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The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
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The Invisible Man (original 1897; edition 2002)

by H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke (Introduction)

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6,454156597 (3.52)271
Member:divinenanny
Title:The Invisible Man
Authors:H.G. Wells (Author)
Other authors:Arthur C. Clarke (Introduction)
Info:Modern Library (2002), New York, Paperback, 159p.
Collections:Your library, eBooks, Read, Read 2013, The List, Buy and Get 2011, Readable
Rating:****
Tags:science fiction, 1001, fiction, sf masterworks

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The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (1897)

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May contain spoilers. Though, given the title, I'm not sure there's much to worry about there. Anyway, on we go!

The story seems best designed to illustrate the dangers of “lone wolf” science. If Griffin had been part of a team of researchers, or at least needed the stamp of approval from an oversight committee before proceeding with his project, he never would have wound up in the mess he did. Some member of the team, less blinded by dreams of unfettered larceny and licentiousness, would surely have realized that permanent invisibility, requiring permanent nakedness, would soon lose any charm it might initially have promised. Especially in a non-tropical environment. But, heck, even in the tropics one might like the option of a sun hat and sandals. Anyway, Griffin fails to look before he leaps, and the story fails to be tragic, or at least pathetic, only because he so richly deserves what he gets.

The first half or so of The Invisible Man is pretty slow going. Wells milks the country-bumpkin dialect of the villagers in Iping for all it's worth, and then quite a bit more. When we finally get out of the village, though, things do pick up, and there is actually some pretty funny stuff. The department store scenes, in particular, are really amusing (I kept being reminded of the children's picture book, Corduroy. Only with a naked psychotic instead of a fluffy little bear.) – I particularly liked Griffin's observation that he had never before seen clerks looking as lively and enthusiastic as they did on leaving the store at closing time. Griffin never becomes even remotely sympathetic, though. He reminded me a bit of a Poe character. Utterly self-absorbed, nasty, and increasingly unhinged.

On a more positive note, I took away from this a new appreciation for how nicely Sauron (the evilest villain in Tolkien's Middle Earth) designed his invisibility ring. When you put on Sauron's ring of power, not only do you disappear, but your clothes, sword, books, backpack, and all-the-loot-you-can-carry disappears with you. As long as you hold on to it, it's yours. A much more convenient system than Griffin's, where you need a porter (who may be reluctant) to carry even a credit card. A further Tolkien connection appears when Griffin is, several times, nearly located and caught because he's caught cold and can't stop sneezing, just as Bilbo does in Lake-town, in The Hobbit. Unlike Bilbo, though, Griffin can't carry tissues or a handkerchief. Heck, he doesn't even have sleeves. Eeew. It really doesn't bear thinking about.

Philosophically speaking (like Griffin, I'm recklessly leaping in where angels fear to tread!), Wells, it seems to me, isn't, at least not much. That is, he may be making a point about science – “don't make yourself a guinea pig without properly thinking things through” – but he's not really saying anything about the corrupting action of the power to act without social restraints, the way you might expect him to given the similarities to Plato's story of the Ring of Gyges. The power conferred by Griffin's invisibility can't be seen to corrupt him much, if only because he was such a horrible person to start with (If his dream of standing by his father's grave is supposed to indicate nagging conscience, I found it totally inadequate.). His plans for life with his “superpower” seem to have involved crime from the get-go. Feeling no remorse for sending his father to an early grave, kicking off his project with catnapping and arson, his only question is what sort of criminal career will best suit his condition. When it turns out that murder appears more practical than theft or blackmail he is not troubled in the slightest. So, moral degradation isn't really an issue. I guess that does put him in the same category with Plato's shepherd, with the only check on human depravity being societal restraints. A depressing thought, and much less interesting than a moral struggle would have been. ( )
  meandmybooks | Jun 18, 2016 |

3.5 Stars

The Invisible Man is character orientated in its own way, but by taking a distant tone to illustrate the isolation of genius from society, the corruption of power. HG Wells makes sure the man isn’t even that likeable, although of course my silly heart felt compassion sometimes anyway.

If you’re familiar with the Universal classic movie, the first chapters – that is his time at the Inn – is pretty identical in sequence and outcome in the film. Thankfully the shrew innkeeper woman wasn’t as madly annoying – worked in the movie but with the book it would have felt out of place. After he leaves in the inn, the story becomes a tale all of its own, leaving out most of the film events.

There is no redeeming romantic interest, no well-respected friends or colleagues waiting by his side in support. Apparently the point of the story is that his isolation has made him seek out further isolation. In the book he’s an albino and generally despised before invisibility. By the time he has taken his potions and transformed, he cares not for society; his drive to succeed with his advances is not spurred on by needing acceptance.

The theme and beginning are well imagined. The ending was tragic and excellent. Dialogue – I loved it when the Invisible man conversed with others, his intelligence shows through with his madness. I do think HG Wells could have done more with the story material, especially during the middle, which lagged a bit at times.

I enjoyed HG Well’s writing style – looking forward to trying more of his stuff.

( )
  Paperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
We're informally discussing this as part of 'classic science fiction' here: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/939745-july-s-gtr-the-invisible-man and we'd love to have you join us! ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
A man makes invisible, gets angry when people bump into him, has no source of income, resorts to stealing, people organize posses to get him, he runs amok, and gets killed. ( )
1 vote ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Read as part of the BIG BUDDY READ, 2015 EDITION!

4 stars.

H.G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man” (1897) is the account of a scientist condemned to invisibility because of an ill-advised decision to consume a concoction that hadn’t been fully tested. After conducting secret experiments for four years while living in London, the scientist, “Mr. Griffin”, sees invisibility as a means to escape from poverty and obscurity, being motivated by is a desire for power and a wish “to transcend magic.” Griffin relates, “I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man: the mystery, the power, the freedom. The drawbacks I saw none.” Of course, H.G. Wells dwells on the drawbacks of invisibility and scientific investigation that completely discounts consequences.

Ironically, Griffin is already “invisible” to society by the time he literally becomes invisible. Wells buttresses this idea, with Griffin’s backstory emerging later. With a reckless desire for “his magnificent vision,” Griffin profoundly alienates himself from society, with his poverty becoming repugnant to himself; this is what he is striving to abandon through his scientific labors. His words at his father’s funeral bring attention to this broad material and emotional disconnect: “I remember the funeral, the cheap hearse, the scant ceremony, the windy frost-bitten hillside, and the old college friend of his who read the service over him--a shabby, black, bent old man with a sniveling cold.” His literal invisibility leads to further alienation, which precipitates violence. Wells reveals a very astute picture of the pathology of violence.

Wells’ construction of the book reveals his own fascination with science, as well as a suspicion of its applications. His explanations of scientific experiments are ingenious and terrifying. Griffin develops a process to discolor his blood vessels and remove his pigmentation, but this pursuit lacks any fundamental merit, suggesting that when science exceeds the limits of nature, danger and insanity always follow.

Well’s accounts of Griffin’s predicament are a strength of the book. Practical challenges that Griffin faces are described vividly. For example, to be fully invisible Griffin must be completely naked, since only his body is invisible. This is especially entertaining because Wells withholds describing Griffin’s physical attributes from the reader. The reader, like the characters, must imagine the antagonist in order to know (and understand) who he is.

In the final chapters, Mr. Griffin assumes the role of the most feared agents in contemporary times: a terrorist, unseen in the midst of civil society, he strikes with a vengeance, using his invisibility as a weapon. Griffin makes his presence felt and feared: “That invisible man must now establish a reign of terror... He must issue orders. He can do that in a thousand ways...” Written almost 120 years ago, The Invisible Man is surprisingly relevant in discussions of social invisibility, science, and violence.

Highly recommended simply for the fact that it changed the face of science fiction for decades, impacting many of the grand masters. ( )
1 vote ssimon2000 | May 31, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
H. G. Wellsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gómez de la Serna, JulioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuylman, J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Loggem, Manuel vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parrinder, PatrickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Priest, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strimpl, LouisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The stranger came early in February one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand.
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This is the main work for The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. Do not combine with any adaptation (e.g. film), abridgement, omnibus containing additional works, etc.
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Wells was well, what wells
was was wells-nuts-was wells
welcomed when well wells?
(SomeGuyInVirginia)

Drugs can be harmful.
Voice from the mouth of a well.
Insert meaning here.
(SomeGuyInVirginia)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451528522, Mass Market Paperback)

This masterpiece of science fiction is the fascinating story of Griffin, a scientist who creates a serum to render himself invisible, and his descent into madness that follows.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:05 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

The tale of a scientist who discovers how to make his body become invisible, but, when he can't make himself visible again, becomes violently insane.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 33 descriptions

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