Three millimeters a day, the review of Richard Matheson's famous novel

Three millimeters a day, the review of Richard Matheson's famous novel

Three millimeters a day

Richard Matheson was one of the most influential writers on the science fiction imaginary in the second half of the 1900s. In addition to being a great source of inspiration for other authors including the famous Stephen King, it was Matheson who wrote the screenplay for one of Steven Spielberg's first films, Duel (1971), based on the novel of the same name. Almost all of Mathson's stories had a single man as the protagonist and described the loneliness of modern man in an anthropological and psychological key. However, The Shrinking Man is one of the author's few novels that deals with themes of great importance and addresses deeply ingrained human concerns, particularly those of men that somehow affect almost toxic manhood.

Three millimeters a day: the existential challenge between a man and a spider

The protagonist, in fact, is Scott Carey, a man who suddenly finds himself abandoned and forgotten by everyone because of his size lowercase. Not too long ago, in fact, he was a person like many others, with a family consisting of a loving wife, a loving daughter and a cat. He had a job and a very nice house. Due to contact with waste altered by some radiation, Scott suffered a severe decompensation of the pituitary gland and from that moment the body began to decrease its size by three millimeters per day.

The protagonist, therefore, will find himself sinking into a constant and unstoppable nightmare which is his very existence. Three millimeters less a day may seem few, but in a short time from 180 centimeters it is a few millimeters high and in such a situation monstrous fears and animalistic instincts begin to arise in a world that becomes increasingly unknown and large. So what before that moment had always been a normal and dusty cellar, will become a horrid theater of titanic dimensions. Thus begins a terrible odyssey in which the little man will find himself struggling with daily hunger and the presence of a gruesome and aggressive black spider that physically represents the terror with which Scott must coexist on a daily basis.

One constant tension from the cover

Matheson's work has influenced a number of great writers of fantasy, science fiction and horror: the aforementioned Stephen King and Ray Bradbury are among the greats who have recognized a debt to him. Matheson's 1956 novel Three Millimeters a Day is a tense and engaging tale that stands out right from the new cover of the latest reprint published by Mondadori Oscar Vault (translation by Eladia Rossetto).

This presents a graphics mainly in red and black that narrows towards the helpless white-colored protagonist who is threatened by a spider also in white. It makes the protagonist understand perfectly the sensation of terror and blocking and visually pushes the reader to discover more of it. The extremely compact dimensions of the volume also allow you to experience tension wherever you want.

The story, on the other hand, presents a structure composed of a rhythmic alternation of psychological narratives during the dramatic shrinking in front of one's family interspersed from moments of tension during the exploration in the immense cellar. In the first parts we can observe the first tacit and then explicit despair of his wife who tries to do everything to help him, including protecting him from the cat or putting him in a small dollhouse when the size becomes too small.

Scott, however, is increasingly absorbed in his fate as when he discovers that there is no cure for his situation, he begins to develop a psychological defense to avoid going insane in front of his family and the whole world around him.

The writing is linear, lucid, unstoppable and involves from the very first pages. The new existential state shown in the first chapter immediately describes the instability of the character who finds himself living an almost tragicomic situation whose destiny he already knows. After all, Matheson is one of the most prestigious writers of horror stories and full of paranoia that are also transferred to the reader. Thanks to his high ability to tell simple events in a profound and credible way, the story becomes anxious and at the same time unexpectedly realistic.

Matheson, himself, among other things, wrote Three Millimeters a Day while sitting in the basement, looking around for inspiration: what obstacles, like the family cat or the menacing black spider, would a man have to face while living his final days in such an environment? What tools could it use against these "enemies", perhaps a needle that could act as a spear?

Much more than "simple" science fiction

What makes Three millimeters a day much more than a classic science fiction story is the progressive view on the idea of ​​masculinity. Carey's physical contraction is obviously the most powerful symbol of this loss of male confidence and relates perfectly to post-war society. It is no coincidence that the main elements are the upheaval of the concept of the American family and the growing new threat of the Cold War with the shrinking of Carey determined precisely by the interaction with genetically mutated substances.

Precisely the reduction of physical dimensions. leads to various serious ripple effects: he cannot go to work and therefore can no longer be the head of the family. He cannot make love with his wife. He can't be a father. His great nemesis and threat becomes a spider who, not surprisingly, is a black widow who foreshadows his wife's widowed status and pits Matheson's male lead against a deadly enemy, literally known as the male eater of her own. species.

At the same time, the biographical note concerning the economic difficulties that characterized the same author allows us to glimpse a small positive message for all those who, despite finding themselves in extreme difficulties, have the courage or strength to continue .

Several times, in fact, we talk about suicide and how in that situation it can be the only solution, but in the end the desire to survive and the ability of man to adapt allow him to continue despite the undoubted difficulties. In short, Three millimeters a day is a story full of tension, but also of great teaching. As Stephen King said "among the very few titles that I can really recommend to readers, envying them the experience of the first reading".

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