John Nelson's Reviews > Crash Gordon and the Illuminati Underground

Crash Gordon and the Illuminati Underground by Derek Swannson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: modern-fiction

In the latest installment of the Crash Gordon series, we're offered a tale that diverges from the previous books in two specific ways: A.) The main character isn't Crash Gordon, but rather his younger brother, Derek (basically, the author); and B.) This book has a contemporary setting, rather than the earlier books’ time capsule recreations of the 1970s through the early-1990s, when the characters were much younger. Crash Gordon and the Illuminati Underground takes place during the cold-hearted years of 2015 and 2016. You can feel the loss of musical icons, the drudgery of the 2016 presidential election, and the soullessness of mobile addiction on every page.

In fact, the theme of the book might be summarized as: How Internet addiction is destroying American culture. It's taking away our desire to read books and enjoy authentic music, while fueling our social media narcissism like a cancer. Swannson is flipping his middle finger at technology giants like Amazon and Apple for having too much control over media consumerism, and at pop icons such as Kanye West and Miley Cyrus for being Auto-Tuned distractions from more important social issues.

The book starts with Derek living his simple life in California as an architect with his awesome girlfriend, Pam. When one of Derek’s dear old friends is viciously killed at the same time that the sales of his books start spiking, Derek decides that he and Pam should visit his brother Crash, in New York, so Crash can help them figure out what's going on. Along the way, they encounter Kanye West’s stand-in, Conye Best—who turns out to have the ability to shoot fiery lasers from his eyeballs when everyone around him is drunk or stoned. Without giving away any spoilers, Pam disappears and Derek, following clues, travels to Seattle to confront Jeb Beezos—the billionaire CEO of Glamazon—who introduces Derek to the Prince of Darkness during an epic journey through hell, which is literally right underground in the Pacific Northwest, hidden away in a system of caverns and tunnels known as the Mohorovičić discontinuity—or simply, the Moho. (Twin Peaks fans, take note.)

The fact that I could summarize this book at all shows just how different it is in style from the previous two Crash Gordon books. Those first two books had an organic (verging on random) feel with story events until they were tied up very neatly at the end. This one has a much clearer storyline where everything happens in a more traditional narrative. In that, it resembles his previous book, The Snowden Avalanche. Swannson’s writing technique has grown too. The details felt more visual. I felt like I was drawn into the scenes much more, and in many ways this was a lot more fun to read (even though the first two books have a very rebellious rock-‘n’-roll aura of weed, aliens, and kinky sex). The underground Illuminati journey through hell is, by itself, enough to make this new book worth reading; it comes across as a pastiche of Neil Gaiman, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and a living Black Metal CD cover.

But while this book is undeniably fun, the subtext of Swannson's message is clear on every page: propagandizing mass media, Internet addiction, and obsession with the “non-stop porno freak show” of pop culture have become a cancer upon our society. It’s as big a problem as climate change, corrupt politicians, and corporate greed. Swannson is taking the helm from Aldous Huxley (and perhaps even Orwell) in that he's presenting an entertaining means to examine how tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are becoming our thought police, contributing to an infantilization of our society. We’re allowing ourselves to be amused to death with low-end hip-hop moguls, crappy social media posts, and other dissociative distractions. And meanwhile, those in power continue to consolidate their crypto-fascist means of mass control.
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Reading Progress

November 21, 2016 – Started Reading
November 21, 2016 – Shelved
November 21, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
November 21, 2016 –
page 30
November 28, 2016 –
page 60
November 30, 2016 –
page 100
17.57% "For my slow reading ass, this is tearing through this thing at a speed reader level"
December 1, 2016 –
page 148
December 6, 2016 –
page 294
December 13, 2016 –
page 400
70.3% "I loved chapter 27 the most. And the tribute to Neuromancer is fantastic (I will assume this is intentional)"
December 20, 2016 –
page 495
86.99% "I just had to make a progress update here, even though I'm almost done. I love the description of "hell" It's like a mixture of Neil Gaiman meets D&D. Wicked cool as shit"
December 23, 2016 – Finished Reading
December 24, 2016 – Shelved as: modern-fiction

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