The Shrinking Man

Richard Matheson
The Shrinking Man Cover

The Shrinking Man


Richard Matheson is a well deserved master of the strange and fantastic. I had read his I Am Legend and liked it, I've also read a few of his short stories, but to me The Shrinking Man is Matheson at his peak. I'd watched the film version as a kid and thought I knew the story, but no, Matheson draws his characters from life and gives them life.

The story begins on a boat that sails through a radioactive cloud, Scott Carey feels his skin begin to tingle and carefully wipes himself off. The next scene Scott Carey is less than an inch high and he's trapped in the basement of the home he once shared with his wife and daughter. He is constantly searching for food and water. He is also besieged by a Black Widow spider.

The novel is episodic, switching back and forth from his present, being less than an inch high, interspersed with his remembrances of his life as it was discovered that he had begun to shrink. He had doctors stumped as they could find nothing wrong in all the tests they could think to run. Nothing helped, he just continued to shrink at the rate of an inch a week.

Matheson doesn't skimp over anything, he follows the time both present and past with an unerring eye for drama. Drama as in outside influences, but Mr. Matheson doesn't just give the reader things outside, he gets into the mind of Scott Carey, and even that of his wife Louise. At once the tale is an adventure novel of life threatening proportions, and yet at the same time Matheson pulls at the heart-strings of a man that is slowly losing his world, his wife and daughter, and quite possibly his life.

Though written in 1956, this novel does not read a bit dated. The ending is realistic and even a bit hopeful. I recommend this novel, highly.