Bombs become people: That’s the premise of this first novel, in which the two U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Japan convert themselves into human survivors.
Little Boy hit Hiroshima, Fat Man Nagasaki; those really were, historically, the bombs’ names. In post-apocalyptic Nagasaki, Fat Man is struggling with birth trauma. He’s a bloated mass, naked and hairless. Little Boy, a runt, finds him in a shelter and decides they are brothers. Among the ruins, Fat Man says, “I think we were put here for a reason.” But what exactly? There’s the rub. Meginnis has created an existential problem for which he has no solution. The novel will dip a toe into various genres (science fiction, magical realism, detective story) without settling into any of them. Thus the brothers impregnate a virgin, a farmer’s daughter, purely through their proximity. Her babies are stillborn; Fat Man kills her enraged father in self-defense. Through a GI, the brothers procure new identities and board a ship for France, where they’re taken in by a married woman. She too, without sexual contact, will bear a child (two-headed). The phenomenon is explained by a Japanese medium. The brothers are haunted by their Japanese victims, who are hoping to be reborn. Not to worry; once the brothers fall in with an American peacenik, a war widow establishing a hotel, there’ll be no more unpleasant births. Fat Man will even make a normal baby with Rosie, the widow. Years later, he’s still a tub of lard and Little Boy’s still a preteen runt, and there’s been no development that might absolve them of their guilt or make them agents of atonement. Meanwhile Meginnis has concocted another storyline involving two French cops pursuing the innocent Fat Man for the murders of pregnant women.
A bold concept poorly executed.