Books Read in 2015 50. The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells

Genre: Science Fiction, Horror, Madness

Narrative Style: Third person, reported with details from witnesses Unknown

Rating: 5/5

Published: 1897

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: A stranger arrives at a village pub and brings with him all manner of strangeness. At first, the visitor is merely surly and unfriendly but it soon becomes clear that all is not quite right with him and the chaos begins. 

It is one of those things that people are thought to wish for – to be invisible, even for just a day. It is always considered to be a fun concept, one which involves all the mischief you could possibly imagine. It is this idea that Wells explores in The Invisible Man. It quickly becomes apparent that not all of the consequences are pleasant.

The novel begins with the arrival of the Invisible Man at a pub where he means to lodge. He is wrapped up to the eyeballs with scarf, hat and coat hiding the truth of his state. For the reader, there is never any doubt about his identity. The audience is in a position of knowledge compared with the characters and they wonder how the truth will be revealed. Wells slowly peels back the layers from the character until his true state is understood. Chaos ensues and it quickly becomes apparent just how difficult it is to capture what you cannot actually see.

What follows is essentially an extended chase albeit with a pause for the Invisible Man – his name is Griffin, it transpires – to tell his tale. The science of the process is plausible enough and the pause heightens the tension as it begins to seem that being invisible is sending Griffin mad. Wanting to see what the consequences of this madness will be are what keep the reader’s interest.

As with all good horror and science fiction, this is actually a philosophical discussion of what it means to be human. When Griffin becomes invisible he begins to lose what grounds him and attached him to other humans. He descends into megalomania and no rules or laws can hold him. Wells asks the question how far would you go if you had such power and who is to say that we wouldn’t all react in the same way if we had the chance.

There is a moral aspect to this tale as well. Not only is there the idea of absolute power corrupting but also it becomes clear that Griffin was an albino before he became invisible. In becoming invisible, he escapes the unfriendly gaze of those who view him as different and becomes much more powerful than them. A sad story, then of the revenge of one who feels himself bullied.

I really enjoyed this. It is pacy and the narrative voice is like that of a friend passing on the latest urban myth. Did you hear about that invisible man…. This is easily as enjoyable as the excellent 1933 film version if not better.

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