In 1987, H.F. Saint would write his first and only book, the sci-fi thriller, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.
It’s essentially a more modern, comedic take on HG Wells’ classic story. The book had great success after it was first published and subsequently Saint would receive an unusually high sum for the movie rights in the early 90s. This lead to Saint deciding he would rather retire than write a sequel that potentially wouldn’t live up to his first book.
Like most everyone else, I was aware of the 1992 Chevy Chase movie of the same name, but not that it was based on a previous book. I have thoughts on that movie that I’ll reveal in a separate review, and, consequently, I was a little reluctant to start the book because of those thoughts about the movie. But I sucked it up for AWESOME-tober-fest 2015.
So, the plot. Essentially, like I said, this is a new, more modern take on the concept of the invisible man. Nick Halloway is an investment banker. He travels with his sometimes gal pal Anne to a scientific demonstration at MicroMagnetics Labs and becomes caught in a massive explosion and wakes up several hours later completely invisible. While sealing off the area, a shady government agency discovers that Nick survived the explosion, and is invisible, so they do everything they can to capture him. Now Nick must stay one step ahead of his pursuers led doggedly by Colonel David Jenkins who seems to be several steps ahead of Nick who only narrowly escapes being caught on several occasions. Can Nick keep from getting captured and becoming a lab rat/covert government agent for the rest of his life? He’ll certainly try.
The book, to put it bluntly, is pretty damn awesome. Luckily, I haven’t watched the movie since it was in the theater, so I went into this book mostly blind. The events take a while to setup. It’s about 60 pages before the lab explosion. It’s over 100 pages before Nick escapes the labs of MicroMagnetics and goes on the run on the streets of New York. Throughout this book HF Saint really dives into explaining the unique problems Halloway encounters because he’s invisible. Not just the physical stuff like seeing through your eyelids, watching your food digest and walking without any visual body references. Most of this stuff gets mentioned briefly in the original HG Wells book as well as the Universal Invisible Man movie. No, it’s living on the streets as an invisible man where Saint really digs in.
How would Nick find a place to sleep? Sneak into one of the many Manhattan men’s clubs? Or vacant apartments? What about food? How do you walk the crowded streets of New York without bumping into other people and revealing yourself? How do you shed your previous identity and acquire a new one when you are invisible and can’t provide ID or show up to meet anyone? There are lots of problems Nick has to overcome which would be hard enough even without a determined government agency out to capture you at all costs.
The book has periods of Nick living rogue within New York and how his whole “system” works (how he acquires places to live, food and learning about the nature of his invisibility). And then the government agency finds him and we have quick, thrilling periods where Nick is all of a sudden forced to drop everything and go on the run again. It’s a roller coaster ride and one I thoroughly enjoyed which had me guessing and anticipating how it was going to end.
Another thing I like about this book is the way it’s setup. It’s written by the main character sometime in the future. He’s relating the events of the book to us as they happened in the past (like the title states, it’s a “memoir”). This allows the book to drop small hints about how things turn out in the future. Now that the book is over, I wish HF Saint would have continued with Nick Halloway’s adventures.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.