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Under My Roof (Soft Skull ShortLit) Paperback – February 28, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this hilarious near-future political satire, a Long Island father-son duo strike a blow for individual freedom by building a nuclear bomb, hiding it in a lawn gnome and declaring independence from the United States. The world, as seen by telepathic 12-year-old narrator Herbert Weinberg, is grim: Latin America has been declared evil (and Canada is the "White Menace"), the president talks of nuclear strikes and planes are blown out of the California sky. Herbert's laid-off father, Daniel, has a Patriot Day freak out, and after he and Herb build the nuke and fax out a press release proclaiming the creation of the kingdom of Weinbergia, the cops, FBI and National Guard descend on the home. Herb's mom, Geri, splits, and as the media pick up on the story (the local weatherman is the first hostage of the "armed micronation"), Weinbergia mania sweeps the nation (even the local Qool Mart convenience store proclaims itself an Islamic republic) and Daniel and Herbie become cult heroes. Trouble looms for Herb, who is kidnapped and briefly reunited with his mother. A big-bang ending caps the fast-paced novel, and there's much fun to be had watching Mamatas (Move Under Ground; Northern Gothic) merrily skewer his targets. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • Series: Soft Skull ShortLit
  • Paperback: 151 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; 1 edition (February 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933368438
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933368436
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,871,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan K. Stephens on January 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is an absolute pip! It's easy, breezy, beautiful and wonderful, Wonderful, WONDERFUL! Damned if I can think of a better way to while away a few hours than by reading it.

12 year old Herbert Weinberg is at that lovely time in his life where he doesn't have a care in the world. Well except for having to deal with his own telepathy, his eccentric genius father building a nuclear bomb and declaring the homestead an independent state and the general adult conspiracy against children to raise them up as vaguely unhappy as themselves.

I got more chortles, snickers and outright belly-laughs out of this book than the average P.G. Wodehouse opus. It's like Mamatas has yanked Wodehouse's type of absurdist family farce right out of the Edwardian age and plunked it down in the 21st century where we need it the most. Unfortunately I understand a distributing snafu has delayed wide release of this little gem, but it's well worth the wait. Where else can you find peace treaties in hot dogs, nuclear bombs in garden gnomes and independent states in the back of Convenience Stores?

You owe it to yourself to pick this one up - Everyone wants to be happy, we're just conditioned to think that being vaguely unhappy is what being adult is all about.
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I straight-up loved this novel. It's got a very engaging voice: it's narrated by a twelve year old kid who's learned far too much about the world by reading the thoughts of those around him. And it's got interesting social commentary: we see the way that a directionless nation latches onto the utopian hope offered up by the very tiny nation created by the kid's father. But, more than all of that, it has a very haunting story at its core. The opening scenes, where the emotionally wounded father goes about matter-of-factly building a nuclear bomb, are some of the most memorable that I've read all year. The father has that very typical middle-aged malaise that we've seen in so many novels, but there's something in the way that this novel draws it out with this crazy, blinkered utopian hope, that makes his malaise seem like something tragic. Maybe it's just because the father doesn't see himself as a tragic figure in the way that the familiar man in crisis does (e.g. Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe or Richard Yates' Frank Wheeler). Nor is he obsessed and inhuman, like Captain Ahab. He's just a person who's trying to do the best he can.

You should read this book. It's short and unlike anything else that's out there. It'll be one of the best afternoons that you've had in awhile.
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Format: Paperback
Nick Mamatas, Under My Roof (Soft Skull Press, 2007)

Nick Mamatas returns with his first young adult novel, Under My Roof. If you're used to Mamatas' rather acerbic wit, then you know what to expect (and why are you reading a review? You already know you want the book. Get it). If not, well, let me introduce you. Or, better yet, introduce yourself and don't bother reading a review; suffice to say Mamatas is one of the better young writers out there, and he has yet to release a book that doesn't lend solid evidence to that hypothesis. So just buy it already.

What, you're still here? Okay. It's pretty difficult to stick up a synopsis without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say there's Herbert, a psychic twelve-year-old kid, and his dad Daniel, who wants to secede from the United States, and thus hides a one-megaton nuclear device in a garden gnome, sticks it out on his front lawn, and declares his house and yard the Sovereign Kingdom of Weinbergia. As expected, panic erupts. As perhaps not expected, there's also a sudden and widespread surge of hope as hundreds of other separationists start popping out of the woodwork and seceding from the United States. (While I don't think it's ever explicitly stated for any of them but Weinbergia, it seems the tiny island nation of Palau is very interested in setting up trade relations with the lot of them.)

Yeah, yeah, political satire, blah blah blah. Everyone else has already remarked on all that. What I haven't seen is anything about the wonderful disjunction of having as your narrator a psychic prepubescent. Here's a kid who's pretty much guaranteed to be a walking advertisement for antipsychotics were he to really exist.
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Format: Paperback
Brilliant and biting. I loved this book. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. I just loved the nuclear bomb in the garden gnome.

What else can you say about a book that combines nuclear bombs, free hotdogs, quickmart secessions and fame hungry journalists?

I can't describe the book without giving away too much of the plot or the deliciously funny situations that are in it. But I will say this, it hits close to home with the way the country has become so divided in the last eight years. This may poke fun, but at its center it shows the problems facing the U.S. in a light hearted but grimly honest way.
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