Hello, Spongey here.
For this month’s R.L. Stine review, I once again left it to a poll. This time it was based around his other work. Choices included Blind Date, The Beast, The Adventures of Shrinkman, and Rainy Night Theater. That last one is a bunch of short stories done as audio dramas. This was an especially tough race. At first those first two kept trading places as the winner…and then near the end this ended up getting a lead which it kept until the end.
I’m rather surprised as I thought it had no chance, not being quite as well known as those. Honestly, this was the one I was rooting for, for that reason. Plus, it has an interesting history. So now that it won, let’s get into that history.
First off, back in 2000/2001, Stine did 6 stand alone middle grade books, all with Tim Jacobus covers. These were reprinted in 2011, all with new introductions by Stine. These versions are much easier to find these days, I’m not sure if there’s any interesting differences though.
This of course was one of those 6. The other bit of history brings us back to Goosebumps Series 2000. See, only 25 books were released but more were planned. The next was meant to be The Incredible Shrinking 5th Grader, and Tim even did the cover for it. But after he made it, he was told the series was canned and it didn’t get used. This was all due to a bunch of stuff with Scholastic too complicated to get into.
Then not long after, this eerily similar in concept book comes out. A bit ago, someone straight up asked Stine if he simply reused the draft for this book and…he said yes. Yep, it’s confirmed this is basically the same basic outline. It’s unknown if anything was changed but either way, we’re basically covering a Series 2000 book n a way. That made me really excited to finally read it.
Then there’s the fact that Goosebumps eventually did this idea with Night of the Giant Everything, which you’ll recall I didn’t care for. Btw, that came out the same year as the reprint of this, Can this earlier effort be better? Let’s take a look and how it fares.
This, is The Adventures of Shrinkman
This cover is fine. It gets the job done, but isn’t terribly exciting. The bug looks cool and at least we’re spared a shocked kid face. Otherwise, it’s alright, nothing special but fine.
But as a bonus, here’s that Shrinking 5th Grader cover art. I’m surprised they didn’t just reuse this too but maybe there was copyright problems with Scholastic. I actually like this more, classic use of warping and the boy fighting a rat is a striking image. Solid stuff,
First off, we have the R.L. Stine introduction, which goes over how he got the idea for this book, and mentions some classic shrinking movies He mentions a bit from his childhood where they would do that keep track of your height thing and one day his mom and brother played a small joke where they claimed he had shrunk one inch.
..I think he found the source of Stine’s parental issues. Okay, enough psychoanalyzing. The actual book begins with our protagonist Danny Marin (a currently not shrinking 5t grader) with his friend Megan Burleigh. Danny is a big fan of the comic book hero Shrinkman, and draws him a lot. Megan makes fun of him for this because we’ve got another very not friendly friend on our hands.
Shrinkman is exactly what it says on the tin, a superhero who shrinks to fight evil and stuff. Danny tells us that he’s had movies and one of them had an ending he thought was dumb and illogical. He sent a letter over it but got nothing back.
Oh great, he’s gonna grow up to be a snarky internet reviewer.
Anyway, sometime later Danny and Megan go to see the latest Shrinkman movie. There are not many people here, as apparently the movies aren’t super popular. Some kids say the concept is dumb and the effects are bad. I don’t doubt the latter but the former is amusing considering Ant-Man and whatnot.
Danny stops at the vending machine and notices a soda called Shrinkman Cola. Man, for something kids mock, it sure is over merchandised. He tries it but it’s totally gross so he spits it out. I hope this goes somewhere. After the movie, they visit Danny’s dad who happens to be the projectionist.
Danny touches something and the projector ends up shining on him, and he starts to feel weird. …But I guess that’s not important as we cut to later at basketball practice with his friends Rommy (?) and Jake. Also, Rommy’s sister is there watching them and she has red hair, ding ding ding.
During the game, Danny starts feeling weird again. He has a hard time doing well and can’t jump very high to score a basket. Then his underwear falls down, lovely. Megan happens to be here, just watching him which I’m sure isn’t important. She does walk over, just to mock him of course.
The next morning, Danny finds that his clothes don’t fit as well. He tries to ignore it but that gets harder when his breakfast food looks a bit smaller. He goes to school where everyone, even the younger kids, is now taller than him. It’s interesting how the shrinking is happening gradually, as opposed to Night of the Giant Everything where he got very small right away.
He steps inside a classroom, and is already small enough that the other kids stop laughing fairly quickly. At least we don’t have to deal with any “clever” short jokes. Danny goes to the nurse and calls his parents to pick him up, saying he feels sick. He doesn’t give evidence to being sick but thankfully he shrinking state is pretty clear when they pick him up.
They are immediately concerned upon discovering this, Wait, the parents know of the weird thing in and actively want to help? I don’t think that was in the Goosebumps version. Although with how weird Series 2000 is, who knows. Anyway, Danny is now 3 feet tall and makes a visit to Dr. Haywood.
He of course doesn’t quite know what is going on but still does some tests and tells Danny to hold on while he ca until they figure something out,. I like this moment where mom tells Danny the doctor will figure things out but her voice makes it clear she’s pretty uncertain of that. Just a small sad bit I wasn’t expecting.
They get home and Megan is standing outside to do a dumb fake out prank. I only mention this because the parents call her out on it and I love it. They measure Danny and he is now two inches shorter. Upon seeing this is getting worse, Mom looks away so he doesn’t see her crying.
Geez, this is more dramatic than I was expecting for something with this title.
A bit later, he is now around 2 feet tall. Danny is reminded of some shrinking movies, including one “about the father who accidentally shrinks his kids”. Nice. The next morning, he has fall en out of bed which is especially bad as now he’s small enough for that bed to look big.
Megan comes in, because she just magically appears wherever Danny is for some reason. She thankfully spots Danny before he gets crushed and she happens to have brought a birdcage. She’s like the plot convenience fairy. Hey, at least she’s finally helpful.
They get a call from the doctor and are asked to come over. They get ready to go but Danny ends up falling out of his cage right before the others leave in the car. I get that mom can’t hear a tiny person I guess but she really should check to see if she still has her tiny person before leaving, just saying.
And now we finally get to the dangerous antics we expected, as he barely avoids getting run over and then the family dog attacks him. After some of that, another dog shows up but eventually they lose interest as dogs have shorter attention spans than I do. Sure.
Danny ends up in the grass where he bumps into a grasshopper. Oh hey it’s the cover. There’s an intense fight with the grasshopper (there’s a sentence) that ends with him falling onto an anthill. But he gets out of that one quickly, which is a bit disappointing since I figured ants would play a bigger part.
His plan is to get to the bus stop, get on the bus and take that way to the doctor’s. Thankfully the bus stop is weirdly close to his house and the bus shows up just in time. However, he has trouble getting on and tries to hitch a ride on a woman’s tight fitting jeans. The book’s words, not mine.
This actually works and sometime later, he makes it to Dr. Haywood. If you thought getting the front desk woman’s attention was hard before, try doing it when you’re small. He gets it, just in time for the doctor to come out and notice him. He tells Danny that his parents have been worried and that they went home but then happen to show up here after he attempts to call them.
With that, the doctor says what he called them all here for: There is no cure. Really, that bad news was worth all this? It just leads to more of the parents crying because we needed this to be a bummer again. On the drive home, Danny gets an idea. He recalls that this started after stepping in front of the projector, and he thinks doing it again can reverse this.
If it turns out the combo of that and the soda did this, it will somehow match the stupidity of the reasoning in Night of the Giant everything.
They had to the theater, which is now showing Attack of the 50ft Woman, hah. The projector dazes him like before…but nothing happens, And unlike last time, it doesn’t seem to be happening slowly as he is still the same that night. Gotta wonder why the protector still made him feel weird.
The parents leave to talk to someone and a bit later Megan shows up yet again. This time she takes Danny, as now is time for the science fair, and Danny is her project., Okay first off…what school holds their science fair at night?
But yep, Megan is behind all this. This would be shocking if it wasn’t telegraphed so hard. Seriously, there was even bits I skipped that make it obvious. That’s better than no hints but come on.
During an earlier scene at school, Danny drank some liquid which he thought was water but was actually her shrinking fomrula. Her great grandmother came up with it, and passed it down to her. Oh and her grandma was a witch. …Sure, why not. At least it’s going all of the way with the evil friend thing, which weirdly makes it better than it was in Night of the Giant Everything.
Danny asks what happens to him after the fair, to which she whispers “I’ll take care of you”. That was the scariest part of the whole book.,
We arrive at the fair, where a white rat from another kids experiment attacks Danny. Oh hey it’s the other cover! This is seen by the adults, so Megan presents the shrunk Danny to them. They are astonished and of course are more interested in calling the presses than helping him. Although it is neat for a lot of people to know of the supernatural antics.
After some complaining, Megan says she has made a growing potion and will give it to him right away. Either she’s now weirdly nice or this is a trap. Either way, she gets it out and has Danny drink it. However, nothing happens and this fomrula is a failure. For some reason Megan thinks this means the shrinking potion didn’t actually work either.
She followed the recipe exactly so great granny is a fraud , I guess. This means something else shrunk Danny, because it being a shrinking fomrula passed down by a witch made too much sense. He thinks the three way combo of potion, soda, and projector did it. Whatever.
They go the theater, but the soda machine is gone as that soda has been recalled since everyone hated it. But the guy picking it up is still in the parking lot, so Megan is quickly able to get a bottle from him. Danny drinks it and boom, it works! He finally starts growing back to normal size.
He returns home and everything is happy-ish again. The next day, he gears up for a basketball again when Megan asks if he’s feeling okay. Then he starts feeling weird…but this time he starts growing until he hits the ceiling.
Oh no, Monster Blood 3!
Megan is actually concerned, meaning she didn’t do this on purpose, and says she still has the potion and soda so they can reverse it. However, Danny realizes he’s now really tall and it’s time for the game. So he heads to to the court, saying he’s ready to play. The End.
Haw haw. I think 9 feet is a bit too much though, don’t think you’ll be allowed to play. Also, how is the fame from the science fair thing treating you? But whatever, we’re done.
After finally reading this, I can say it was actually pretty good. To get it out of the way, it’s much better than Night of the Giant Everything. Granted, that does have more shrinking action so perhaps someone could like that more but I feel everything else works better here. The reasoning for everything going is still silly but it works a bit better in that wacky sci fi way.
Plus, there’s no red herrings this time and no stupid villains. It’s the little things like that make it easier to stomach. Still silly but it worked better for me. Also, I looked up The Incredible Shrinking Man after Stine explained it in the intro and it turns out Stine took the whole “random weird things combined just so happen to make someone shrink” from it. Honestly his version might actually make more sense.
Anyway, we’ll likely never know what was changed from the Series 2000 version but I imagine the Shrinkman stuff was added. Despite the title, it wasn’t important beyond the soda. It doesn’t bug me too much but it’s worth noting. It does fit the 2000 mold of feeling a bit different.
The highlight of this book is the parents getting more involved. Their reactions to Danny getting smaller add in some emotional weight that we don’t usually see. I quite liked that so it made this feel a tad less shlock-y so I connected with the protagonist more. The way it’s paced does lead to stuff with him shrunk feeling a bit rushed. I like the rest enough for this to not be a big deal but maybe we could have gotten to that sooner.
Megan is a weird case. I feel I should hate her more than I do since she might be one of the worst friends we’ve seen in these. However. there is something weirdly charming about how she acts. Plus, she does get concerned about him near the end. I honestly fully expected her to relapse at the end.
So yeah, the pacing generally works, the parents getting involved is nice and the shrinking is fun when we actually get to it. There could have been more of it but there’s not too much that really annoyed me here. Even the things that usually would, end up adding somewhat to my enjoyment. Yes, the reasoning is silly but the little details make it a bit less annoying than Night of the Giant Everything was with its explanation.
Overall, The Adventures of Shrinkman is nothing too great but it is fairly solid. If this published under Series 2000, it would be in the upper but not super high camp. Not a huge favorite but I’d say it’s worth a look if the backstory made you interested. I don’t think hate on Night of the Giant Everything too much but yeah, this is much better.
Glad to finally have covered this, y’all made a fine choice. Hopefully all 80 of you who voted actually read this. Next time, it’s time to go back to Ghosts of Fear Street for more wacky Sci-Fi stuff.