Gramedia Pustaka Utama
Welcome to Underground, the most prominent music television station in the United States, where young, talented entertainers and VJs live their normal lives, that is if you can call living under the limelight for ten hours a day, flying on Marquis Jet to cover AmsterJam and Live 8, and pose for the cover of Rolling Stonemagazine `normal`.
Under the spotlight, everything seems perfect. Liv has just been listed as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. Stefan, the so-called most eligible bachelor in New York, successfully started a celebrity online promotion company. Gavin got his band signed on a major label. Claire is being headhunted by MTV and VH1. Heather and Jared are making the most of their love story on set. Shareef and Aaliyah can easily replace Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to pose for W magazine as the perfect American family.
But when the spotlights have went out and the red carpet has been rolled, they have to face the hard truth. Abstinence versus promiscuity, gossips on tabloids, drugs, plastic surgery, to unwanted pregnancy are just the tip of the iceberg.
Underground is a simple novel about the complex life of celebrities, although like most of us, they are too still trying to define the true meaning of friendship and love.
When I read the blurb of Ika Natassa's first novel that she wrote, "Underground", it seems like it wants to scream everything that I love the most in this world: US pop culture, music, and MTV--which Natassa veraciously describes, "back in the era when you're still pampered with lots and lots of music videos". But, that's the first and the last time we're consonant. I know based on Natassa's way of describing MTV, she watched it on the pricey cable TV, while I watched it only on a local terrestrial TV. Even so, the spirit of MTV's youth is still the same. So, when "Underground", which is first self-published in nulisbuku, is republished again in a mega-major publisher, it becomes viral by word of mouth, just like all of her "previous" novels, including "Critical Eleven".
"Underground" is first drafted when Natassa was still 19 years old, circa late 90's and beginning of 2000's, back when No Doubt is still relevant and Britney Spears just released "I'm A Slave 4 U"'s music video. As you can see and probably notice, you can still feel Natassa's rawness and amateurishness. You can feel her teenage angst which is portrayed by the reaction of her characters' which are in twenty-something, but act like a bunch of teenagers who can't get past of their glorious days of adolescence; teenagers are the most presumptuous creature in this world. So, Natassa's amateurism is completely understandable because I, myself, underwent the same thing. "Underground" somehow reminds me of the first draft of young adult book that I wrote when I was in sixth grade: jumpy plot, trying to pour everything I know in the book, cringeworthy and unbearably pretentious. Natassa's just a teenager back then. But, even a late teenager knows about the intrinsic elements of literary work: about point of view, description, plot, and setting.
Clearly, Natassa doesn't use outline when she wrote Underground. It's shown in the way she structures the plot: it's expansive, unfocused, and heartless. Natassa's "Underground" is filled with plethora of characters who talk and behave the same, and each of them has conflicts which are (un)surprisingly similar. It basically is like a rendition of Indonesian soap opera, full of promiscuity and dramatic characters. It's arduous to grasp the summary of "Underground"'s main plot. The intention of the book is unclear, and the plot is just plotless. I know that Natassa is having fun when she wrote "Underground"; once again, it's elucidated clearly in the book. The cool music events, glamorous lifestyle of New York socialites, pretty girls and handsome boys; I completely understand how enticing those are and I'm sure Natassa is fascinated by them back then. So, why does she need to think about the plot back then? After all, this is like the coolest book ever, that's probably what she thought back then. Again, I understand this completely. I went through the same phase back then.
But, trust me. Reading "Underground" must be accompanied by an ample level of understanding. If it's Persona 4, I'm sure my understanding level can reach "saintly" quite fast if I read "Underground" regularly. So, I must understand when "Underground"'s point of view doesn't make sense. Natassa writes from, what I called, the-omniscient-first-and-third point of view, a new classification of point of view, specifically is created only for "Underground". Even in my first draft, I don't mix first and third point of view in the same scene. I may mix the omniscience of the narrator, but that's still understandable. That's just only point of view. The characters, which are really cool and good-looking and perfect, are like the epitome of fictional characters' shallowness and superficiality. With incredulous amount of jealousy and simple thinking--what they talk about is only opposite gender and music--"Underground"'s characters are not struggling, and it's not fun. What makes us, a normal human being, sympathize with a character is because they struggle a lot. The characters may go into something drastic that changes their life, but Natassa resolves it pretty quickly, leaving no impression. "Underground" mostly contains the mundane luxurious life of these characters and once again, it's understandable if people struggle when they read the book.
In "Underground", you can also observe the seed of what I call "Natassa's pretentiousness", a fun fact that she wants to spread around to the world. Again, I've done the same thing in my first draft. Natassa sows her seed of pretentiousness that she reaps in her following opuses where she does it quite smoothly (gladly). Again, I can understand it completely and I'm glad that she improves her ability to sow the seed in her next books. "Underground" is also filled with a lot of metonymy where she mentions a lot of brand in her narration, like:
I looked at my Tag Heuer.or
He wore his Ermenegildo Zegna, looking attractive.or
Daniel wore his Cressida jeans.In "Underground", there's no description. It's just like a drama script, with only a few lines of brief explanation. It's a rarity to see a paragraph containing more than five lines. The favorite line of "Underground" is We laughed, and indeed we laughed at this book's stupidity. But once again, it's understandable.
"Underground" is like the ultimate chimera of hers, an escape from shitty life, and only fictional characters are people who completely understand what she goes through. Trust me, I know that feel. When I decide to read this book, I give it my benefit of doubt. Oh, well, okay, I admit I have a little mocking tendency, but I really hope that this book will surprise me in a good way, but apparently not. I believe that when your work is published, you are ready to be deconstructed like this as a consequence, even by nobody like me. There's no justification even if the author is still juvenile. I just still don't understand the reason why "Underground" is republished without going through editing process or rewriting. I may sound covetous, which is true; a little, but if it isn't Ika Natassa, I'm sure it won't be published. I have an evil suspicion in my mind, but I better keep it to myself. For me, "Underground" is not a complete book, and that's why the rating is low.
The review is written from my cheap Asus.
The review is written from my cheap Asus.