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.
Maybe it’s the fact that I never read this before, and thus my first read is being done solely with a critical eye. Or maybe it’s the fact that the dodgy science didn’t bother me when I finally watched the movie because I’ve seen the tropes for so long. Whatever the case I’m not enjoying this as much as I thought I would. The treatment of Peterson and Grant has me worried, the additions so far have been hit (Owens and Benes got development) or miss (the internal politics of military versus medical), but I am still interested. Nothing has broken me, but nothing is winning me over thus far.
Not helping is the fact that I’m not convinced the miniaturization scene needs to be dragged out even further than it was in the movie. I’m hoping the previous chapter did all the focus on the crew’s reactions, which I still want to see as that might give the padding a reason to exist, but the scene was as long as it needed to be to show the full process required to shrink them down, get them into the needle, and shrunk more to get the needle, solution, and ship down to injection size. Whatever thought Asimov didn’t see in the movie, the fact that they thought out the miniaturization to be a multi-step process shows some attention was paid. Part two of the shrink ray scene is coming up and we’re going swimming. Good thing we have a submarine.
Chapter 7: Submergence
Good news: the miniaturization finishes this chapter so there’s only two for the actual shrinking process, so the next one must be the injection. That’s one concern down. I’ll be curious to see how that goes, but let’s focus on this chapter, shall we?
Here’s where Asimov is in his element, from describing the machine that keeps the Proteus suspended over the enlarged vial (and how everything looks to the crew) to the addition of time reference slowing down as you shrink, which I don’t know would actually be part of miniaturization but it does help lengthen an hour plus movie a bit more believably if it didn’t work for you before. Since this process is not likely to ever happen in the real world I don’t think even the Mythbusters would be able to test it. Again, I’ve seen enough shrinking superheroes and further uses of this concept, from Captain N to Innerspace to Rugrats, that I’m not bothered by such things, but it does add a nice touch. This story will take more than an hour to tell so the explanation works for me.
I also ended up liking that Asimov didn’t jump back and forth between the process outside the ship and the reactions inside. First we see the process up to being dropped into the solution, then the same scene from the crew’s POV, then back to completing the final stage of miniaturization. It ends up being a better story flow. We also see the part in the movie where Grant and Duval had to work the valves manually to submerge the submarine into the ampule and the effect floating on the surface had. Asimov gets some more science explaining why the crew is not seeing what they expect to see in water the size of a lake. Michaels has a lot of dialog compared to this part of the movie but it’s used well to help get everyone on the same page when it comes to the theoretics and actualities, using Grant to explain things to the audience by having to explain things to Grant, which is how a perspective character should be used. No “as you know” or other clunky exposition. However, this will end up a negative if Asimov keeps one particular scene in the adaptation.
It’s not perfect. When the ship is ready to be dropped into the “lake” and everyone has to check their harnesses, Peterson loosens hers to check Grant’s for him. I don’t know if Grant has ever been dropped in a submarine before (most likely not since he likens the experience to a time his plane was in a nosedive) but I would think he would know how to check his harness is secure better than she does. He’s a special agent who has been in situations as or more dangerous than this mission while she’s worked in a lab. Does she trust his IQ that little or is this more hinting at a romance subplot this story absolutely does not need. It’s an unnecessary moment.
But overall it was a good chapter and I hope signals positive things to come as we finally get into the mission. But first we have to get into Benes.
Next Time: Entry