Shambling Towards Hiroshima
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Shambling Towards Hiroshima

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  423 ratings  ·  85 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...more
Paperback, 170 pages
Published 2009 by Tachyon Publications
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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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
A unique cross-genre masterpiece. Morrow crafts a novel that is original, funny, and sorrowful all at once.
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...more
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
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...more
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
Joel Neff
What an odd, little book. Written as the bizarre, end of the road, musings of a Hollywood has been, at that stage of life where there are more lifetime achievement awards and retrospectives than there are new challenges, Shambling Towards Hiroshima is an all-too-plausible about World War II and how they tried to end it.

It’s fast, funny, clever, deeply, deeply weird, and a lot of fun, especially if you’re into alternate history, kaiju, tales from Hollywood, and / or sex inside rubber suits.
elizabeth tobey
You'll probably be surprised when I say this is in my Top Three Favorite Books This Year. It might even be in the top 10 or 20 of all time.

You think this is just going to be a light sci-fi kind of book - and it is, and if that's all you want, you'll pretty much mostly get that. But this also packs a historical wallop that is deftly executed and quite well written.

Thank you, James Morrow, for writing this amazing book. Everyone should read it.
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
An amusing concept, with a striking writing style making use of constant knowing (and eloquent) reference to pieces of Hollywood history real or imagined. My main criticism would be that the ending sections of the book were an unwelcome downer after the generally fun first parts. I get the feeling the author didn't really know how to turn his fun high concept into a compelling and complete story.
Typical, slightly old school Morrow: very funny (both satirically and punchline-wise) and harkens back to This Is the Way the World Ends. Can't help but think I would've enjoyed it even more if I was a classic B-movie/horror fan as it does contain a fair amount of Old Hollywood-ribbing as well.
Wag the Dog meets Ed Wood in the waning hours of WWII in this bizarre novel. I don't think it quite deserves four stars, but the near-noir writing really won me over, and the closing chapter dishes out weighty stuff concerning Hiroshima and Nagasaki without sinking the book. In summary, a B-movie horror actor is conscripted/hired to don a mutant lizard costume and destroy a scale-model Japanese city before a panel of emissaries. Enormous reptilian monsters do exist--bred by the U.S. military as...more
Dennis Liggio
A very quick read. Written in snarky first person narrative, which is enjoyable, unless you've seen it a dozen places before (you have), in which case it starts to wear on you (luckily it's only 170 pages).

The story: Syms Thorley is a monster movie actor during WWII. He's most famous for a Frankenstein monster and Mummy. He is enlisted by the Navy for the performance of his life. To end the war with Japan, the Navy has created gigantic lizards they could let loose upon Japan. However, instead of...more
Mary Frances
This a deeply odd book, but I enjoyed it and though it was though provoking as well as funny. A satire about the end days of WW II and B-movie Hollywood, it shares some chromosomes with Dr. Strangelove. I did not think it was a great book, but I think it had something to say inside all the silliness. Another worthwhile bargain book found since I began e-reading.
Written something like a memoir about a man with a hidden history. One of the top monster movie shambler actors that gets hired by the US Navy to, more or less, create a Godzilla movie to convince Japan to get out of World War II. The writing was superb. The concept was quite original and surprisingly engaging. Overall, quite liked this book. I'm not sure why, but it read like a short story to me. Definitely recommend it.
Beyond the loving recreation of Hollywood's monster era, Shambling Towards Hiroshima makes some trenchant points on military madness, the utter uselessness of war, and the way horror movies desensitize the populace to the true, unimaginable horrors that exist just out their windows. Such movies are fine for entertainment's sake, but they can serve to distract us from the importance of our own reality, as Thorley discovers in his later years, preaching on the perils of nuclear holocaust to Gorgan...more
Oct 22, 2009 Avani rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: B-movie / Monster movie fans
I really wanted to like this book. I love Morrow. I love Godzilla. I love alt-history. It seemed like it couldn't go wrong.

Yet, it seems like Morrow had a (really cool) idea, and then assumed the book would write itself. The characters lack dimension (which he is more than capable of adding: Only Begotten Daughter does it excellently) and the plot is, for such an exciting subject matter, just not that exciting. I admire the experiment of sticking killer lizards in the middle of WW2 and framing i...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.” 2 likes
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