Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
The padding thus far has had mixed results. On the one hand, Owens, Benes, and even Grant get some extra character development. On the other the remaining characters could have been introduced like the movie did and now the General in charge is dragging his heels telling Grant what’s going on when he’s going to tell him anyway. Time is of the essence since a man is dying and they’re taking their sweet time. But this chapter should finally get everybody up to speed about the plot of the story.
Chapter 4: Briefing
Remember that one of the reasons Asimov agreed to do the novelization was to clarify some of the scientific questions he thought the movie failed to address. On the one hand, given Asimov’s history as both a person and a science fiction writer this makes perfect sense. On the other hand the debate over whether something can be miniaturized or not due to what you do with the mass didn’t come up in the movie and it didn’t bother me any more than superheroes like The Atom or Ant-Man and the Wasp ever bothered me, or even how Megatron could be picked up when he transformed into a small handgun. And yet, while the two method usually suggested (pulling out atoms or compressing them, both with nasty side effects) are mentioned, Asimov adds a third option…shunting the atoms into hyperspace and somehow still having access to your full mind. That’s the simple version and if that satisfies him it’s okay with me.
In the movie Carter and Reid both explained the miniaturization process to Grant, with a little help from Dr. Michaels, as well as concerns that Duval was secretly an agent for The Other Side. Here it’s all Michaels and given what he learn about him later that makes sense that he’s planting doubt in Grant’s head. Also of note that we finally learn CMDF stood for Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces, as it was in the movie. (I forget if it was the same in the cartoon.) We later learn that Benes knows or claims to know how to bypass the problem of a time limit on miniaturization. In the movie it was always one hour, but the books suggests that it depends on how small the item or person is shrunk. Benes knows how to increase that to indefinitely, although in the cartoon they actually only get to 12 hours no matter how small the Voyager was shrunk.
Also added was a extension of the worries about the effect traveling through the bloodstream would have on the Proteus the advanced submarine they’ll be using. Asimov adds a concern from Owens that shrinking down also means making them and the ship more fragile and that tests are inconclusive. I’m not sure why this was brought up unless it’s also part of the miniaturizing theological debates but this was never a concern in the movie, and we know the ship held up just fine. They will also be inducing hypothermia in Benes to slow his heart rate and blood flow, just reducing the forces pounding the ship. If memory serves this also happened in the movie. The dangerous path is through the heart, which they will be attempting to avoid.
Owen will be at the controls, but Michaels is called the pilot when in fact his job was actually navigation since he had the charts of Benes’ veins and arteries. Grant is secretly here to find a traitor but officially he’s the radio man and his skills as a frogman are also part of his qualifications. Grant has to be forced to going on this mission. In the movie he went along with it but here Asimov makes a point of having the guy who only learned of all this a few minutes ago not be as comfortable with this as everyone else, which does make a lot of sense. We also get the part where Reid isn’t happy that one of them womenfolk are going to be on the trip, but Peterson is Duval’s right hand and he’s not willing to deal with someone he doesn’t have the same kind of “choreography” with. She knows him well enough to be the Radar O’Reilly to his Colonel Blake/Potter, if you’ll pardon the M*A*S*H reference. Grant finds her attractive but the movie was kind enough not to have him pursue her romantically during the mission and they don’t become love interests or a couple or anything by the end and I’m hoping Asimov avoids the cliché as well.
If this chapter is the reason things were padded out to this point, so that Asimov could use this chapter as the full exposition dump and the first three as character introduction, I’m not completely convinced the goal justified at least the last chapter. Again, time is rather important right now since Benes is dying of a blood clot that could at least cause brain damage. However, it’s a well-written chapter if you want to get into the physics of miniaturization. And considering the titles of the next two chapters it’s going to be even more time before we finally get into Benes’ insides.
Next Time: Submarine