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Move Under Ground

Move Under Ground is a horror novel by Nick Mamatas which combines the Beat style of Jack Kerouac with the cosmic horror of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. It was recently made available for free download via a Creative Commons license at the book's website

Plot Summary

Jack Kerouac witnesses the rising of R'lyeh off the California coast. With Neal Cassady and William S. Burroughs, Jack takes to the road, crossing America to save the world from a Lovecraftian cult.

Characters in "Move Under Ground"

Source references

Beat connections

  • The novel begins with Kerouac in Big Sur, and numerous references are made to him heading out "on the road again."
  • The slaves of Cthulhu are referred to as "mugwumps", from the predatory creatures of Burroughs' Naked Lunch.
  • When Burroughs appears, he is wielding a pair of pistols and is said to be playing William Tell, a reference to his killing Joan Vollmer.
  • Burroughs mentions that his book has been unbanned and thanks Kerouac for the title, references to Naked Lunch.
  • Kerouac mentions Dean Moriarty and Jack Duloz.

Cthulhu Mythos connections

  • Cthulhu is the central enemy of the book, and the squares are turned into beings resembling his star-spawn.
  • R'lyeh is seen to rise when the stars are right; however, it is located "closer than Communist Cuba" off the Californian coast, not in its usual location in the South Pacific, however, this may be due to the twisted geometry mentioned below.
  • Cassidy mentions the Three-Lobed Burning Eye and the "Al-Azif" to Kerouac in predicting the coming apocalypse. Kerouac later states that he sent Cthulhu back to "strange aeons," another reference to the Necronomicon.
  • The Elder Gods and Great Old Ones are also mentioned.
  • Kerouac enters the Dreamlands at one point.
  • Numerous references are made to "the Call of Cthulhu."
  • Shoggoths appear several times; however, instead of how they are usually depicted in the Mythos, they appear as agents of Cthulhu that assume the shapes, forms, or personal appearances most likely to drive their target mad.
  • Kerouac talks about trying to get the government to send the "Sea Hunt and gut the Elder God," a possible reference to the submarine torpedoing of Y'ha-nthlei at the beginning/end of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth."
  • As Cthulhu's power rises, America becomes distorted by non-Euclidean geometry.
  • A reference is made to Lovecraft himself; a worker mentions how a serious "gentleman from Providence" named Mr. Love passed through several weeks earlier, predicting the onslaught and building a lighthouse in the desert. He is described as having "eyes so round like a frog's [with a] lipless mouth," characteristics matching the "Innsmouth Look" of the Deep Ones.
  • Kerouac observes Azathoth in the twisted constellations. Cassady later becomes an avatar for Azathoth.
  • After Cthulhu comes to power, all money must be stamped with the Elder Sign; both Lovecraft's branching symbol and August Derleth's five-pointed flaming star variants are mentioned. This could be a reference to the Mark of the Beast being needed for commerce.
  • Chicago is described as being formed of "Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles rising flowerlike and delicate like spun crystal"; this is similar to Lovecraft's description of R'lyeh, Pnakotus, and the City of the Old Ones.
  • The established religions all begin preaching to Cthulhu rather than the Christian god; they are referred to as "cargo cults" and Kerouac uses the term "starry wisdom" to describe them. These are references to several Cthulhu Mythos cults, specifically the Church of Starry Wisdom and the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

Awards and nominations

Release details

  • 2004, USA, Night Shade Books ISBN 1892389916, 15 May 2004, Hardcover
  • 2004, USA, Night Shade Books ISBN 1892389924, 15 May 2004, Signed Limited Edition Hardcover
  • 2005, Germany, ISBN 3937897089, July 2005, Paperback
  • 2006, USA, Prime Books ISBN 0809556731, 26 March 2006, Paperback
  • 2007, Creative Commons release (English language), www.MoveUnderGround.org, 6 February 2007, HTML, PDF, zipped HTML.

Trivia

The limited edition hardcover included the short story "Jitterbuggin'", an afterword, a bound-in ribbon bookmark, and a unique Lovecraftian senryu written by Mamatas. 100 copies of the limited edition were produced, and the senryu were collected as Cthulhu Senryu (Prime Books, 2006).

The title of the book is "Move Under Ground" (three words), not "Move Underground."

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