spider legs drawn up beneath her ugly skirt, wise mouth pursed into nothing like a smile.
Because that's what the Funhole was, wasn't it, that was the key and clue: a negativity, an absence, a lack.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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