The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
This novel was first published in 1897 and has aged remarkably well. It has been adapted a number of times for the silver screen, and the idea of invisibility is one which has captured the public imagination for millennia.
When starting The Invisible Man, I was prepared to be disappointed by expected antiquated concepts and science. yet the story is in large part based on personalities and social interaction. In the end I was impressed, yet again, by the writing of H.G. Wells.
Griffin is a brilliant but disturbed young scientist who risks it all to attain the perceived power of invisibility. He is a large, six feet tall albino, which may contribute to his overwhelming desire to become invisible in society. Yet, when he achieves his dream, it quickly becomes apparent that there are many cons to accompany the pros of invisibility.
Griffin is desperate to reverse the dramatic change that has taken place due to his initial success, and so seeks a means to be able to choose the gift of invisibility as and when he sees fit, as opposed to having it permanently forced upon him. His urgent quest compounds his already unbalanced state, and eventually assists in the creation of a monster.
There is beauty in this story-line. We all think that it would be extremely beneficial to live unseen by others. Yet Griffin soon finds that it is his invisibility that makes him the centre of attention. He soon becomes more noticed than ever before. I guess the proverb that springs to mind is Far away fields look greener, but the grass is seldom as lush.
True invisibility can only be achieved when Griffin is completely naked, so cold weather is a problem, as is fog and rain which both serve to show his hidden form. Dogs are another problem as they can sense the human presence by scent alone. Food just eaten is also an impediment to remaining invisible, as it shows until it is fully digested. Imagine walking down the street and seeing a partially digested chicken sandwich floating past you. You get the idea.
But Griffin sees only his potential power now, and sets out to establish a ‘Reign of Terror’ to ensure his complete control of society. He has become blinded to reality, drunk as he is on his own inadequate acquired abilities. Needless to say, disaster looms as Griffin comes to understand that he can rely on no one and is truly alone in the world. His rage builds.
I love the idea of late Victorian society being regaled by this thriller. It’s a good read today, but must have been a sensation in stoic England of that age. The science involved is somewhat irrelevant as it’s Griffin’s personality and story that carries the tale. There is also a healthy dose of humour scattered throughout, as country people encounter the preternatural Invisible Man. I should caution potential readers that there is some language contained within that is rightly regarded as highly inappropriate today.
This novel is a must read, if only so that you can learn what all the fuss is about when they inevitably make yet another movie about it. You may also better appreciate that great gifts come with great responsibility, a lesson the doomed Griffin forgot.
Sult scale rating: 7.5 out of 10. Recommended, as is optional invisibility. Think of the fun! (wink wink)