AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Invisible Man (1897) – HG Wells
Yesterday, I talked about one of the very first uses of invisibility in literary fiction. Today, I’m going to discuss probably the most well known use of invisibility in literary fiction. I decided to go ahead and lead with this book because so much of invisibility in pop culture is derived either from this novel or from Universal’s 1933 movie adaptation, which I’ll review tomorrow.
The Invisible Man was HG Wells’ fifth novel after such classics as The Time Machine and The Island of Dr Moreau. It was originally serialized in Pearson’s Weekly in 1897 but collected into a novel that same year.
Surprisingly, I had never read this book. I thought I would have been assigned it in high school or college, but that can also be said for several other classics I recently read for AWESOME-tober-fest like Frankenstein and Dracula. Due to this I, again, have to thank AWESOME-tober-fest for manufacturing a reason for me to shoehorn this book into my reading list. Let’s see if it was as good as Frankenstein or as bad as Dracula.
The book is certainly well written. It begins with a mysteriously bandaged man arriving at a boarding house in the small English town of Iping. The bandaged man not only looks mysterious, he is a very impatient man. He immediately starts rubbing everyone the wrong way and eventually is kicked out of the boarding house when he can’t settle his bill. This leads us to discover that he was a scientist who invented an invisibility serum and tested it on himself. He was trying to work on a reversal serum when he arrived in Iping.
While down and out, he tries to rely on several people for help, but can’t seem to get it together. All the while, he’s slowly going crazy from the chemicals he’s used on himself and fashions the idea that he’s going to take advantage of the invisibility and start a reign of terror to take over the country, starting with the citizens of Iping. Will he succeed?
The story is very well told. I like the “mysterious stranger” beginning of the novel (despite that the mystery is completely dissolved by the blatant title of the novel). Seeing Griffin arrive, begin behaving strange and treat everyone so contemptuously is a very in your face way to start the novel. And I like it. Eventually, the events that precede the novel are discussed at length about two thirds of the way into the story and by then, you are ready and anxious to hear how Griffin got to where he was. And HG Wells doesn’t disappoint with the “science-y” talk. While much of it might be well sounding gibberish, it certainly sounds impressive to hear Wells explain the invisibility science through Griffin. And there were several disadvantages to invisibility that Wells mentions that I didn’t expect to be brought up like not being able to sleep because you can see right through your eyelids, or that you can see food digesting in your stomach for an hour after you’ve eaten. Even down to the weather like rain or snow collecting on your head and shoulders making you visible again. Or dirt and mud collecting on your feet and fingernails also making you visible. I had expected these things to have come out of later novels and movies, but not this original story.
Things I didn’t like. The book seemed a little long. It felt like Wells was padding out the pages a little. Especially during the scenes where Griffin is discussing what he did before the beginning of the novel. Some of that stuff is great, but it also felt a little too long. And some of the side characters have crazy dialects. It’s supposed to be English countryside dialect, and I can’t speak to the accuracy of that, but it’s damn near unreadable.
But those are small nitpicks, honestly. I would recommend this book. Is it as good as Shelley’s Frankenstein? No, but it’s definitely a good, fun read and I’m happy to say not complete garbage like another classic monster book I know (looking at you Dracula).
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.