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Move Under Ground [Hardcover]

Nick Mamatas
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 1 2005
The year is nineteen-sixty-something, and after endless millennia of watery sleep, the stars are finally right. Old R’lyeh rises out of the Pacific, ready to cast its damned shadow over the primitive human world.

The first to see its peaks: an alcoholic, paranoid, and frightened Jack Kerouac, who had been drinking off a nervous breakdown up in Big Sur. Now Jack must get back on the road to find Neal Cassady, the holy fool whose rambling letters hint of a world brought to its knees in worship of the Elder God Cthulhu.

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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.

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

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ftagn! July 10 2004
By A Customer
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Kerouac vs Cthulu June 21 2004
"Move Under Ground" by Nick Mamatas tells the story of the last, great adventure of Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy, and William S. Burroughs; each of them worn down by life and by their own peculiar addictions, but each still somehow sparking with purpose, with joy. The story takes place in an alternate version of our world, where Cthulu and the other Old Ones have returned to place the world of men firmly under their dominion, subverting the 'squares' who have already sold their souls to the corporate machine. A letter from a friend and words from a visiting Bodhisattva spur Kerouac to make one long, final roadtrip to save the world.

It's written in Kerouac's style, that seductive, joyful cadence that makes your heart beat faster, makes you ache to experience everything as fully the narrator has done. It's that cadence that made me fall in love with a writer who died when I was just a child (as soon as I read "The Dharma Bums").

The ending is bittersweet and slow, a little needle to the heart that made me want to travel north to visit Kerouac's gravesite. Maybe I'll hit one of his favorite bars down here, instead, and buy a pint in his memory. If you love Kerouac, you'll love this.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Too hip for the room? July 10 2004
By A Customer
I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend. We are no longer friends. (Kidding .... but this book was really pretty lame.) It's written in a way that is too self-consciously cool, and unlike an homage to the beat authors it was just derivative. I strongly urge you to check this book out at the library or read excerpts before shelling out the bucks. I sure wish I'd done that.
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I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I've liked just about everything I've read by Nick Mamatas, so it came as no surprise to me how accomplished this novel was. Emotional, moving, and wickedly intelligent. You don't even have to be familiar with Kerouac or the Beats to get into it, so don't let that stop you. Read it now, or you risk becoming a mindless, clacking beetleman.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read this. Now. June 12 2004
In lesser hands the premise of Jack Kerouac meets Cthulhu would be just that, a premise, a one trick pony with nothing to see. Not the case here. His use of beat voice and Burroughs-like dreamy metaphor is a perfect match to the slimey beasties of Cthulhu. Move Under Ground is clever and funny, but it's also surprisingly sad and human and profound.
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