Richard Matheson
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1956)
Reviewed: 1995-12-24

Major suspension of disbelief is strictly required to enjoy what turns out to be an excellent horror novel otherwise. The premise is simple: Scott Casey is growing smaller. He keeps shrinking by about 25mm a week. Ever so slowly, Casey becomes estranged from his colleagues, his friends and family. Modern medicine fails him, and he must experience just how much physical appearance means in modern society. Removed from the unreachable giants his wife and daughter have become, Casey enters a new world, where life becomes a struggle for survival, simple everyday affairs turn into insurmountable obstacles, and new dangers arise. When did you last have to worry about finding drinking water or view your pet or a spider as a mortal menace?

The book chronicles the last week before arithmetic says that Casey will shrink into nothingness, interleaved with flashbacks throughout the earlier stages of his affliction. Matheson excells at carrying the protagonist's terrors over to the reader. Unfortunately, calling the premise of the story scientifically unsound would qualify as a major euphemism. Okay, so it is a horror novel, not a work of science fiction.

In 1957, The Incredible Shrinking Man was made into a Jack Arnold movie of the same title. Although a low budget production, it still remains memorable today.

The 1995 Tor/US paperback edition, ISBN 0-812-52299-9, additionally contains the stories "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" / "The Test" / "The Holiday Man" / "Mantage" / "The Distributor" / "By Appointment Only" / "Button, Button" / "Duel" / "Shoofly".

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