Review of “The Madonna and The Starship by James Morrow

James Morrow writes very entertaining Kurt-Vonnegut-esque type dark comedies employing a lot of satire, especially of the religious variety.

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This latest book takes place in the 1950’s and centers on protagonist Kurt Jastrow, an aspiring dramatist who earns a living as a pulp-fiction science fiction writer. Currently he is head writer for a schlocky tri-weekly science fiction adventure series, “Brock Barton and His Rocket Rangers.” He also stars in a ten-minute epilogue at the end of each installment, “Uncle Wonder’s Attic,” in which he guides a young kid through a scientific experiment suggested by that week’s Brock Barton episode.

Jastrow’s mediocre existence is jolted when he gets a message from two blue lobster-like creatures from the planet Qualimosa. They announce they are coming to see him because they love his program, and want to present him with the “Zorningorg Prize”. They also intend to exterminate the pockets of irrationality throughout the universe, which means destroying all viewers of another program on the same network, a weekly religious series “Not By Bread Alone.”

Jastrow, along with the religious program’s writer/producer and “babe” Connie Osborne, conspire to come up with a satirical script that will convince the Qualimosans that “Not By Bread Alone” is actually exposing the illogic of religion rather than valorizing it. They write a script called “The Madonna and The Starship,” which is very amusing, and they succeed in saving the Earth.

The book has lots of funny bits, such as this one:

Connie: “Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that these crustaceans are exactly what they say they are. Somewhere beyond our solar system lies a planet of logical positivists. … I hope your Qualimosans aren’t typical of alien races. What could be more boring than a galaxy run by Bertrand Russell?”

And then there is the need to placate the sponsors’ during the airing of “The Madonna and The Starship,” resulting in this scene (that results in a sharp uptake in sales for these products):

Jesus: “Eat these measures of Sugar Corn Pops … for they are my body.”

Brock: “You know, Jesus, the great thing about Sugar Corn Pops is that it’s got the sweenenin’ already on it….”

Jesus: ‘Most impressive,’ Jesus replied, methodically distributing eight mugs of warm, chocolate-flavored beverage. ‘Drink this Ovaltine, for it is my blood.’”

There is also a bit of a surprise twist to the ending, so that even non-atheists will be pleased.

Evaluation: If you love satire and aren’t offended by writing that makes gentle fun of religion, this short book has many laugh-out-loud moments. Morrow has won a number of awards for his work, and is worth getting to know. (My two personal favorites are This Is The Way the World Ends, 1985, and Towing Jehovah, 1994.)

Rating: 3/5

Published by Tachyon Publications, 2014

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3 Responses to Review of “The Madonna and The Starship by James Morrow

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I enjoy satire but it can grow old. Since this book is short it might work for me.

  2. Beth F says:

    I’m not quite sure if I’d want a whole book of it — but I love that product placement/advertising dialogue.

  3. Trisha says:

    “James Morrow writes very entertaining Kurt-Vonnegut-esque type dark comedies employing a lot of satire, especially of the religious variety.” You sold me with that line.

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