“Small World” by Tabitha King

Good morning everyone,

Welcome back to There She Grows! Attentive readers may have already noticed that this post will not discuss a growing giantess video as the last blog post predicted. Instead, that particular video will be re-scheduled for a later date. Instead of growing giantess we’re going to cover shrinking people in Tabitha King’s debut story.

Tabitha King’s first novel Small World was published on New Year’s Day in 1981. (CONTENT WARNING: Small World is a horror story. Accordingly, themes such as murder, physical mistreatment, and suicide were present.) The plot is centered upon scientist Roger Tinker who invented a miraculous device capable of reducing buildings, clothes, food, household pets, and even people!

Unfortunately, prices have crept up for hard copies of Small World and, to the best of my knowledge, it’s unavailable in soft copy. However, the Internet Archive had copies available for temporary check out, as of late January.

Roger was an interesting character. He was recruited by the federal government after his doctoral thesis was rejected. So, he was a talented inventor who was smart enough to work at the Ph.D. level, but never earned that credential. Therefore, Roger was an intelligent person capable of creating amazing machines, but he was also beholden to the government since if he was to lose his job he would have nothing to show on his resume. He couldn’t work as a professor at a university or as a scientist in the private sector because he could not write Ph.D after his name. Thus, he was at a loss when he was fired.

Roger was also socially isolated and an adult virgin. He was overweight due to drinking too much beer and eating too much junk food. He lived with his mother, a receptionist at a gynecology clinic, in a decidedly lower-class existence. Living with his mother meant he wasn’t in danger of becoming homeless or going hungry. So, that took the sting away from unemployment.

Nonetheless, Roger was searching for purpose and eventually found one after he met Dorothy “Dolly” Hardesty Douglas, a rich woman obsessed with her dollhouse replica of the White House. Dolly is the daughter of fictional American president Mike Hardesty and was given the dollhouse by a janitor who worked for decades in the U.S. presidential residence. Dolly seduces Roger and bends him to her will. Although, she was not as cruel as I suspected. Initially, I assumed the idea of participating in a long-term relationship with a “schlub” like Roger would have been repugnant. My assumption being that Dolly would assassinate Roger or at least steal his device, but instead she was more of a nagging girlfriend.

^ Summary taken from the inner cover.

Roger placed his shrinking technology into a handheld device resembling a camera which he dubbed “the Minimizer.” Toward the end a character points out that “minimizer” was also the name of a girdle. This fact was a revelation to Roger and caused him some dismay. As the name implies, minimizer bras and girdles are worn to de-emphasize larger breasts.

I want to digress for just a moment and express my own appreciation for minimizers, at least for one worn in a specific adult film:

This screenshot from 1992’s “Boobarella” shows Tiffany Towers wearing a minimizer bra while her breasts are squeezed by Staci Vaughn.

However, let me return to the subject at hand. Small World excelled in a few areas. For example, the slow adapting of the first shrunken human was well-done. There were several problems, such as how to feed a 5-inch tall person, which were explored. The tiny woman’s survival was not guaranteed and that added a significant amount of tension.

As has already been noted, Small World does deal with morbid topics like murder and suicide. However, it does not dwell on the macabre. This wasn’t a gruesome tale. In contrast, much more verbiage was given to describe the physical and romantic relationship between lower class Roger and upper class Dolly. It was interesting to see the interplay between one American without much money and another with a lot. Even though this was published in the early 1980s, more than 40 years ago, many aspects still rang true today. For example, the difference in the foods eaten by the poor and the rich is just as stark today as it was in Small World from 1981. Neither one of them were good people per se and hurt others with little to no consideration for the pain they caused. Thus, class did not determine whether someone was good or bad.

It was somewhat surprising that the government let Rogers go and were not aware of the practical results of his research. At no point did a shadowy agent try to reclaim the device designed using federal money over the course of one and a half decades. Perhaps a counter argument is that the supervisors were incompetent. Fair enough, I can accept that. However, even a dullard would realize that a machine which can instantly make thing small would be valuable. If nothing else, point such a device at an enemy military and make them tiny. Alternatively, make a giant pile of garbage into a pebble or reduce tons of radioactive waste into tiny pellets. This part of the story wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was odd that no one in the U.S. government was aware of what Roger had accomplished. More believable would have been if some evil G-man had shot Roger in the head (and his poor mother so no one would be left that cared about Roger) and took his machine. Alternatively, a buxom Soviet agent could have befriended Roger and pried the device out of his hands with promises to let him touch her boobs. Instead, nobody cared or was even aware.

The explanation for how shrinking was accomplished was only given in metaphorical terms. Rogers described it as the end result of a childhood search for the buttons which run this world.

My God, this explains everything! Now *I* will be able to shrink things too!

I didn’t necessarily mind that, but wanted to warn those folks who will want an explanation.

Often science fiction writers, like Michael Crichton in his novel Jurassic Park, attempt to give plausible scientific reasons for the incredible events in their stories. (NOTE: The June 13, 1993, issue of Newsweek magazine ran an article claiming that the science in Jurassic Park was sound.) Michael Crichton used the concept of DNA being taken from mosquitoes trapped in amber as the mechanism by which modern scientists could re-create dinosaurs. This premise falls apart when you learn that under favorable conditions DNA can survive for thousands of years, but is unlikely to be viable after the millions of years necessary for dinosaurs. (NOTE: Check out “Ancient DNA Damage” by the United States National Library of Medicine and “The final nail in the Jurassic Park coffin by the University of Manchester for more on that subject.) Tabitha King’s metaphorical approach avoided that pitfall.

Personally, I’m okay with both approaches. If Michael Crichton and Tabitha King could present a completely accurate method for bringing back dinosaurs and shrinking things then odds are they would actually do that instead of merely writing made-up stories. Such technology could be sold for a lot of money! In science fiction tales involving interstellar travel, it does not bother me if a writer is unable to model with flawless accuracy how a faster-than-light speed drive would work. It’s unrealistic to expect anything else.

Very few words were used to describe the process of reducing things. Instead of drawn-out scenes in which people and things gradually become smaller that happens in the blink of an eye. Additionally, it was unclear how much control (if any) Roger had over the final size. Despite a claim that he could “… shrink what I want as much as I want.” It seemed that he could only make things one size, as opposed to picking how much he wanted to reduce something. He could only make things roughly 1/15 scale, as opposed to picking whether he wanted to make things 1/2 or 1/6 or 1/12 scale, etc.

There was a satisfactory and decisive ending. It wasn’t the happiest, but justice was served. In general, Small World was well-written. There were at least two misspelled words, “Forzen” instead of frozen and “immpossible” instead of impossible, which did not affect the reading enjoyment, but were nice to see if for no other reason than to confirm that all writers make mistakes. The biggest negative was that this wasn’t particularly exciting or noteworthy. Nonetheless, tiny people fans should enjoy it. I don’t recommend spending a lot of money to read it, but check it out if you can for a decent price or borrow it from a library.

That’s it for now folks. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, next week’s review should actually cover a growing giantess video. Until then, keep growing!

This review was written by SolomonG and is protected under Fair Use copyright law.

All Rights Reserved.

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