Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Shrinking Man
Richard Matheson
Gollancz, 201 pages

The Shrinking Man
Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson was born in New Jersey in 1926 and has lived and worked in California since 1951. In addition to novels in the mystery, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and western field, he's also done many film and television scripts including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" from The Twilight Zone. He also wrote episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel, Night Gallery, and Star Trek. Several of his novels and stories have been made into movies including The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come (the film starred Robin Williams). His awards include the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, the Hugo Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Golden Spur Award, and the Writer's Guild Award.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Duel
SF Site Review: I Am Legend

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sam Ashurst

After two encounters with radiation combine to create a freak reaction in his body, Scott Carey begins to shrink. Stuck in a cellar, fighting off an ever growing spider, Carey remembers his life before, and during, the change, discovering that he has many regrets.

Whereas Matheson's other classic, I Am Legend, is a horror story with SF elements, The Shrinking Man is SF with horror elements. This is a key difference in what would otherwise be very similar stories. Both feature extended internal monologues, both feature a lone man coming to terms with an extreme fantastical situation, and both men are gruff, masculine survivors.

But where I Am Legend's Robert Neville tries to solve his situation, The Shrinking Man's Scott Carey has lost all hope, and is essentially waiting for death. This lack of hope makes for a hard read, so don't pick this up if you want something light and fluffy to pass the time. It may have the same basic premise as Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, but this is an altogether different beast.

Carey gets nastier as he gets smaller, lashing out at his family, refusing to seek treatment, and as his sexual drive seems to get bigger as he gets smaller, he commits some terrible betrayals. Richard Matheson is unrelenting in his portrayal of Carey, who seems grow crueler with every inch lost, and is thwarted at every turn in his cellar prison. Whether his difficulties in the cellar are punishments for his bad behaviour when he was shrinking, or just the inevitable results of his new attitude to life, isn't made clear, but one thing is for sure -- Carey is hanging onto life out of nothing more than habit.

Despite being unlikable in so many ways, you can still feel for Carey. After all, it is the accident that has made him so terrible -- an accident which has lead to him becoming a scientific oddity, prodded and gawked at, a media spectacle, ridiculed and laughed at, and, eventually, a man in the body of a child, subject to all the dangers faced by children (including, in one very creepy scene, a drunk pedophile). Add to that his family's changing attitude toward him; in his wife's eyes he changes from a husband to a child, and in his daughter's, from a man to a doll, and it's clear that almost anyone faced with Carey's circumstances would lose all goodness.

The Shrinking Man has many interesting themes; what makes a man, the importance of hope, as well as being a treatise on man's survival instinct. In the face of complete, inevitable annihilation Carey still does his best to live. He knows that he is about to shrink into oblivion, yet he still fights the spider, and still searches for food and water. This instinct leads to an end twist that is well worth enduring the nastiness of The Shrinking Man -- and gives the book an almost spiritual edge.

All in all this is a worthy addition to the SF Masterworks series, and will hopefully be picked up by fans of the film version The Incredible Shrinking Man. The film-makers added "Incredible" to the title, to try and attract audiences. Matheson's book never needed this gimmick, despite some publishers using the film title in later editions. The SF Masterworks team know this, and have reverted back to the original name. They know that The Shrinking Man has its incredible on every page.

Copyright © 2004 Sam Ashurst

Sam Ashurst is a reviewer for Comics International, and a SF addict. His favorite SF Masterworks include I am Legend and The Stars My Destination, and his biggest SF regret is that George Lucas didn't know when to stop.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide