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 are two doomsday weapon projects running in parallel. The Navy, wanting to beat the Army to the bomb, wants to set up a demonstration of these fearsome monsters to a Japanese delegation, who will then run back to the Emperor and convince him to order a surrender before Japanese cities are stomped beneath giant, radioactive lizard-feet.
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. Thorley, is a has-been monster movie actor recounting his involvement in the New Amsterdam Project, also known as the Knickerbocker Project. "Atom bomb" sounds like something out of science fictionindeed, until the Manhattan Project reified it, it was something out of science fiction. When they need to deceive the Japanese delegation about the veracity of their scaled-down monster, it makes perfect sense to turn to a professional industry practised in such deception. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is rife with satire of the movie industry; much of it, owing to my unfamiliarity with 1940s American cinema, went over my head. I knew enough to gather that James Whale and Willis O'Brien, hired to direct Thorley's performance and manage special effects, respectively, were real people in the movie industry. Similarly, the rough characters of Thorley's director and producer on his movie project hearken back to the coarser era of American cinema. In fact, the biologists play a surprisingly small role considering the monstrous premiseagain, because this is a story about Thorley and his role in a deception that failed to end a war, not a story about monsters invading Japan. Any satire spared the monster movie industry Morrow saves for the United States military. Like all satire, however, Shambling Toward Hiroshima has a serious point, embodied by the frame story. More than just a story about dropping the bomb, Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a story about the mindset of those working so hard to end the war.
Just think: what if we could not develop the atomic bomb in time to drop it on Japan at the ending of WWII?
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.
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. What good can a B-list monster movie actor do for the government? A merger of the edginess of pulp fiction (the literary form, not the movie) and popular media drawn into reality, Shambling Towards Hiroshima sends us on what might be the ultimate top secret adventure. Even though Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a short novel, I found it incredibly enjoyable from start to finish, following the exploits of Thorley as he processed everything that was going on around him and attempted to put on a damn good show.
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. Even if you're not one to appriciate WWII narratives, if you have any love for the cinema, this book is definatly something you should check it out.
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. I couldn't help liking Syms, his girlfriend, and the bizarre plot thought up by the Navy, and as I have two big kaiju fans in my family the "giant lizard monster in a suit" was entertaining for me.
Upon reaching adulthood, Jim produced nine novels of speculative fiction, including the critically acclaimed Godhead Trilogy.