Man: Seven inches, thank you very much! Just over seven to be precise. 18 centimetres exactly.
A 12-year-old boy named John wakes up one morning and finds a tiny man in his bedroom. Known only as Man, he insists on staying, so John spends the next few days grudgingly waiting on his new guest. The Man is opinionated, messy, demanding and manipulative, with a fondness for specific brands of tea bags, milk, bread and especially marmalade.
The Man soon begins to outstay his welcome, but he and John nevertheless form an Odd Friendship. All the while, John tries to keep his guest a secret from his parents, who blame him for the Man's antics, and are bemused by their son's recent odd behaviour; buying his own expensive food, singing along to the morning service, arguing with himself, and coating the house with marmalade.
It was later released as an audiobook, with Michael Palin voicing the title character.
- As the Good Book Says...: The Man reads The Bible and quotes verses from Job.
- Batman in My Basement: A 7-inch-high man hiding in my bedroom.
- Berserk Button: The Man is prickly about being called little, but really snaps when John threatens to phone the authorities and have him put in a care home.
- Blatant Lies: John's flimsy excuses to his parents when he gets blamed for the Man's antics.
- Blood Oath: The Man pricks John's finger, as he swears John to secrecy about his existence.
- Brick Joke: To explain the voices coming from his bedroom, John tells his mother that he's writing a play, and has to try out the lines out loud. Later, after his heated argument with the Man:John's mother: John! How's the play going?John: Play?John's mother: It sounds like you've got half a dozen people in your room sometimes, shouting, and carrying on.John: Oh, the play! Yes, there's a lot of arguing in it. Mr Timpson says conflict is the essence of drama.
- Change the Uncomfortable Subject: The Man does this a lot, particularly when John questions him about his species.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Man, when he's not outright shouting.The Man: You think I'm a pet, a human hamster... why don't you buy me a little plastic wheel to run around on?
- Death World: The world is this for the Man and his kind. They are too small to lead normal lives, and almost everything is hazardous. Even making a cup of tea almost costs him his life.The Man: It's a dangerous place - the world - for us, people like me. Cats, dogs, birds, foxes, young children, rats, drain holes, lavatories, feet. You see we can't lead a normal life, can't go to work, can't get on the train or bus, can't go about in crowds. Can't even post a letter.
- Downer Ending: John is heartbroken when he awakens to find the Man has gone. There is no text to show this, but a final picture of John looking sad.
- Foreshadowing: Soon after arriving the Man casually mentions "three days... that's about the limit." He suddenly leaves on his fourth day.
- Full-Name Ultimatum: A variant, leading to an Oh, Crap! moment for John.John's mother: Talking of drama, your father wants to talk to you. Now. At once.John: (to himself) Uh oh. It's bad when she calls him Father.
- The Ghost: John's parents and sister are not seen in person, only heard; although they are visible in a framed family photo.
- God: The Man likes to pray sometimes, to sing hymns, and to read the Bible.
- Hanging by the Fingers: Left to make his own breakfast on the kitchen worktop, the Man opens his marmalade jar, which is as tall as he is. The jar then topples on to the floor, knocking the Man over, who ends up hanging by his fingers from the worktop, above the shattered glass of the jar, with one of his boots falling off. Fortunately, John rescues him. John had foreshadowed this incident, saying "just eat your marmalade, try not to let it get out of control".
- Hypocrite: The Man lectures John on the importance of hygiene and cleanliness, but goes two days without bathing and begins to smell.
- Ironic Echo: When John is fed up with being blamed by his parents for everything The Man does, he says "you've got the perfect alibi: no one knows you exist". Later, when The Man threatens to burn the house, he throws this quote straight back at John.
- Jar Potty: The Man uses John's paint water jar, soon after his arrival.The Man: Aah! Bliss.John: (to himself) I'm too old to believe in this kind of thing.
- Jerkass Has a Point: The Man does have a point when he suggests that John took him in and cared for him not out of kindness, but because he is small and a novelty, like a pet.The Man: A pet rat has more dignity that its keeper!
- Last of His Kind: The Man remarks that there are not many of us left and implies that there are just two.
- Lilliputians: The Man is 7" tall.
- Manipulative Bastard: The Man knows how to exploit his size and get what he wants. John even points this out.
- Men Are Uncultured: The Man is scornful of John's interest in art and poetry and his dislike of sport.
- Minimalist Cast: There are only four speaking characters.
- Misanthrope Supreme: The Man dislikes vegetarians, health food, foreigners, wine drinkers, art, stories, films, and even human beings as a whole.
- Mysterious Past: Very few details are revealed about the Man, like where he came from or how many of his kind exist.
- Naked on Arrival: The Man turns up stark naked.
- No Name Given: The Man's real name is never revealed. He claims not to have one.
- Noodle Incident: At some point before the story begins, the Man had an emergency which entailed losing his clothes, but doesn't go into specifics.
- Pet the Dog: Despite the Man's constant sneering at many things John does, there are moments when he shows some genuine appreciation. When John builds him a lavatory seat, which turns out to be no use to The Man, he seems to appreciate the thought, saying "you are a good bloke". Also, The Man's childishly written departing note to John:Dear Boy, time to moov on. Thanks for putting up with me, sory I stayed to long, 3 days is our rool. You wer mor kind to me than anny won els in the hole of my life. You are a God bloke, yor old mate, Man. P.S. She brought my clothes.
- Picky Eater: The Man dislikes most of the food in the house, dismissing it as "health muck." He insists on John buying his preferred brands of milk, bread, sugar, marmalade and tea bags.
- Product Placement: A lot of British brand names are mentioned: Coco Pops, Bran Flakes, Mother's Pride, Frank Cooper's Oxford Marmalade, After Eights, Guinness, and PG Tips.
- The Promise: As well as the Blood Oath above, John is able to hide The Man in a small "secrets" cupboard in his bedside table, because his mother has promised never to look there.
- Proverbial Wisdom: At the very beginning of the book, the following Chinese proverb is quoted: "After three days, fish and visitors begin to stink".
- The Reason You Suck: John and The Man have a heated exchange on the fourth day, when they list each other's faults.
- Running Gag: The Man's marmalade ending up everywhere: on the phone, on the telly control, and finally the whole jar is smashed on the kitchen floor.
- Scavenged Punk: A variant of this. The Man wears clothes made out of a sock with an elastic band for a belt, sleeps in a hammock made from a table tennis net, and uses a toothbrush made from a stylus brush from a record player.
- Sitting on the Roof: As shown on the cover of the book, the Man goes up on the roof when he wants some fresh air, and to pray a bit.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: The Man is curmudgeonly throughout, but one argument with John takes a nastier turn when the Man threatens to burn down the house.
- Toxic Friend Influence: The Man asks John to steal some beer and place a bet for him.
- Two-Faced Aside: The Man wants an egg for breakfast:The Man: Are they new laid?John: They are. Honeysuckle Farm fresh free range organic fed.The Man: (muttering) Health muck again.John: What?The Man: Nice. Very nice.
- Unsatisfiable Customer: The Man is a serial complainer."No pongy old socks, thank you very much!"
- Visual Pun: When the Man uses tissues, the box is labelled "Mansize".
- Volleying Insults:The Man: Can't stand soppy art!John: Can't stand stupid sport!The Man: Sissy!John: Dumbo!