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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reduction Of The Self
Scott Carey is exposed to a one in a million chemical reaction (brought about by a mysterious sea-spray and being drenched in pesticides) and finds himself shrinking 1/7th of an inch every morning. While the Scientific explanation is a little bit of a throwaway, and left me going `huh?' (like Bruce Banner getting the gamma rays or Peter Parker getting bit by a nuked...
Published on April 21, 2003 by Edward M. Erdelac

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shrinking Man Falls Short - Spoilers!
I am a fan of Matheson. The first book I ever read of his was Hell House, which I thought was wonderful. After that it was What Dreams May come--something completely different. The point is that each of those two books had characters I could relate to. The scenes were vivid, but not overdraw. I CARED about the conflicts. And just so you know these aren't the only two...
Published on November 6, 2007 by Amazon Customer


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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reduction Of The Self, April 21, 2003
By 
Edward M. Erdelac (Valley Village, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Incredible Shrinking Man (Paperback)
Scott Carey is exposed to a one in a million chemical reaction (brought about by a mysterious sea-spray and being drenched in pesticides) and finds himself shrinking 1/7th of an inch every morning. While the Scientific explanation is a little bit of a throwaway, and left me going `huh?' (like Bruce Banner getting the gamma rays or Peter Parker getting bit by a nuked spider), the end result is certainly not.
What plays out as a relentlessly depressing view of mortality and the loneliness in which man faces that mortality (much like Matheson's I AM LEGEND), ends with a surprisingly optimistic conclusion which puts this story into the realm of a zen-line allegory.
As he shrinks, the protagonist's social struggles grow. He is often mistaken for a child (by bullying teenagers and in one scene, a drunken pedophile) and begins falling into the `little man's complex,' raging at seemingly insignifigant things and growing increasingly more neurotic as a result of his inability to be taken seriously. His manhood is challenged as he becomes too miniscule to relate physically to his wife (in the pit of his self-loathing he contemplates the rape of a sixteen year old girl), and in a final display of his ineffectiveness, his young daughter treats him like a doll. After being locked and lost in the cellar of his own house, his neuroses become manifest in the body of a black widow spider who torments him endlessly (amusingly, its the same spider he wounds with a stone while in a larger state).
Carey's biggest problem is his fear. He fears his innate impulses and desires, he fears his financial instability with his brother, he fears the way his wife and daughter see him and his own concept of masculinity. The shrinking seems almost Heaven sent - a gift to teach the guy the importance of life and how to shed his petty concerns. In that it is very much like a zen parable. Carey is effectively being reduced physically and emotionally. It is his notion of `self' which is dwindling. Yet, when in the last pages he accepts his fate and performs a ritualistic sort of purging of worry by engaging the spider, things begin to fall into place both physically and emotionally for him. He comes to understand that he cannot (and doesn't need to) `escape.' From a Taoist perspective, he is rewarded for this, being in the end able to percieve the worlds within worlds (possibly a spiritual metaphor?) and gaining new hope.
Probably I AM LEGEND is more suspenceful and better written, but SHRINKING MAN is a much more thought provoking, nearly mystical read. In both novels Matheson spends a lot of time with internal thoughts, but I don't know many other writers that can make a one-man show this compelling. This isn't the adventures of the Human Atom, but the realistic study of a man. Well-deserving of the handle `classic.'
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Shrinking Man" is Still an Incredible Reader Pleaser., July 4, 1999
By A Customer
"The Shrinking Man" by Richard Matheson ("incredible" was added to the title for this release so readers unfamiliar with the book but who'd seen the movie would have a better chance of catching it on the shelves.) is among the very best sci-fi adventures, if not simply the best novels, ever written. Robert Scott Carey, the unlucky main character of this story, finds himself shrinking at a rate of 1/7th of an inch a day after exposure to a cloud of radioactive mist. Sure, it sounds silly, but trust me, this is one of the most fantastic reads around. Events that were not part of the classic film add moments of psychological horror that top even a Stephen King freak-fest. Carey's rapidly changing relationship with his wife and daughter (a character not in the film) is explored as well as several incidents with strong themes that serve to highlight the personal Hell Carey's world has become as it steadily outgrows him. Like the movie, the novel ends with one of the greatest climaxes in imaginitive literature as Carey learns the ultimate truth of his existance and provides the story with it's final, underlying moral.... Read it, Experience it, if not for the first time, then again... and again...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early Matheson and one of his best!, May 31, 2001
By 
Bill W. Dalton (Santa Ana, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Incredible Shrinking Man (Paperback)
This was the first novel by Matheson that I ever read, in a paperback edition, back in the mid-50s. He was already well-known for his short stories in the sci-fi/fantasy pulp magazines of the day, and even in the "slicks" like Playboy, and I had read some of them. This was the first work of his to be made into a movie in 1957, The Incredible Shrinking Man (I guess they thought the original title, The Shrinking Man, was too credible?) directed by the late, great Jack Arnold (It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula, et al.) but it wasn't the last. Most of his novels and some of his short stories have made it to the big screen (The Omega Man) or to TV (The Night Stalker). He was the Stephen King of the `50s and `60s!
I read this novel before I saw the movie, and although the movie was great, with stand-out special effects, a very good cast, and tight direction, it of course had to leave out quite a lot. The character Scott Carey certainly had some interesting and unusual problems, and his fate is finally to enter the microscopic world, where the unknown waits. The Shrinking Man is a great read, and I recommend it to all sci-fi/horror fans, and certainly all Matheson fans.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch horror by a top-notch writer, August 13, 2009
Is Richard Matheson the greatest horror writer ever? I think it can be well-argued that the answer is yes. Poe can be rather staid to the modern reader and Lovecraft may be great at describing weird worlds, but his storytelling ability is rather limited. Among more recent writers, Stephen King (who counts Matheson among his influences) is a contender, and there may be a few others with worthy bodies of work in the genre. Matheson, in my opinion has them all beat, not only writing some of the most memorable horror stories ever, but also providing the material for numerous movies and TV shows (including The Twilight Zone and Roger Corman's sequence of Poe movies).

One of his most famous novels is The Incredible Shrinking Man, and despite its vaguely science fiction premise, it is clearly horror. Scott Carey is trapped in the cellar of his own house, around an inch tall and shrinking every day. His wife and child think he's dead and he has no way to let them know otherwise. His once familiar surroundings are now dangerous, and his struggle to survive will be hampered by a black widow spider that seemingly grows larger as Scott continues to shrink.

Through a series of flashbacks, we witness Scott's initial discovery of his malady, one triggered by accidental exposure to radiation and insecticide. He is shrinking one-seventh of an inch every day; while a geometric reduction might seem more logical, Matheson's use of an arithmetic one puts a clear end for Scott: after he is down to 1/7 of an inch, he is doomed to go to zero the next day.

The physical toll is only part of the problem, as Scott's shrinking also affects him psychologically, in particular with his feelings of inadequacy (both sexual and his inability to provide for his family). Even if you're familiar with the movie, there are other plot elements in this story that would never made it past the Production Code.

In addition to this novel-length story, my edition also had several short stories, bookended by another couple of well-known tales. In Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, a stressed out man has trouble convincing others of a creature lurking out on the wing of an in-flight airplane. In Duel, a driver on an isolated highway is preyed upon by a malevolent trucker.

These stories are famous, as are many others by Matheson (such as Somewhere in Time, I Am Legend and Stir of Echoes), because they are excellent. Matheson's able to draw in the reader and make him or her identify with the protagonist. The hero's crisis becomes the reader's. If you are a horror fan, you must read Matheson.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic sci-fi adventure, May 21, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Shrinking Man (Hardcover)
What can I say. This is one of the great science fiction books of all time. Not only that, it's scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote and as exciting an adventure story as anything by Patrick O'Brien. You might remember the movie from your childhood days, but the book is far more inventive and thought provoking.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shrinking Man Falls Short - Spoilers!, November 6, 2007
This review is from: The Incredible Shrinking Man (Paperback)
I am a fan of Matheson. The first book I ever read of his was Hell House, which I thought was wonderful. After that it was What Dreams May come--something completely different. The point is that each of those two books had characters I could relate to. The scenes were vivid, but not overdraw. I CARED about the conflicts. And just so you know these aren't the only two books of his I've read, I'm just using examples.

The Incredible Shrinking man, however, fails on all the points I've just listed. I think this story would have been told better by another writer. Chrichton comes to mind, though there are many who would be up to the task I'm sure. For its Science Fiction elements the book is poorly researched, if at all, and leaves any reader with an inquisitive mind wondering how Matheson didn't fall into the gaping holes in his plot-line and disappear himself.

It didn't take long for me to start wishing the protagonist would just hurry up and die. He is whiney, lacks motivation for doing anything (yet somehow he still stumbles through the story--God knows why), but I didn't hate him on this alone. Matheson does a good job of telling us how the character is feeling, but does little to show it. I just didn't relate to any of the turmoil he supposedly endured.

The secondary characters . . . well, I don't even know why they were there. They did nothing the whole way through and I never found myself understanding their side of things. Really, now that I think about it, I suppose Matheson could have chopped their parts out and condensed the whole thing into a short story. It might have been better. I found myself fighting the urge to skip through the parts that dealt with the secondary characters because they were so boring. I NEVER do this.

Lastly (and here's the big spoiler, so stop reading now if you're insistent on buying this book) the ending was no ending at all. Everything that the reader is tantalized with throughout the story is taken away at the end. The protagonist doesn't shrink away to nothing. He doesn't find another universe at the submolecular level in which he can inhabit. He doesn't see what an atom looks like up close right before he dies. What does happen? He keeps shrinking. It was like Matheson decided he didn't want to keep telling the story and lopped it off half-way through.

If you are new to Richard Matheson don't start with this book (though a lot of the other collected stories within after TISM are quite good); I recommend the aforementioned Hell House and What Dreams May Come, and of Course I am Legend. Those show what this author is truely capable of. If you start with this one, though, you might not pick up a book by him again. That would be shame because you'd be missing out on some great story-telling by a master.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Hard Time With Shrinkage, June 13, 2009
This review is from: The Incredible Shrinking Man (Paperback)
Richard Matheson is a master, no doubt. No. Doubt.

But this book was a hard read for me at times. And I realize that where I had trouble was when Matheson would chronicle shrinking man, Scott Carey's, daily survival in the cellar. Now, as necessary as these scenes are, I would not look forward to reading the cellar passages.

Extremely incredible though, is the drama and the pain and the humiliation Matheson writes upon our main character. INCREDIBLE passages each time we would flash back to times when Scott Carey was larger, yet still, shrinking smaller.

The most amazing scene to me was when (no spoilers) Scott meets the circus "freak". "Oh to be a man again..." Wow... Richard Matheson really is incredible.

So, personally, I have to give this one 3 stars because it was half incredible and half hard read.

Also, the ending is powerful in a way that we will never relate to, but will inspire us.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very imaginative adventure and 9 amusing short stories., November 26, 1998
By A Customer
Richard Matheson's novel is one great adventure yarn. At times, it is a too in-your-face existential allegory (what with Scott Carey's, the main character, constant doubts on why he keeps on hanging to life?), and the tale never really points to the direction it takes in the ending. Yet, it left me satisfied to have followed it up through the whole journey.
The story of Scott's gradual descent into oblivion is framed by the events in what he expects to be his last week on Earth, before he shrinks to nothing. His cat-and-mouse game with a black widow bent on devouring him is an involving thriller. And in holding the tension of this hunt is where Matheson's prose shines.
The 9 stories included go from the darkly comic to the thrilling. Here are the titles of these stories:
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
The Test
The Holiday Man
Mantage
The Distributor
By Appointment only
Button, Button
Duel
Shoofly

Most of these share one of the basic topics of the novel: a man looking for a meaning to his actions, his life, a reason to go on. These ones, together with "The Shrinking Man", show the preocupations Matheson reflects about through his whole work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Emasculation of Modern (Shrinking) Man, May 31, 2011
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This review is from: The Incredible Shrinking Man (Paperback)
It's a shame that Richard Matheson has been burdened with the "horror/sci-fi" label throughout his amazing career. I just finished reading "I Am Legend" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man," and I'm absolutely overwhelmed.

"Shrinking Man" reminds me of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" but, for my money, it's richer, deeper, and more complex. A heart-wrenching, soul-searching study of modern man's existential decline, it's the metaphorical tale of an ordinary man shriveling under the daily pressures of work, money, marriage, parental responsibility, financial stress, shriveling masculinity, sexual insecurity, and utter powerlessness.

Trapped in a hostile, pitiless world that grows larger and more menacing each day--surrounded by women, girls, and female predators (the black widow) who gain more and more dominance over him the smaller and smaller he gets--Scott Carey's physical and psychological degradation is symbolic of post-war America's rapidly changing shifts of power: political, social, sexual, psychological, and intellectual. Reduced to wearing little boy's pants, then baby shoes, and finally banished to a dollhouse, the character's gender identity is slowly diminished from supportive husband, lover, father, and provider, to helpless child who needs to be mothered and protected, to family pet or toy. Finally, he ends up in the cellar with all the other vermin that lives beneath the surface of domestic life, feeding off crumbs and discarded scraps.

Underneath it all, the book is about sexual anxiety. What's really "shrinking" here is Scott Carey's manhood, which symbolizes his masculinity, which symbolizes his entire identity. It all comes down to sex. "Shrinking Man" details the horror and despair of male sexual humiliation--and ultimate redemption. By the end, Scott manages to reclaim his masculinity, but not until (Spoilers) he insists on one last night of sexual passion with a circus midget, and he finally kills the black widow that plagues his existence (wielding a needle from his wife's sewing kit like a hunter.) Sex and violence restores his sense of maleness, gives him the strength to carry on in a world of dwindling hope and heightened anxiety.

Emotionally, it's a wild rollercoaster ride--for both the hero and the reader. Me? I laughed, cried, got deeply depressed, downright disturbed, and ultimately inspired. "But to nature there was no zero," Matheson writes. "He would never disappear, because there was no point of non-existence in the universe."

Brilliant.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful psychological study of masculinity and loneliness, May 14, 2011
By 
Kat Hooper "Kat at FanLit" (St. Johns, FL, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Every day Scott Carey is getting shorter by 1/7 of an inch. The doctors have figured out why -- he was exposed to a combination of insecticide and radioactivity -- but so far they have not been able to make him stop shrinking. Now Scott is only one inch tall and he is trapped in the cellar of his family's rented home with a stale piece of bread, an out-of-reach box of crackers, a sponge, a garden hose, a water heater, and a black widow spider. And in seven more days, he'll be gone.

Well, that's enough to make many readers want to hear Scott's story. How did he get in the cellar? Why didn't he prepare for this since he had plenty of time? Where is his wife and daughter? Will the therapies reverse the shrinkage? Will the spider get him?

Readers who are expecting a horror-adventure story will be pleased with Richard Matheson's The Incredible Shrinking Man because there's plenty of scary excitement. Spiders, cats, and sparrows are monsters (and so are toddlers); the oil burner is a giant tower with an unpredictable roaring flame; the garden hose is a viper; the sand pile is a desert; the repairman is a giant; pins are spears and a spool of thread is a rope. That story by itself is fun and fascinating.

But it's the rest of the story -- the flashbacks, marked with Scott's height as he continues to shrink -- that make The Incredible Shrinking Man such an excellent book. For this story is less about the horror of being physically small than it is about the horror of being physically different and, specifically, about losing manhood. Scott was originally 6'2" and he had a good job and a loving wife and daughter. But as he gradually loses height, he also gradually loses his place as an employee, a husband, a father, and a man. It is this change that is horrifying to watch and made me consider what it means to be a man -- the importance of height, strength, respect, the ability to provide, and even the pitch of the voice. And then a heartbreaking scene at a carnival reminds us that "reality is relative" -- much of how we are perceived (and therefore how we perceive ourselves) depends on our position relative to others.

The Incredible Shrinking Man is so much more than an exciting and well-written horror story -- it's a beautiful psychological study of masculinity and loneliness. I listened to Blackstone Audio's version. It's eight hours long and excellently read by Yuri Rasovsky. I highly recommend this version.
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The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson (Paperback - February 24, 2001)
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