The Shrinking Man

Richard Matheson
The Shrinking Man Cover

The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson


In the last week, I've read two science fiction books from the fifties, and while they share many similarities, the experience was vastly different.

Both spawned a cultural trope - pod people and shrinking people. Both were added to the Science Fiction Masterworks series and each resulted in successful films. A lesson was implied in these stories, though that could probably be said of much science fiction of this era. Both books have rather questionable science, from pods that grow rapidly (and float into the sky!) to a poisoning process that causes a loss of 1/7th of an inch per day, never stopping or varying. The difference was that in one, disbelief could be willingly suspended.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, finishing it in a day, I found myself avoiding The Shrinking Man. I liked the main character of the former - a creative and intelligent doctor, genuinely concerned about others - but hated the latter - a whiny self-centered jerk whose temper grew as he shrank.

Richard Matheson is a good and creative writer, and deserves accolades for I Am Legend and many short stories. I will return to his books in the future, but I will also be glad to have put this one behind me.