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Shambling Towards Hiroshima

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  139 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
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Mass Market Paperback, 170 pages
Published 2009 by Tachyon Publications
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  775 ratings  ·  139 reviews


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David
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: B-movie actors, Japanese emissaries, kaiju herpetologists
This short novel is a fun romp that bounces back and forth between semi-serious commentary on arms races and the morality of killing civilians to end a war, and copious shout-outs to monster movies and SF fandom.

The premise is just this side of ridiculous, the sort of plot you'd find in one of the monster movies referenced in this book: as the War in the Pacific grinds to its inevitable denouement and the U.S. seeks a way to force the Japanese to surrender without having to invade Japan, there a
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Ron
Jan 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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Craig
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific short novel set in an alternate universe in which the U.S. Army enlisted Hollywood to convince the Japanese that we had kaiju weapons of mass destruction that we would use on them if they didn't back down in World War II. (Or maybe it wasn't an alternate at all and we just didn't know about it until now... nah...) Remember the British used camouflaging techniques and all manner of trickery on their home front in trying to misinform the Germans. Fictional characters are paired ...more
Kara 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
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Eric
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: monster-fiction, 2009
When you think about it, Godzilla is a symbol for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the same way Smokey the Bear has become the same for the prevention of forest fires. With this in mind, the author has crafted a clever story about one man, one kaiju rubber suit, and the evils of the A-Bomb.
Sharkie
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I mean... this book just wasn't for me.

It was full of (what I consider) pointless descriptions and scenes, and it could've been written in 50 pages and have been better.

Sure, the prose was pretty, the protagonist had a good personality (when he wasn't talking about killing himself) but it lacked a plot that held up.

Just not my cup of tea, but I'm sure it's someone else's.
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Tim
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Occasionally hilarious romp through a World War 2 where giant lizards were developed as an alternative to the Atomic Bomb.
Shaun Duke
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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Kirsten
Jan 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Donna
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like monster movies or alternate history
Shelves: historical, sci-fi
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
Pamela
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Michael
Mar 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
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! ...more
Beau
Sep 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
I like anything by James Morrow. This kind of reminded me about the one where they always told the truth - like cotton candy and quickly forgettable. It's a small book, the characters and story are interesting, and did I say I like anything by James Morrow?

I'm exaggerating that. But I like a lot by him, and since "Towing Jehovah" I've been a fan. Anything he wants to do is okay with me.
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Caroline Mersey
Dec 17, 2014 rated it liked it
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). ...more
Robert
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: x2008-9-season
A unique cross-genre masterpiece. Morrow crafts a novel that is original, funny, and sorrowful all at once.
Stacey
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
B-movie actors, secret military projects and mutant lizards. This was a fun alt-history memoir-style novella.
D
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. One of the best I've read all year. ...more
Thomas
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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Kenya Starflight
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-love
This is one of the most oddball books I've read in the year of 2020... and somehow, it's just crazy enough to work. To the casual reader, blending Kaiju (giant monsters) with the historical account of the Manhattan Project and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may seem ludicrous and even disrespectful, but if you know the real-world connections between the atomic bomb and the Kaiju film genre, it makes sense. And author James Morrow somehow manages to make the oddball premise work, and even ...more
S. Wilson
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of James Morrow's lighter works, Shambling Towards Hiroshima could also have been aptly titled Theater of War, as the monster movie machine of Hollywood meets the war machine of the Pentagon. An epistolary tale in the form of a lengthy suicide note written by screenwriter and rubber-monster-suit actor Syms Thorley, in which he laments his involvement in a failed attempt to use the threat of military-controlled giant monsters to end World War 2.

There is much in Morrow's novel about monsters
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Shane
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Kind of like Bigfoot and the Bodhisattva this book seemed to be kind of confused about whether it should be funny or depressing. Maybe that Morrow's style? I guess it's more absurd than funny because this one seemed to be pretty dark most of the time, while at the same time being ridiculous. It was a novella, but I feel like it could have been a short story and maybe had more impact.

Once again Morrow is raising awareness about a dark time in history and it's completely obvious how he feels about
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Julie
This has been sitting on my shelf for a number of years, and I'm glad I finally picked it up. It's 170 pages - a novella, really - and it drew me in til the last page. The premise of the story is totally bonkers, but fascinating. It basically involves an attempt to end WWII using gigantic fire-breathing Godzilla-style lizards and the most elaborate monster movie demonstration ever imagined.

It's super quirky, and yet I learned a lot about the monster movie industry and it also packs a punch when
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Dave
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A terrific short novel from James Morrow, that skilfully combines a paean to the horror and monster movies of the forties with a satire on the ludicrousness of war. In 1944 the US military develops a project to scare the Japanese into surrendering by attempting to convince their government that they have a breeding program of giant mutant fire breathing lizards ready to attack their shores.
Told as the memoirs of the actor who wore the suit of Gorgantis the lizard, this is a hugely entertaining,
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Matevž
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting mix of fiction, history and morals. Would give it 3.5 if it were possible.

In a way the novel sets the origin of all Kaiju movies (think Godzila) and adds an interesting twist on the WW2.

At the same time it shows how the old time horror movies were mass produced...

And last but not least - gives an insight into how one's action can and cannot effect the outcome of something. Especially the end of the book where the main character has moral issues since he did not manage to achieve t
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Brian Bohmueller
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Morrow underscores the insanity of weapons of mass destructions in this novel. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of numerous horror references to ground the main character's memoir writing. Admittedly, reading Morrow is a guilty pleasure with his witty turn of phrases that doesn't shy away from using "three dollar words" with joyful nuance. The overarching theme serves as fantastic backdrop to illuminate the lives of impassioned, imperfect characters. (my favorite Morrow joints: The Last Witc ...more
Steven Herrera
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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Mark Modena
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alexburchee
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent as always

Another imaginative romp from this always erudite and amusing author. The idea is nuts but in a good way. Fun references to monster films , which I have no way of knowing if they are historical or made up, and it doesn't matter.
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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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