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Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  246 ratings  ·  61 reviews
The catacombs of ancient Rome served as houses of worship for Christians. When surveyed in the early 1800s, the sewers of Paris yielded gold, jewels, and relics of the revolution. And thousands of people lived in the subway and train tunnels of New York City in the 1980s and ’90s.

What secrets do the Las Vegas storm drains keep? What discoveries wait in the dark? What’s ben
Paperback, 292 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Huntington Press (first published June 1st 2007)
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This is another book about urban exploration (sort of). Beneath the Neon is about the flood tunnels built under Las Vegas early in the 2000s when the city had dealt with the severe problem of flash flooding. I think O'Brien wanted this book to be about the tunnels them...selves and how spooky they are and what artifacts he finds. This is usually the thread which comes from books about urban exploration but turns out the book is about the people who live in the tunnels. This of course makes a who ...more
An interesting topic made boring by the author's ineptitude.
I was a little disappointed with this book. I have read some of the author’s other material on Las Vegas including CityLife articles and his Blue Angel collection. I was expecting a more philosophical analysis of the storm drains of Las Vegas, but what I got was a pretty straight forward account of what one will find if they walk into the Las Vegas sewer. Not much surprised me; it was dirty, wet, full of creepy crawlers, and housing the occasional drug addict. I think the author can find more co ...more
A pretty fascinating read about a writer for a Las Vegas alt-weekly paper who decides to explore the water diversion drains and tunnels of the city to see what, and who, exists down there. Kind of plays right into my thoughts and fears of what would happen to me if I was homeless like these people. All of them have some form of addiction, drugs or gambling, that has forced them to find a way to camp out deep in the drainage tunnels that divert the heavy waters that come during the rare rainstorm ...more
Interesting on some levels, but not enough so to merit finishing it at this point. While new folk are introduced at rapid pace, you never quite get a feel for who they are... what you do get is repeated not-so-subtle "oh the juxtaposition of the bright lights of Vegas and those living beneath the city" moments.

I may finish it at some point down the road, when I'm out of other things to read.
Sabrina Babič
The author is capable of building a focus of the narration around his own personality most skillfully and that focus was like an aura which I was slowly invited and pulled in, as I read, without even noticing it. (I was having too much childlike fun just reading his stories.)
While reading, I went in my mind like »Oh-oh, what a choice of vocabulary,« over and over again, »what collocations, what avenues of expression,« yet at the same time this, at times poetic language seemed too gentle, noble a
Journalist Matt O'Brien brings you with him on his underground journey into the storm drains of Las Vegas. It's an incredible contrast to read about the lives of those living beneath casinos when all you've experienced is the glamourous casinos themselves. It was a captivating book to begin with, but around 60% through, I just wanted it to end. It became a little repetitive and the chapters were quite long and didn't have a good spot to put the book down in between chapters.

The research behind
When I first picked this book up, I thought the author had found some secret network of tunnels under Las Vegas that I was unaware of. I admit I was a bit disappointed to discover he was writing about drainage tunnels, something I'm quite familiar with after having lived in the Southwest for many years. I hadn't thought about people living in them, but I wasn't surprised to learn that they did - Vegas is a rough town that chews a lot of people up and leaves them in difficult situations. Also, it ...more
It's kind of unfair of me to compare this book to the Mole People, but it's hard not to given the scarcity of books on people residing in the underground tunnel systems of urban areas. Matthew O'Brien is a journalist who decided to explore the tunnels of Las Vegas. It's an interesting book, especially the pictures, but the focus is much different than that of the Mole People. This book reads more as an exploration of O'Brien's experience conducting this work, with some information thrown in abou ...more
I LOVE social history being a history teacher and this has to be one of the best social perspective history books I've read. Easy to read and I was hooked and couldn't stop reading! I've heard of the tunnel people of Las Vegas being a resident, and this book took me into their world without having to take my germ and bug-a-phobic self into the tunnels. It was fun to read about places I could imagine, and Matthew wrote with such honesty and integrity and knowledge that it was an instant favorite ...more
Pam M
We all should add to our base knowledge what it is like to live lives different from our own. This book is on living in the storm tunnels under the streets of Las Vegas. It is a rough life. This man explored these tunnels for 4 years.
Analese Alvarez
I put this book down a long time ago, and just recently had to force myself to finish. What started as a promising premise, turned into me questioning: 1. Is this real? and 2. Did the author have a page requirement? Neither of those questions should be asked when reading any non-fiction book. Living in Las Vegas for the past decade, I believe that it is possible for people to be living in the drains, but most of these stories were too far-fetched to try and make this some social commentary about ...more
The idea of a homeless community inhabiting the storm tunnels beneath Las Vegas is a compelling one, but I had a hard time getting through an entire book about it. There wasn't much to find beyond the facts, and there were only so many encounters with people who were down on their luck/broke/addicted/gamblers that could provide any illumination here.

Attempts to pad the book with comparisons to other tunnel people through the history of time were a decent idea, but they only pulled me out of the
There are storm drains underneath Las Vegas that are dry enough to live in most of the year. Many homeless people take shelter there in stark contrast to the glitz and glitter directly above them. This is the story of a reporter who toured the storm drains, met the homeless and told their story. As you can imagine, most of the people he met were addicts, mentally ill or both. Most were men. Most were living in constant danger. When the flood waters come and wash away every thing in the tunnels, ...more
Way more information than I ever wanted on the structure, environment, length, and condition of the Las Vegas underground drain system. What I would have liked was a lot more info on those that live there. That info was sprinkled sparingly throughout the ad nauseum detail about the tunnels themselves. How many times do I need to read about what the author wore, what he took with him for protection, where he parked his car. Should not have been the focus of the story, but it seemed that it was mo ...more
Compelling subject, but off-putting writing.
fleshed out from original articles written by matthew o'brien, this brief but compelling book explores the subterranean underworld of the las vegas drainage system and its' reluctant inhabitants. tapping into a multi-perspectival approach, o'brien explores the various systems with daring and trepidation while delving into who lives below the hum of LV's 24-7 activity.

though some of the writing is not as solid as it could be at points, it's easy to overlook as the general affect is one that make
Semi-interesting topic, but the writing is hokey, the metaphors juvenile and worse, repetitive. Use some imagination for your analogies, please! Nothing makes me cringe faster than a trite simile, unless it is the same trite simile used twice in two pages and then again two chapters later. Ugh. I wanted to smack him if I read that he 'slalomed through the columns' one more time. The author has an inflated sense of purpose and I found myself annoyed and questioning, rather aggressively by the end ...more
Victor Banos
reading is not my powerhouse, in matter of fact the most reading i do on my own time is magazines that interest me. but this book is such an eye opener to what is going on here in las vegas. when reading this book the narrator makes sure that the reader is intrigued the whole time. becuase not once was there a moment of distraction while reading this book. i recommend this book to any human being that has any interest in change in the world. although the main focus was in las vegas change can ha ...more
Steve Larson
Mildly interesting account of homeless people living "under" Las Vegas. Author seemed to relate almost too well with the storm drain dwellers.
Carol Sauer formica
It was interesting to read about the people in the tunnels and what got them there, why they stay, etc. I just felt like each chapter was pretty much the same as the previous one, and the whole story probably could have been accomplished in a couple of chapters. As a result, it took me a while to finish this one.
Being raised in Vegas for 18 years, I never thought anything about the storm drains and tunnels and all the "mundane" details about my hometown. This book was great to read and the people the author encounters in the book are fascinating to read about. It made me want to take a look in the drains when I go home next time, but definitely not alone. As for his writing style, I saw no problem with it. It was easy to read and to follow, and that did not take away from the story.
Brent Dyer
The conceit of this book is a little weird: adventuring through the drainange tunnels of Las Vegas. But the writing is solid and the real point of the book---exploring the lives of the marginalized in Las Vegas---is brilliant.

If you love Vegas, the descriptions of its inner workings is a lot of fun. But, at the same time, the details of the lives of the lost and homeless will make you realize how much of what visitors experience is a Disney-like veneer.
Parts of the book were memorable such as the conversations with those who live in the tunnels of Las Vegas and some of the history behind those who have lived in tunnels around the world. Some of the descriptions of walking through the tunnels and turning left, right, left etc became quite repetitive by the end.

Two thumbs up for the advocacy the author has done outside of the book to help those who live below the glitz of vegas.
Jason Koehler
Matt O'Brien's gripping narrative of the shadowy lives being led under the Las Vegas Strip is as interesting and compelling as it is sobering. This is subject matter that sorely needed to be brought to light and the author does a terrific job of describing a scene that few of us could otherwise imagine. Suspenseful, well-written, and moving, this first-person account gave me an entirely new perspective on the culture of Las Vegas.
Every year for the past several years I've gone to Las Vegas. Through Matthew's descriptions of where he was exploring I feel like I could see in my mind's eye where he was. When I go back again next year I'll be sure to pay more attention when I look out the window. I'm curious, now that it's three years later, what other kinds of things he's discovered "Beneath the Neon." I hope to read more of this author's writing.
The topic is facinating to me and lead me to impulse-buy this book. Beneath the Neon chronicles explorations of Las Vegas drainage tunnels. Similar to the documentary "Dark Days" there are a lot of things that happen below our feet often unbeknownst to most of us.

I could not stand the authors style. His writing is very very informal and the editing is a bit sloppy. Its a quick read though so its not too bad i guess.
Liz Carrasco
Awesome investigation into the underground flood channels where homeless people live. Done by a local reporter, it is a fascinating account of his interaction with many homeless people. He tells their stories very well, as each person has a different reason for living down in the flood channels. It's hard to believe with all the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas that there is a neglected underground right under our noses.
What an interesting read. I was in Las Vegas a year ago and had no idea about the whole other world that was beneath me as I walked on the Strip. Las Vegas is known for it's glitz and glamour but this book shows the dark side of Vegas of what happens when the drugs and gambling get the best of you. A great read about all the tunnels that run underneath Vegas and the stories of the people who live in them.
Sep 14, 2008 Jeannie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in urban exploration
I did enjoy this book BUT I kept waiting for something more to happen. The author gives in-depth descriptions of the tunnels and what he saw there, honestly they put their lives in danger more than once and I kept waiting for something truly bad to happen. A suspenseful account of a world we will hopefully never see or know.
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Matthew O'Brien is an author and journalist who's lived in Las Vegas since 1997. His first book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas, chronicles his adventures in the city's underground flood channels. His second book, My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas, is a creative-nonfiction collection set in ...more
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