A rollicking and audacious collection of stories featuring Martian invaders, time travel, voodoo queens, giant Hollywood monsters, Dr. Moreau–like mad scientists, and more…
In The Cat’s Pajamas, James Morrow—called “the most provocative satiric voice in science fiction” by the Washington Post—takes the reader on thirteen wild and gleeful rides, each exploring a demented, dystopian, or provisionally desirable world.
A tyrannical church wields terrifying power over people’s sex lives in the name of protecting “the rights of the unconceived.” The dead, raised by Caribbean magic, are put to benevolent use in a New Jersey suburb. A racist Supreme Court justice gets his karmic comeuppance. Columbus “discovers” a contemporary New York City. The island of Manhattan becomes a battlefield on which two alien races thrash out their philosophical disagreements. And in the remarkable title offering, a deranged doctor blesses his mutant creatures with ethical superiority, a simple matter of injecting them with a serum derived from the disembodied brain of the story’s living—and understandably bewildered—protagonist.
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WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
“Amply displays [Morrow’s] ability to juggle absurdity, tragedy, irony, and outrage.”
“Morrow’s shorter tales possess … a keen sense of folly and morality, a witty inventiveness…”
“Morrow is a true satirist, a moralist who identifies some of our many faults and offers a wholly new perspective (not solutions, mind you, that is not his job) through his droll distortions … [He] obviously loves his fellow human beings and has a sharp eye for their foibles. His wit and pen are sharper still. If you are unfamiliar with Morrow, this wonderful collection … is a superb starting point.”
“The first think you’ll notice about James Morrow is what outrageous ideas he concocts … If you have an offbeat sense of humor, Morrow’s The Cat’s Pajamas will have you in stitches.”
“Arguably SF’s reigning master of satire, Morrow has already blessed the genre with two previous volumes of short fiction and the monumental Godhead trilogy, in which a deceased Jehovah literally falls to Earth. His latest collection demonstrates that his rapier wit has lost none of its edge as it encompasses twisted scenarios ranging from Martians invading Central Park to having the fates of other worlds rest upon the scores of American football games. In ‘Auspicious Eggs,’ global warming forces the Catholic Church to enact rites of ‘terminal baptism,’ in which the souls of infants deemed infertile are immediately sent heavenward. In a shorter tale, King Kong and Godzilla pay their respects to 9/11 victims. During the title story, a crazed genetic scientist kidnaps a hapless do-gooder and harvests his altruism genes. All the stories manifest Morrow’s penchant for exploring the dark underbelly of technological promise and extracting quirky moral conundrums. Morrow’s fans will revel, and first-time readers may find his grim humor making fans of them, too.”
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The instant they heard the news, the three of them knew they had to do something, and so, joints complaining, ligaments protesting, they limped out of the retirement home, went down to the river, swam across, and climbed onto the wounded island.
They’d always looked out for each other in times gone by, and this day was no different. The ape placed a gentle paw on the rhedosaur’s neck, keeping the half-blind prehistoric beast from stepping on cars and bumping into skyscrapers. The mutant lizard helped the incontinent ape remove his disposable undergarments and replace them with a dry pair. The rhedosaur reminded the mutant lizard to take her Prozac.
Before them lay the maimed and smoking city. It was a nightmare, a war zone, a surrealistic obscenity. It was Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Maybe they won’t understand,” said the rhedosaur. “They’ll look at me, and all they’ll see is a berserk reptile munching on the Coney Island roller coaster.” He fixed his clouded gaze on the ape. “And you’ll always be the one who shimmied up the Empire State Building and swatted at the biplanes.”
“And then, of course, there was the time I rampaged through the Fulton Fish Market and laid my eggs in Madison Square Garden,” said the mutant lizard.
“People are smarter than that,” said the ape. “They know the difference between fantasy and reality.”
“Some people do, yes,” said the rhedosaur. “Some do.”
The Italian mayor approached them at full stride, exhausted but resolute, his body swathed in an epidermis of ash. At his side walked a dazed Latino firefighter and a bewildered police officer of African descent.
“We’ve been expecting you,” said the mayor, giving the mutant lizard an affectionate pat on the shin.
“You have every right to feel ambivalent toward us,” said the rhedosaur.
“The past is not important,” said the mayor.
“You came in good faith,” said the police officer, attempting without success to smile.
“Actions speak louder than special effects,” said the firefighter, staring upward at the gargantuan visitors.
Tears of remorse rolled from the ape’s immense brown eyes. The stench filling his nostrils was irreducible, but he knew that it included many varieties of plastic and also human flesh. “Still, we can’t help feeling ashamed.”
“Today there is neither furred nor smooth in New York,” said the mayor. “There is neither scaled nor pored, black nor white, Asian nor Occidental, Jew nor Muslim. Today there are only victims and helpers.”
“Amen,” said the police officer.
“I think it’s clear what needs doing,” said the firefighter.
“Perfectly clear.” The mutant lizard sucked a mass of rubble into her lantern-jawed mouth.
“Clear as glass.” Despite his failing vision, the rhedosaur could see that the East River Savings Bank was in trouble. He set his back against the structure, shoring it up with his mighty spine.
The ape said nothing but instead rested his paw in the middle of Cortlandt Street, allowing a crowd of the bereaved to climb onto his palm. Their shoes and boots tickled his skin. He curled his fingers into a protective matrix then shuffled south, soon entering Battery Park. He sat on the grass, stared toward Liberty Island, raised his arm, and, drawing the humans to his chest, held them against the warmth of his massive heart