by Richard Matheson
Review by Abby Goldsmith, 2012
I've read several books by Richard Matheson, and expect strong writing and interesting premises. This book delivers both, but the main character got wearisome. I was frustrated by his complete inability to ever plan ahead. He spent chapters complaining about his plight, but never thinks ahead to the next day. For instance, he throws a fit when he can no longer reach the top of a thimble full of water. He must have foreseen this ... he's shrinking by 1/7" every day ... so why didn't he plan ahead by setting up a makeshift stepstool and thread ladder?
I have the sense that Matheson was trying to make an allegory between height and power. Tall men get respect; short men don't.
As Scott shrinks, he loses respect ... first from his wife, then his brother, then neighborhood kids, then his daughter, then the family cat, the spider in the basement, etc. This is interesting character development, but in the end, it never feels resolved. I wanted Scott to grow as a character, even while shrinking. Instead, he shrinks, in every sense of that word. I wouldn't respect this guy even if he was a giant.
And there's a major logic problem. If Scott shrinks by 1/7" (one seventh of an inch) every day, he really would vanish at the end of the book. There's no such thing as -1/7 inches. It's a unit of measurement rather than a percentage. Also, his height difference would become more and more jarring as time went on, since 1/7" is barely noticeable to a normal-sized human, but would seem big when he's the size of an ant. Scott doesn't seem to take note of this.
Overall, the sense of scale was done well, but these logic issues kept jarring me out of the story. Random people would never mistake a miniature man for a kid, even from a distance. The proportions of a grown man are different from a child. Children have nearly adult-sized heads, but smaller bodies. This difference would be noticeable even at night.