The Austin Chronicle

Curling Up

Gift guide

By Kate X Messer, December 9, 2005, Books

Access All Areas

by Ninjalicious

Infilpress, 242 pp., $20 (paper)

Intended as a "how-to" manual for city hacking – the furtive art of infiltrating the metro underbelly – this triple-A directory of "urban exploration" has become a testament to the life of author Jeff Chapman, aka Ninjalicious, the late Torontoan behind Infiltration, "the zine about going places you're not supposed to go." Who doesn't relish the occasional vacant drainpipe? Or delight in sneaking around abandoned construction boondoggles? One might say the majority of the population, especially in light of securing the homeland über alles. The book muses on societal obedience: "Part of finding exploration sites involves casting off a certain restrained mindset ... and realizing that many of your boundaries are self-imposed, voluntary, and ultimately illusory." While it advocates a wild abandon that teeters precariously on issues of legality, it proposes a "take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints" ethos amid steps to create your own asphalt jungle adventure. The most stealthy aspect of the book, however, is not the advice on disguise or props or locating ripe sites, but Ninja's charming turns of phrase. The scads of research, including a kickass glossary and an "Urban Exploration Timeline," are well worth the price of admission, yes, but it's Chapman's wide eyes and undeniable lust for life that invite readers to wonder what discoveries await beyond the manholes, guard shacks, and No Trespassing signs and to recognize the true come-hither allure that transforms these commonplace fixtures from obstacles into portals, creating a very rough guide to the backstage of everyday life.

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