Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Literary Fiction
Published by Black Balloon Publishing
I won this in a First Reads Giveaway. Thank You!
Oh yes, this was the novel that took me way too long to finish, longer than any book below 600 pages. I shouldn’t be ashamed of it, but this is usually the type of book that I would devour in two weeks. Those who are college students, readers, and bloggers, you would probably know that those gaps of silence are usually because it’s a rough semester. This was a rough novel, with tiny patches of softness, little dots of hope in the middle of something wide and hard, something dark and dreary. Now that metaphor crap is out of the way, lets put a synopsis. If I try to write it on my own, it would be a disaster.
Two bombs over Japan. Two shells. One called Little Boy, one called Fat Man. Three days apart. The one implicit in the other. Brothers.
As you can already tell, this is going to be one weird trip, it takes place in a world that seems to be so off kilter in its sanity. Nobody seems to know why these guys exist and why they have all these weird quirks, such as not having real names and just acting plain weird, somewhat socially awkward. Fat Man is morbidly obese, Little Boy is forever a little boy. When people question, they never push any further, quickly accepting these two odd balls for what they are.
Here’s a funny story, during a break between classes, I was playing cards with some friends of my brother’s and one of them found the book interesting. I told them the little summary that you see in italics above. The reaction was basically “Wow that’s so cool and weird.” One of them said something that was basically along the lines of something like, I don’t remember to be honest, but the reaction was basically something like “So that’s why they couldn’t find the bomb,” or “That’s why nobody could see them.” Yeah, this funny story was a sham, but I do remember saying in the back of my mind, “Dude, it exploded into flames and ashes and smoke. What are you going to find other than destruction?” Then I realized that most people seem to make a lot of fun about this tragedy in war. People say they deserved it while playing a Nintendo 3DS and flipping Yu-Gi Oh! cards around, and watching anime.
This wasn’t an easy novel to read, I read a chapter a day, sometimes a bit more, but I had to push myself, despite that I was fond of the novel. There were times where it wore me out and began to feel too heavy of a book, despite that it is less than 400 pages. There are a variety of reasons, which are college stress due to my lack of coping with stress, my constant reading of e-books over the summer which has caused me to become so adapted to it that reading physical books has become a rather heavy thing for me, and I just took too long with it. I am an impatient reader, I like slow books that take in the details, let things unravel. Let the character walk down the road and find shards of itself, let the world unfold itself. But I read slow, which is my fault, not always the book’s fault.
The whole design of this novel is freaking awesome. The red and blue explosion looking graphic, the Fat Man and Little Boy in this white impact lettering. Then in the inside flaps, there is the Japanese letter for “remains.” The funny thing is, when I first discovered Black Balloon Publishing, Fat Man and Little Boy was actually the first novel that attracted my attention.
But this novel sort of became my little friend for the first two months of Fall semester. With it’s delicate prose, speaking of guilt and a sort of miserable existentialism created by war. These two walk around on the Earth, knowing that they had committed the ultimate atrocity, and apparently the souls of all who had died are haunting them everywhere they go. So it’s sort of a metaphor of guilt, how your murders, your crimes will never leave, or history itself, since the bombs did change history, it forever haunts them. Then there’s the people that fate somehow connects them together. From the widow to the medium, two police officers accusing Fat Man of murder; anybody who has somehow been affected by the war or the bomb have somehow ended being connected to them, haunting them in a sense.
Despite that this novel isn’t that long, there is so much to think about, to write about in this post. But I feel like it will go on too long, It has been awhile since I read the book, maybe a week or two, and my thoughts of it are floating around and they are hard to snatch. It will become a mountain of rambles for Fat Man to eat if he wants. It will taste quite bland.
One thing I will say for sure, Fat Man and Little Boy is a human in paper form that has somehow figured out the world’s pain and the inhabitants’ eternal loneliness.
This novel is written in short chapters that feel like small little entries, little snippets of the duo’s short life. I would read one or two each day and then set it aside for awhile, and come back. This novel is bleak, any war novel is bleak. Fat Man and Little Boy regret their ability to explode, suffering from watching them and absorbing the suffering from the suffering they committed.
Despite the darkness, these guys are quite loveable. Fat Man, at first, is childlike and innocent, he is overweight and food is always the top priority. Apparently he is the little brother, but due to his looks and strength, he takes the role of big brother. Little Boy is the older one, with a mature mind and personality, most of the time, but he is the smaller one, and he can get away with childlike behavior, due to his short stature and doe eyed look. They are odd looking and they know that they are odd and they do everything to blend into mankind. Because unlike most of mankind, they were born from disaster, not human nature. They grow, despite already being grown, and they develop into these beings that can sort of hide this eternal guilt behind somewhere in the back of their skulls and into their shadows maybe, that seems to apparently be followed by whoever haunts them.
Then there’s the medium or Masumi. What I found that was so cool about this character is that he is a performer with two different identities, one who has a psychic ability that can see the dead and the other is just a drunk man. He’s probably my favorite other than the main two. He is this flawed, self-destructive, tragic character, and for some odd reason I’ve always tended to like those type of characters. There’ s just something that hits a chord with them. I am not a drunk man or a psychic,and I’m too young to drink, but this vengeful and beautiful character was just so bad ass and at the same time, you kind of want to join him and comfort him somehow, or just wallow in the misery with him.
Then there’s a pair of twins that I can’t remember the name of. Oh dear. I’m going to go look. The Hanway brothers. These two guys don’t regret exploding at all. What sick dudes. They didn’t hurt anybody, but still…
The characters in this book is what makes it alive. With its poetic and minamalistic prose, written in way that is like poetry, with short sentences forming a sort of pentameter? A rhythm? something like a quiet, ambient, minamalistic song. It’s hard to describe actually, I usually describe prose like this as airy, simple, but it’s simplicity brings out the beauty in it’s characters and it’s imagery of death and life’s little gifts.
This book is probably one of the most self-loathing yet touching novels I have read so far this year. It’s so cynical but yet, with its magical realism, it brings in a sort of hope that shines a bit of light, despite all of the dust of remains, of humans who once were, destroyed by humanity’s animalistic actions. So I usually don’t do this in my posts but here’s my check list of things I liked about this novel:
1. Short chapters *check*
2. Nice prose that feels like poetry *check*
3. Wonderfully quirky characters that you love and feel connected to *check*
4. Beautiful fantasy magical realist stuff *check*
5. Historical fiction *check*
6. Emotionally engaging *check*
7. The book was left to cook a bit more in my brain.
Now that I thought about it while writing this, I ended up liking the book even more. This happened to me when I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro *check*