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Move Under Ground Paperback – August 8, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this tour de force, which is Mamatas' first novel, the Beats meet the elder gods of H. P. Lovecraft, and a harrowing time is had by all. It's the early sixties, and Jack Kerouac is hiding from his public in Big Sur, enjoying the company of a Hindu deity in the form of a redhead he calls Marie and waiting for word from Neal Cassady, his and many another Beat's charismatic hero. Word he gets, including some babbling on about the Old Ones rising out of the Pacific and sweeping across America. That sets Jack off in search of Neal and, with Neal and eventually Bill Burroughs, on a cross-country jaunt just ahead, or behind, the advancing dark tide of the Old Ones. Destination: Mannahatta, where the since-separated Jack and Neal have a showdown--with each other! Mamatas virtuosically parodies Kerouac's pell-mell On the Road style, but Burroughs' Naked Lunch and Exterminator, minus the outre sex, are more obvious templates for this wild, weird, woolly romp. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The American dream reveals itself to be a Lovecraftian nightmare in Mamatas's audacious first novel, set in the early 1960s, which goes on the road with Kerouac, Cassaday and Cthulhu. Jack Kerouac is in California when he receives cryptic letters from soulmate and muse Neal Cassaday, whose hallucinatory ramblings evoke "the Dark Dreamer" (aka Cthulhu), the Lovecraftian deity of cosmic entropy whom Jack blames for the era's stultifying forces of conformity, commercialism and complacency. After Jack rescues Neal from his new life as a gas station owner in Nevada, the two reverse the steps of their earlier westward trek, fighting skirmishes with "the Cult of Utter Normalcy" that serves the god, en route to a climactic showdown in New York City. The book has no more plot than Kerouac's On the Road, but the author makes Jack and Neal's surreal adventures in middle America seem the perfect expression of Lovecraft's mind-blasting horrors. He gives quaint cameos to Allen Ginsburg as a sewer-trolling prophet and William S. Burroughs as a god-swatting exterminator extraordinaire. He also manages a credible pastiche of Kerouac's visionary prose, as in this description of Manhattan: "The heart of the world, concrete and fleshy, green money pouring in and out from every corner of earth through arteries of commerce and culture, all choked up and poisoned with the madness of dead gods' dreams." Though Lovecraft reduxes are common in horror, few show the wit and energy of this original effort.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Prime Books; First Edition edition (August 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809556731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809556731
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,593,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have several complaints about this book.
First, its dimensions are entirely Euclidean. The thing doesn't fit on any of my bookshelves. I've ordered my gibbering servants to get me one from Ikea, but I'm having a heck of a time putting it together.
Second, I don't like the fact that I'm made into a kind of allegory for conformity and the alienating effects of late capitalism on the middle class. I've always thought of myself as either an old hippie or, perhaps, an ancien regime man of leisure. Think about it -- all I do is sleep and dream.
That said, Mamatas effortlessly nails Kerouac's style without limiting himself -- which is great fun. There's eldritch kung-fu a-plenty, and horrible, unforgettable passages that will blast you out of complacency with their blasphemous, marxist terror.
I wish I could write a book but my giant hands crush typewriters.
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Format: Paperback
Normally, this is the sort of book I would avoid with a "you gotta be kidding me," snort. The premise-- Jack Kerouac meeting the Lovecraftian Deep Beasties-- sounds like a bad joke, a juvenile wankfest in the land of the lame. And that would have been the end of it.

It's rare for me to find myself slapped in the face with "don't judge a book by it's cover," but this is profoundly one of those times. "Move Under Ground" makes what could seriously have been a goofy, mawkish premise and makes it gorgeous, rich and interesting. The writing is delightful and just plain fun to read. And then if you want to get even more high-falutin', the language is exquisite and works, and makes the whole idea about as awesome in age as one would have thought it could be in high school. And it is truly and utterly awesome. Mamatas is to be commended not only for creating a madly enjoyable read, but for compelling me to actually write a review for it as well. If the idea turns you off at first, take a moment, think again, and seriously, give it a go. You won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
Nick Mamatas, Move under Ground (Night Shade Books, 2004)

Nick Mamatas does more than fulfill the promise of his first novella, Northern Gothic, in his debut novel. In fact, he's more than fulfilled the promise of any five young new writers. No matter how you end up feeling about the book itself, you just have to admire the guy's hubris at attempting to take two subgenres of fiction that passed the cliché stage decades ago and add in the exceptionally risky practice of incorporating historical characters into fiction. That the result is at all readable would have been a triumph. That it's actually good is nothing short of miraculous.

Jack Kerouac is recovering from a nervous breakdown in Big Sur when he gets a strong urge to go find Neal Cassady, who (if you'll remember from the end of On the Road) ditched him in Mexico. Knowing Cassady will likely be in San Francisco, Kerouac sets out, and soon stumbles upon a sight neither he, nor anyone reading the opening pages of this book who's somehow managed to miss all the synopses, expected to see: R'lyeh, no longer sleeping, rising from the waves. Yes, folks, the Great Old Ones are back, and Jack Kerouac and his longtime travelling companion have to save the world. However, along the way Kerouac realizes that not only is Neal acting strangely-- does he want to save the world, or is he just looking for the ending of his next novel?-- but that the Earth is only a minuscule part of the bigger stakes of a war between Cthulhu and Azathoth...

I mean, come on. You can't read that synopsis and not tell me it's not a recipe for absolute disaster.
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Format: Paperback
As a writer, sometimes I encounter ideas other people get that make me feel like poking them with tiny forks to punish them for coming up with them first, assuming of course, that I would have, which I probably would not. When you read Ginsberg's Howl or Burroughs' Naked Lunch or Kerouac's Dr.Sax, you can feel something seething beneath the surface, like they know that there are foul rotten stinking things at the core of our reality that want to deprive of us of our joy, our bliss and our inner light that will feed off our desperation and impatience and hate to make us forge a world we do not want. That sounds like a certain icthyophobic New England shut in that we all know and love. These things had to come together, like chocolate and peanut butter, or chocolate and raisins, or chocolate and bacon. And Nick Mamatas made that happen. It wasn't a hack or somebody doing a Mad TV caliber impersonation of Kerouac and Burroughs, it wasn't Kerouac: The Legendary Journeys. It was art. Great art. Fun art. Sad art. Dark art. Art with a capital A. Holy the blazing guns of Bill Burroughs, holy the flailing tentacle! Holy! Holy! Holy!
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Format: Paperback
I've read nearly 200 books so far this year, and very few of them have actually given me pleasure. Many were routine/trite, some were compelling, I gues--I wanted to keep reading--but very few were that kind of full-body reading experience, where you are inside the story as if walking through a thrilling new forest while at the same time realizing you are enjoying yourself and nothing you could be doing at that moment would be more right than reading this particular book in this chair on this street this night.

I can't stand literary pastiche because it seems dead before it's out of the gate--someone else's world, someone else's characters, without the creator's energy and life force moving them around.

You'll have noticed by now that I've said nothing about the book itself, only about how I felt reading it, and how I was prejudiced against it before buying it. Well, look at how many stars I've given it, and really, what more do I have to say?

Nick--write more books.
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