4 July 2009

James Morrow, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, 2009

In 1945 the US Navy developed a top secret biological weapon: giant mutant fire-breathing iguanas bred to stomp Japanese cities. Hollywood monster-suit actor Syms Thorley is drafted to put terror into the hearts of a group of visiting Japanese diplomats with his depiction of what might happen if Emperor Hirohito doesn’t surrender; and if that doesn’t work there’s always the Manhattan Project. Shambling Towards Hiroshima takes the form of a suicide note written at a 1984 horror movie convention in Baltimore, but outside of that frame this is a lovingly crafted satire that is also a tribute to Hollywood’s monster movies, with educated nods in all directions. The first three quarters of this novella feels self-consciously ridiculous because Morrow is depicting military life imitating what is essentially a pretty ridiculous art, but he has serious points to make and there comes a well crafted moment towards the end at which he wants you stop laughing and consider a few things. Morrow is interviewed on video about the story here, but it’s worth indulging in this wry, clever book first.  PY


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