***** Terrifying, distressing, brilliant
This review will be short. This is how they come out when I like a book so much that I couldn’t find any fault in it and at the same time when a few masterfully orchestrated elements are what makes it a good book. This is the case of this fairly short novel by Matheson. It narrates the unusual story of a man who, because of a radioactive cloud, has developed a disease that make him shrink of one inch a day.
The story unfolds on two parallel timelines. One narrated by the now tiny protagonist, locked in the basement of his house, where he must daily fight to get food and survive the ambush of a huge spider (from his point of view). In the second, however, the character recounts the events that led him from being a normal man to be so small that he cannot get out of the basement.
While reading, the identification with the main character is total. The reader feels his shame while getting smaller, as well as his terror as he tries to survive in the hostile environment of the basement that gets bigger every day. On the one hand, you are curious to know why he ended up down there and apparently nobody cares; on the other, you want to find out what will happen the day when his height should be reduced to zero. And the author plays well his cards, increasing the tension at maximum and then switching to the other timeline, and then repeating the same crescendo.
And so, as you go ahead with the reading, you never know what could happen in the next page, and the ending itself, wonderful and brilliant in its simplicity, leaves you speechless.
I would add that, although it is a book from a few decades ago, it seems almost contemporary. I didn’t notice, in the language or in the way that the narrative develops, any particular ingenuity or other aspect that reminded me of its age. But that doesn’t surprise me that much, because up to now it has almost always been the case with Matheson’s novels.
The Shrinking Man on Amazon.