The Madonna and the Starship

September 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

madonnaThe Madonna and the Starship by James Morrow


The Madonna and the Starship is about a group of actors, writers, and producers working together to try to fool a group of potential attacker from going to war. That’s a premise that sounds remarkably like the one in Shambling Towards Hiroshima, Morrow’s other novella that I read about a week before. I’ll admit I didn’t notice the similarity until I was more than halfway through, but when I did, I wondered if these were written this was intentionally, to serve as two sides of a coin. Knowing Morrow and how clever he is, I’m going to guess that’s the case.

Instead of satirizing and skewering monster movies and World War II, Morrow focuses on early television shows and religion. You know, to keep things light. What happens is a television writer and actor receives a message from extraterrestrials who want to give him an award on his science show, but once they land and prove themselves to be who they say they are, they reveal that they also want to exterminate anyone who watches another show about religion and faith. In their eyes, anyone who discards science for the supernatural are too stupid to live, so it’s up to this writer and his friends to come up with a scheme to prove that those viewers are worthy, too.

It’s a hefty premise, but one that should be familiar to Morrow’s readers. This is the man who wrote the Godhead trilogy, after all. What’s interesting about this tale is that he flips the story a bit, going after the die-hard scientists instead of the die-hard religious. The motivations of the main character isn’t to save religion, but to save the millions of people who would be killed over it, but the end result is the same: Leave the religious to do their thing, even while you believe something different.

I haven’t read the Godhead trilogy (yet), but they were the first books of his that drew my attention. At the time, any book that looked at religion from an outsider’s point of view piqued my interest, and I’m surprised I’ve had the books for so long and they’re still unread. These two novellas — smart, engaging, full of real characters, and plot-driven — remind me that I need to move them up the priority. I still have a soft spot for that kind of religious fiction, so I expect I would like them.

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