Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | August 24, 2008

Nick Mamatas: Move Under Ground


First let me make clear that on this blog I do not make artistic distinctions between “genre fiction” and “literature,” by which I mean that you will not read snooty comments about how a science-fiction (or Lovecraftian horror) story lacks the sophistication of a work of Real Literature (that amorphous mass that constitutes, primarily, stories about Real Life or something like it). If I don’t like a book, I’ll dislike it for something else, bad writing, for instance. The inability to spell-check. Plot holes. Hell, if a book has these things, it probably won’t even show up here, as I won’t likely be able to make it through reading it.


Second, let me assure you that this book, though not Real Literature, is clever, well-crafted, and at times even poetic. But there’s a measure of suspension of disbelief that must take place in one’s mind before one can fully enjoy this book. Allow me to demonstrate.


Before you read this book, a test: picture, if you will, that it is the 1960s. Jack Kerouac has gotten sick of being famous, and has retreated to Big Sur to be alone with his typewriter. Now picture R’lyeh rising from the depths of the ocean, “squares” (businessmen, churchgoers, etc.) turning into buglike monsters and Shoggoth, Cthulhu sitting high in the sky with his beard of tentacles stretching across America, while the cult of Azathoth grows strong surrounded by cold fire in Manhattan. Now picture Jack Kerouac, accompanied by Neal Cassady and William S. Burroughs, riding across the country to save the world with the help of Buddha and the ex-demon Kilaya.


A question: does the combination of the above content bother you too much to read an entire book about it?

If not, Move Under Ground will be an excellent read for you.

If so, may I suggest something more mundane for this week. Maybe some Agatha Christie.

If you don’t know what the words “R’lyeh,” “Cthulhu,””Shoggoth,” or “Azathoth” mean, it’s time for you to play everyone’s favourite game: Wikipedia~!


But if you are going to read this book, let me assure you of what a mind-blowing treat you’re in for. Mamatas has, in the true spirit of the information age, mashed together and remixed two completely disparate worlds — Kerouac’s America and H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos — and produced a work of such insane intensity that you won’t want to put it down. Even if, like me, you have no idea what’s going on at times.


Also, if I may suggest as a musical accompaniment to your reading, the recent Nine Inch Nails Creative-Commons Licensed Album(s) Ghosts I-IV really fits the bill. Somehow Cthulhu-Armageddon and Trent Reznor go together well.


This is a work of horror, in its most metaphysical sense. Be prepared for unexpected things to happen. Read some zen koans. Study the Dharma. You never know when Cthulhu might rise from the deep, and you might need to know some Old Knowledge to defeat the Elder Gods.


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Nick Mamatas’ Move Under Ground has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. It can be found in electronic form at moveunderground.org. It’s also available on chewed up and spit out trees from Amazon.com. Also, if you just want to send the author a dollar (or pound, euro…) you can click here.


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Next Week… A surprise. (I haven’t decided yet. You’ll know when I know. ^__^)

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