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Shambling Towards Hiroshima

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  542 ratings  ·  100 reviews
2010 Sturgeon Award winner
Nebula and Hugo Award nominee

It is the early summer of 1945, and war reigns in the Pacific Rim with no end in sight. Back in the States, Hollywood B-movie star Syms Thorley lives in a very different world, starring as the Frankenstein-like Corpuscula and Kha-Ton-Ra, the living mummy. But the U.S. Navy has a new role waiting for Thorley, the role o
Paperback, 170 pages
Published 2009 by Tachyon Publications
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(showing 1-30 of 1,114)
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This novella has a hilarious premise: In the last months of the Second World War, a horror actor is recruited by the U.S. military to take part in a propaganda exercise that will convince the Japanese to surrender: He'll dress up in a giant lizard suit that's been rigged with a flamethrower in the mouth and stomp all over a model city, as evidence of what the Navy's REAL monster-breeding program could do if the creatures were unleashed.

This opens the door to a lot of Hollywood in-jokes (the dire
Ben Babcock
I have a confession (my reviews often start with confessions because reviews are as much about the reviewer as they are about the book): I don't much like monster movies. Unlike many film buffs, I do not revel in the campiness of 1940s and 1950s costuming; I do not drool over stop-motion animation or long for the good-old days when the monster was some guy in a suit, not a tennis ball married to a motion-capture unit. Boris Karloff film festivals hold no magic for me. Whether it's Frankenstein's ...more
Noran Miss Pumkin
This is a witty, smart short read. It touches on many topics-especially the rise of the B-movies-from monsters to atomic creatures. One star lost to ending--too so-so for the character writing this pseudo-autobio of his.
Just think: what if we could not develop the atomic bomb in time to drop it on Japan at the ending of WWII? This book suggests we were developing Godzilla like creatures to use first!?! Loved the main character--some of his lines are golden.
Shaun Duke
Syms Thorley is a B-movie actor and writer renowned for his award-winning portrayals of monsters in 1940s Hollywood. Things are going well for Thorley: he's got the admiration of his fans, a steady work stream, and a brilliant script he and his girlfriend cooked up that could change the face of monster movies forever. But then the government shows up asking for his help: they need him for a top secret project to get the Japanese to surrender. What Thorley doesn't understand is why the need him. ...more
Alexandra Hunter
Here's another book for my Science Fiction Course! This book is not really science fiction. It does possess science fiction elements in the form of giant lizard creatures (think Godzilla) and the idea of letting them lose on Japan to bring the Second World War to a firey, lizard-ocalypse. As you can guess, this book is a fun ride.

In Shambling Towards Hiroshima, we are introduced to Syms Thorley a B Movie Creature Feature Actor, who has played every monster under the sun (expect vampires, those a
Kirsten Kowalewski
The plot: It's 1945. A B-movie actor is shanghaied by the Navy into performing in a giant monster suit to intimidate a Japanese delegation into convincing Hirohito that the United States has gigantic, ravenous, fire breathing behemoths they will unleash on Japan's civilian population if the Japanese don't surrender. And yes, there really are gigantic, ravenous, fire breathing behemoths. Clearly, this plan didn't work and the behemoths were never released-- instead, the military dropped atomic bo ...more
Feb 07, 2011 Donna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like monster movies or alternate history
Shelves: sci-fi, historical
After playing a variety of classic monsters, horror actor Syms Thorley is hired for the role of a lifetime during the final months of World War II. He's asked to put on a rubber lizard suit, destroy a miniature replica of a Japanese city, and manage to convince a group of envoys from Japan that he's a downsized version of the giant fire-breathing lizards developed by a secret biological weapons program. If Thorley's portrayal is successful, it could lead Japan to surrender rather than see the de ...more
Tim Niland
This neat little satire almost works - Syms Thorley, B-Movie actor extraordinaire is contacted by the U.S. Navy in the waning days of the Second Word War to act in the "role of a lifetime" as a America's ultimate weapon - a sea monster bent on destruction of the Japanese mainland. Thorely will have to use all of his acting ability to convince a Japanese delegation that he is the real thing and scare them into surrendering. The actual main story is quite wonderful, and the monster movie lore that ...more
Caroline Mersey
This is a fun little alternative WWII history. The premise - that the USA tried to persuade the Japanese to surrender by breeding Godzilla - is fresh and fun. But it's stretched out a little thinly in this work (it either needs much more plot or to be condensed into a shorter, punchier story).
This novel is about an audacious plan to end World War II in the Pacific, without invading Japan. It involves a man in a rubber monster suit.

In mid-1945, Germany has already surrendered. A Top Secret American project involves the creation of a trio of mutant, bipedal, fire-breathing lizards, and unleashing one of them on a Japanese city. A total Japanese surrender is the only way to cancel the attack. It is decided that the Japanese should first witness a demonstration of the potential devastati
Jaq Greenspon
I admit it, here, now and of my own free will, I love monster movies. I love the good ones and the bad ones and I most certainly love the classics. Evidently, so does James K. Morrow. This book is a love letter to the monster films of the Hollywood of the 30s and 40s, the ones starring Karloff and Lugosi, Lorre and Chaney. And Syms J. Thorley.


Syms J. Thorley is the man behind the mask in the second tier, just a rung or two behind those old time legends. He's the guy you call when you want
Alison C
Shambling Towards Hiroshima, by James Morrow, is the fictional memoir of 1940s horror movie star Syms Thorley, who is recruited by the Navy in the waning days of WWII to enact the role of a giant lizard monster that destroys a facsimile of a major Japanese city. The scheme is meant to frighten the Japanese VIPs who will be invited to watch this performance live, so that Japan will surrender before the Allies have to invade the islands, which of course would lead to great slaughter on both sides; ...more
Excellent satirical work from James Morrow, the only writer I can think of who is capable of writing this alternative fictional history of World War II, featuring a secret U.S. military project breeding giant lizards to attack Japan, 1940s and '50s horror movies, walk-ons by such estimable figures as special effects "stop-action" master Willis O'Brien and director James Whale, and eloquent reflections on the insanity of nuclear weaponry.
Well, I picked this book up in a humble bundle a while back and finally got around to reading it. I had no idea what I was getting in to when I started because I skipped reading the blurb and just dove in. It became clear from the beginning that this would be a ridiculous plot. It's basically "Godzilla as the solution to the H bomb, solve war, third step profit." A prominent monster movie actor gets to strap in to a giant lizard costume and do his best to stop the war.

What I didn't expect, was
This Morrow book is only a novella, and since he doesn't have as much time to develop ideas, the story has a Christopher Moore sort of feel to it, but that's not a bad thing. Syms Thorley writes a memoir of an alternate plan to end the war with Japan by playing a kaiju in a propaganda film. Morrow's books are always a treat!
This is more of a 2 or 2.5 star book, but the concept was "just crazy enough to work", and it managed to find its voice and rubber suit for most of the book. The main narrative was hilarious and engaging.

It fell apart during the overarching narrative framing story, and the ending was a sad denouement. I did enjoy several bits of writing that poked satirical fun at Hollywood and giant monster movies, as well as a few bits that tweaked their noses, Three Stooges style, at the U.S. military.

The dis
Roxana-Mălina Chirilă
This book is filled with references to horror movies in the young days of cinema, which I suppose is a lot more fun if you actually know those movies (unlike me). It has a few funny scenes (some of which actually amused me, so all's good) and a plot that... well, it's cute, but nothing special. Simple, straight, with a strange dose of realism towards the end.

I hadn't meant to read this around the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but I did, and the ending was a reminder of the
"Lifson" Kate Glover
Another strange story by James Morrow (author of "This Is The Way The World Ends", which I read last year) but again one which I couldn't put down. The message it carries is less stark than the one in TITWTWE, but a serious one nonetheless.

It's not a long book, but it does have plenty to keep you guessing with some twists and turns along the way. Some of the twists are more predictable than others - but it seems that is intentionally so - partly to emphasise the B-Movie world the characters are
Demian Katz
This book has a great concept, revolving around a secret project to end WWII through the creation of giant lizards (with some unforeseen complications). It seems written to appeal specifically to me, what with its numerous references to monster movies (and related artists) that I enjoy. As such, I wanted to like it a bit more than I did -- which is not to say it wasn't good, but simply that it could have been better. In the end, I felt it was let down primarily by an uneven tone, though perhaps ...more
A unique cross-genre masterpiece. Morrow crafts a novel that is original, funny, and sorrowful all at once.
B-movie actors, secret military projects and mutant lizards. This was a fun alt-history memoir-style novella.
Philip Mizener
Barbed-wire, lightning-quick wit.

''Doubtless Moses was correct when, reporting on the birth of the universe, he revealed that God rested on Sunday. God, however, did not have a Hollywood career to maintain...’’(p.105 ). Be prepared for a definite joust with words, both playful and skewering. ''Lifetime achievement - that's terrific...not everybody manages to have an achievement in their lifetime.''( p. 95). This book IS quite an achievement - short, painfully witty, yet causing deep ripples in
would have given a 5 star rating to the first 2/3 of the book and a 1 star for the last 15 pages.

first part - hilarious, silly and a look into the golden age of Hollywood. worth it just to read a particularly funny sex scene on a beach. The use of Godzilla monsters to parody nuclear warfare was absolutely brilliant.

the last 15 pages were too preachy and out of sorts with the previous tone of the book. some parts did make me rethink the role of science fiction and warfare, but overall it was too
In the real world, Godzilla started as a parable about atomic weapons. In this satire, it's the other way around: a Godzilla-like monster is America's devastating, war-ending superweapon.
For the most part, Morrow does a good job of setting things up and playing with the inversion. If the premise sounds like something you'd like, you'll likely enjoy the execution.
I'm taking a star off because of the last act. (view spoiler)
Eric Mesa
That is definitely not what I thought it was going to be. I was sure that somehow this actor would be transformed into a monster.

What we got instead was a short, witty, and fun book that posited an alternate World War 2 strategy to win the war - (view spoiler). The book's main character is great, especially when trading verbal barbs with an anti-semetic FBI agent.

I also enjoyed the meta-narrative of the main character writing a memoir and going back and forth bet
I found nothing much to like about this satire. Perhaps I'm neither American nor Japanese? It falls short for me on several factors.

Syms Thorley is B-movie actor, where an obvious theme is the love of monster movies. I love 'em, but I'm not the type to love everything about them - actors, writers, special effects, costumes, conventions, etc. So this doesn't do much for me, just a plot device for an alternate history of the second world war.

As a character, he started off as a roguish smart-talkin
Jim Black
In an alternate world, the Americans' work on a project to create biological weapons to end World War II. The creatures are living versions of Godzilla who will be released near enemy cities to invade and destroy without the loss of American troops. A Japanese delegation is coming for a demonstration and that is when things go wrong. An actor is approached about starring as one of the creatures in the demonstration. This is his story.

When I read about this book, it sounded like a fascinating sho
Nicole Cushing
What I liked about this book: Quick read (finished it in less than a day); fun homage to classic 30s and 40s Universal horror films and the Godzilla films of the 50s and 60; poked gentle fun at fandom and con culture, juxtaposed next to thought-provoking reflections on the end of World War II and the dropping of the Atomic Bomb.

What I didn't like about this book: I felt it was littered with too many characters (I had a hard time remembering who was who, particularly with the Hollywood folks and
David Allkins
A great story set in the 1940’s which attempts to deconstruct the giant monster film genre before it officially starts. It cleverly links one of the most prominent icons of the bomb, Godzilla with its development. The story also evokes the atmosphere of Hollywood in the studio system very well. There is even an appearance by one of the people who were a major force in in classic horror films. The trailer for the book can be seen here.
James Morrow disguises a anti-nuclear weapons sentiment in irreverent old school horror film banter. The book is pretty amusing, but lacks any real sort of laugh out loud funniness. Just like the main character, Syms whatever, the book shambles, and lumbers towards the ending. Syms, an actor who specializes in portarying monsters and ghouls(but never vampires), is witty, though slightly flat. In fact, that's how i would describe the entire book. The idea is fantastic, that the U.S. government ha ...more
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Born in 1947, James Morrow has been writing fiction ever since he, as a seven-year-old living in the Philadelphia suburbs, dictated “The Story of the Dog Family” to his mother, who dutifully typed it up and bound the pages with yarn. This three-page, six-chapter fantasy is still in the author’s private archives. Upon reaching adulthood, Jim produced nine novels of speculative fiction, including th ...more
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“I made the only decision I ever knew how to make,' Truman famously asserted in one of his carefully scripted reminiscences. What does that mean, exactly? Did Truman see himself as a professional decision-maker with a narrow specialty, the choice between destroying and not destroying Japanese cities?” 3 likes
“At last my liaison pulled up before a squat structure of poured concrete buttressed with steel, bleak and featureless, like a sepulcher for people who didn't believe in an afterlife.” 3 likes
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