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Shambling Towards Hiroshima

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  687 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
In the tradition of Godzilla as both a playful romp and a parable of the dawn of the nuclear era, this original satire blends the destruction of World War II with the halcyon pleasure of monster movies. In the summer of 1945 war is reigning in the Pacific Rim, while in the U.S., Syms Thorley continues his life as a B-movie actor. But the U.S. Navy would like to use Thorley ...more
Kindle Edition, 170 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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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
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-reads
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
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
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).
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2008-9-season
A unique cross-genre masterpiece. Morrow crafts a novel that is original, funny, and sorrowful all at once.
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. One of the best I've read all year.
B-movie actors, secret military projects and mutant lizards. This was a fun alt-history memoir-style novella.
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, 2017
Reading a James Morrow story, I expect parts of it to go over my head. He marries a love of genre with a literary style, meshing satire with reality, theme with plot, and poignancy with characterization. That he manages to write at that depth and still tell a compelling story speaks to his skills as a storyteller, as well as a literary darling.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima is part love letter to '40s and '50s monster movies, part apology to Japan for what our country did to them in World War II. T
Marcelo Sanchez
Esta es la historia de un actor de Cine B de monstruos que se ve involucrado en un plan del gobierno para mostrar el potencial destructor de unos monstruos gigantes que han estado creando. Una premisa interesante que pasa desapercibida la mayor parte del tiempo. El personaje principal cuenta en primera persona como pasa los dias previos preparandose para la presentación. Pero lo hace desviandose para hablar del cine B de monstruos a cada rato.
"Te voy a contar de los monstruos gigantes pero antes
Steven Herrera
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short and sharp and satirical take on B-monster movies and the horrors of war, Morrow's SHAMBLING TOWARDS HIROSHIMA hit me where it mattered. It creates its own alternative golden age Hollywood in such a short span, and then punches an emotional wallop. I laughed as much as I felt melancholic.

4 1/2 stars
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
Ian Casey
Our world suffers from a surfeit of the sacred, and I shall not be sorry to leave it.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima is not a book to be easily pigeon-holed. Written in the form of both a memoir and an elaborate suicide note, it’s part satire, part sci-fi and part historical fiction. It’s an exploration of the relationships between war, weapons of mass destruction and monster movies in the human psyche. In that sense it’s a clever riff on the familiar narrative of Godzilla as analogy for nuclear war
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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)
Nicole Cushing
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Richard Kendrick
Despite being quite skilfully written, Shambling Toward Hiroshima never fully grabbed me. The protagonist had a strong, if surprisingly erudite, voice. The period was convincingly portrayed. It just didn't come together for me. The three main issues, I think, were the framing story, the premise and what I wanted this story to be.

The frame has the protagonist hammering out the actual story as a memoir. He's contemplating suicide. Only I just didn't care, found the happenings in the present to be
Eric Mesa
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nsa-is-not-mib
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
Alison C
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i started into this book because the premise was crazy enough to get me interested...i struggled to finish and then powered through for the same reason: the author's pure Cop Noir style prose got tough to chew on in the middle, but once i got comfortable with it, i found that the lingo made the story better. imagine if the US Armed Forces had been working on unleashing real Godzillas on Imperial Japan in parallel with the Manhattan Project. imagine if the lizard project did not go so well, but j ...more
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 Kenneth 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, incl ...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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