The Invisible Man: Not someone you want to piss off

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Invisible Man by H.G. Wells fantasy book reviewsThe Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man (1897) is a story known by most people, but how many have actually read the book? It’s probably a lot darker and action-packed than you think. Also, like most of H.G. Wells’ books, it is not long and is available free as an e-book, so it’s well worth a day’s reading time.

Imagine you are an ambitious but poor young medical student named Griffin, eager to make a name for yourself and enjoy success. What if you were to discover how to change the refractive index of the human body (tested first on an unfortunate cat), to make your body completely invisible? What would you do with this newfound ability? You’d be king of the world, right? You could simply walk into a shop and make off with money, jewelry, or anything else. But wait — even if you remain invisible, the objects in your hand are not. Suddenly you have a problem. How do you get around town without being run into by regular people, or sneaking into and out of buildings without raising suspicion? Even worse, since you can’t wear clothing, it’s going to be cold and wet in the evenings (this in England, after all), and that gets old real quick.

In the case of Griffin, he soon discovers that being invisible isn’t that great at all, and that the narrow-minded people of small-town England do not appreciate invisible people creeping about. They aren’t even that tolerant of visible people if they’re strangers. The story begins with a mysterious man showing up at a small inn in village in West Sussex. His face is entirely covered in bandages, and he is violently opposed to small talk and company. This doesn’t go over well with the nosy proprietress of the inn, and when he starts having a series of chemicals and lab equipment delivered to his room, the villagers get increasingly perturbed. When she demands he pay his bill, he ditches his clothes, fights off some villagers who try to stop him, and flees to the countryside.

From there on things head steadily downhill in a cycle of violent encounters, kidnapping, extortion, and narrow escapes. Griffin decides that society is to blame for his predicament, and vows to wage a “Reign of Terror” on all who oppose him. The denouement is fittingly grim, and it’s pretty hard to feel sorry for the misguided and nasty Mr. Griffin.

Is this what happens when social restraints are removed for an individual? Is single-minded pursuit of scientific progress inevitably at the expense of compassion and morality? Based on The Invisible Man, it would certainly seem that way. Before Wells decided to champion the cause of socialism to solve the world’s problems, his vision was decidedly dark.

~Stuart Starosta


The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells fantasy book reviewsThis classic read revealed conflicts galore: Between society and the individual. Between lust for power and wealth, and the collective good of society. Between my literary side that wants to ruminate on themes of alienation and self-absorption, and my nerdling side that keeps wanting to pick apart the scientific underpinnings of invisibility.

Why did his potions and radiation work, especially on, say, dead body parts like hair and nails? Why would it stop working when [highlight to view spoiler] the guy died? Especially on his hair and nails?? I don’t require actual science here, just plausibility, so my mind will stop worrying at the problem and get back to Deep Themes like identity and isolation.

~Tadiana Jones


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STUART STAROSTA, on our staff since March 2015, is a lifelong SFF reader who makes his living reviewing English translations of Japanese equity research. Despite growing up in beautiful Hawaii, he spent most of his time reading as many SFF books as possible. After getting an MA in Japanese-English translation in Monterey, CA, he has lived in Tokyo, Japan for the last 13 years with his wife, daughter, and dog named Lani. Stuart’s reading goal is to read as many classic SF novels and Hugo/Nebula winners as possible, David Pringle’s 100 Best SF and 100 Best Fantasy Novels, along with newer books & series that are too highly-praised to be ignored. His favorite authors include Philip K Dick, China Mieville, Iain M. Banks, N.K. Jemisin, J.G. Ballard, Lucius Shepard, Neal Stephenson, Kurt Vonnegut, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, etc.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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