A review of

Under My Roof

by Nick Mamatas

Central question: Are we more than a product of where we’re born?
Format: 176 pp., paperback; Size: 5" x 8"; Price: $12.95; Publisher: Soft Skull Press; Editor: Tennessee Jones; Print run: 2,000; Book design: Timothy Goodman and Luke Gerwe; Typeface: Galliard; Number of years author spent on the book: Three months, spread out over three years—one month per year—due to cross-country moves, shattered love affairs, and the theft of a rental property’s copper piping and furnace; Occurrences of the word bomb in book: 28; Representative passage: “I really just wanted things to be like they were before—when Dad and I were building the bomb. When we had time together.”

After Daniel Weinberg and his son, Herbert, scour their local dump for five thousand smoke detectors—which collectively contain enough of the ingredient Americium-241 to build a nuclear bomb—King Daniel (a self-conferred title) declares the independence of his suburban home (“Weinbergia”) from Long Island and the rest of the United States. He’s had enough of the U.S. and its unnecessary wars and he wants to exert some control over his own destiny. Also, he’s somewhat aimless and heading toward crazy.

Our narrator, Prince Herbert, possesses the ability to read minds, including yours—he knows what the reader is thinking—and will eventually harness this power to help his father’s roster of future minions. Herbert’s a tremendous asset to the cessation cause, even if no one quite understands what he’s capable of. “There wasn’t a secret in the world I couldn’t dig out of someone’s brain,” he says. Clearly it’s not quite our world he’s talking about. (When it comes to the Americium, however, the notion isn’t entirely far-fetched: when terrorist Dhiren Barot was arrested in 2004, one of his plans involved building a bomb out of ten thousand smoke detectors.)

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Jory John

Jory John is on staff at 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing center in San Francisco. He is also a freelance writer and cartoonist. He runs an independent T-shirt business and cowrites on the daily humor website bigstonehead.net.

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