The Invisible Man: H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man H.G. Wells Book
by H.G. Wells

Book Comments & Discussion (2)

The plot is simple and straightforward. Griffin, having rendered himself invisible with an earlier experiment, enters a town and sets up a lab in an inn where he works night and day to come up with a formula that will reverse his invisibility. When he slips up and accidentally reveals himself, he engages in immature and violent actions until he is forced to run and find a new hiding place. As more people become aware of his existence, his situation becomes more perilous. Finally, he stumbles into the home of a former college professor whom he assumes will be interested in his experiments and willing to help him. The doctor, Mr. Kemp, however, reads newspaper accounts of Griffin's insane actions against people in the town and betrays his trust. Griffin is hunted down, caught and killed, whereupon he becomes visible again. The little, inconspicuous victim of some of Griffin's behavior is left with the stolen money and the documents that explain Griffin's experiments. The story closes with the suggestion that Marvel himself might try the experiments if only he could figure them out.
I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago, when I was given a present of a compendium of H G Wells' most famous science-fiction novels (War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr Moreau, Things to Come and the Time Machine were its companions, if I remember correctly).
The Invisible Man has become such a popular culture mainstay that it's very interesting to trace him back to his roots. It's a good, well-written, well-paced novel that touches on a number of social themes - Wells seems to be saying quite a bit about the corrupting influence of power. Although the power of invisibility itself hasn't come to pass, the novel can be seen as being prescient in another way, perhaps, given the totalitarian and fascist power regimes that were to grip Europe in the decades subsequent to its initial publication, and how the great power wielded by an individual or an elite few was so terribly misused.
Just in case that bit of tinhorn philosophy puts anyone reading this off the book, I should stress again how brisk, fresh and entertaining it (mostly) reads. The 1935 Universal film of the same name is a reasonably accurate transfer of the story to celluloid, with an excellent voice performance by the splendid British actor Claude Rains in the title role. Director James Whale, as was his habit, ramps up the English eccentricity a bit when it comes to the humour and the supporting cast, but he captures the gist of the plot and its themes with dexterity, and the special effects by John P Fulton stand the test of time reasonably well.
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From the twentieth century's first great practitioner of the novel of ideas comes a consummate masterpiece of science fiction about a man trapped in the terror of his own creation.

A stranger emerges out of a freezing February day with a request for lodging in a cozy provincial inn. Who is this out-of-season traveler? More confounding is the thick mask of bandages obscuring his face. Why is he disguised in such a manner? What keeps him hidden in his room? The villagers, aroused by trepidation and curiosity, bring it upon themselves to find the answers. What they discover is not only a man trapped in the terror of his own creation, but a chilling reflection of the unsolvable mysteries of their own souls.
“My fantastic stories do not pretend to deal with possible things. They aim indeed only at the same amount of conviction as one gets in a gripping good dream.”—H. G. Wells

With an Introduction by W. Warren Wagar
and an Afterword by Scott Westerfeld 
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Dec 2015
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