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Beneath: 03/07/16

Beneath by Roland Smith

Beneath by Roland Smith is about a younger brother looking for his older one in Manhattan. Pat, though the younger brother, has been looking out for Coop his entire life. Now that means hunting for him after he falls off the grid somewhere in New York.

Something is off with Coop. He's probably in the autistic spectrum but was never formally diagnosed. He was just that kid that every one knew about in their small town.

When Cooper was younger he dug extensive tunnels under their town. Now he's found a better underground place to live — under Manhattan in the abandoned tunnels of long forgotten infrastructure.

According to the picture book, Under New York (Link to Review) by Robert Ravevsky there are three layers of New York infrastructure:

  • 0-30 feet: water pipes, gas lines, steam pipes, telephone lines, fiber optic cable, electrical power lines
  • 30-200 feet: subways and sewers
  • 200+ feet: A new water tunnel

Pat in searching for his brother, discovers two different underground societies, one near the surface, and one far below and much scarier. These two worlds dig out their territories around the remains of the old Murray Hill Reservoir which now serves as the foundation for a public library.

And it was the inclusion of real world landmarks of New York and it's long history of underground construction that got me thinking about the vast number of stories that take place under the city, especially under Manhattan. I suppose with it being an island on a solid foundation that there has been more of a need to build down as much as to build up.

There are numerous stories that include trips under Manhattan and even entire underground societies. My thoughts prompted an entire thread on Tumblr listing all sorts of stories.

For Beneath I had a few concerns. The underground world here requires so much to have been forgotten. While I do realize there are abandoned pneumatic tube stations, an entire brick apartment building, even if falling apart, seems hard to swallow. The building isn't even really a big part of the story; it serves as a roadblock for both Coop and Pat.

Mostly though, Beneath reminded me of a cross between the 1990s TV series Beauty and the Beast and The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert.

Four stars

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