The invisible man

by H. G. Wells

Other authorsChristopher Priest (Introduction), Patrick Parrinder (Editor)
Paperback, 2005

Status

Available

Publication

London : Penguin, 2005.

Description

A quiet English country village is disturbed by the arrival of a mysterious stranger who keeps his face hidden and his back to everyone.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pscindy
Since HG Wells wrote The Invisible Man in 1897, the title character has been the subject of countless reinterpretations and parodies in several formats. This made reading the original book somewhat of a challenge. The first few chapters were particularly difficult. The townsfolk were all freaked out about the mysterious bandage-wrapped stranger staying at the inn, while I couldn't stop thinking, "People. Come on. You've never heard of Claude Rains?"

I knew I was being facetious. Wells obviously couldn't help it that his creation has become a pop culture icon, or that I happened to be reading his book more than a hundred years too late. It was a little disappointing, though. Wells was clearly trying to build tension in those early chapters, but from my smug 2008 perspective, it just wasn't happening. ("Gee, I don't know. Maybe he's invisible or something...")

Fortunately, once the plot got away from the inn and the seemingly endless variations on "OMG BANDAGES!" things picked up considerably. Wells put a lot of thought into the day-to-day details of a completely new (at the time) physical condition. Once I managed to get my snark to shut up, I could appreciate exactly how ground-breaking this book really was. It's a truly original premise, and it's executed very well.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Wells presents invisibility and its physical and moral consequences from every possible angle. Even if you think you know the basic story, some aspect of Wells' version will surprise you.
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LibraryThing member ncgraham
When I was a young teen, I was assigned Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for school reading, and surprised myself by enjoying the experience tremendously. I had always thought that they, like anything belonging to the body of work we now refer to as the horror genre, must be gruesome, sensational, and morally reprehensible. Instead, I discovered dark and probing examinations of the human condition, although the degree of their success obviously differs from individual to individual (I myself am far more fond of Dr Jekyll than Frankenstein). Since then I have read several more works in the same vein, including The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Phantom of the Opera, and last week I thought it would be a good idea to add The Invisible Man to the list, especially in view of the Halloween weekend coming up.

In many ways it reminds me of Stevenson’s earlier masterpiece. Both combine horror and science fiction elements. Both feature the results of scientific experimentation gone awry and threatening to terrorize humankind (in this aspect it is similar to Frankenstein as well). And finally, both adopt a similar literary method of getting at their respective mysteries by starting with the peripheral accounts of side characters and leading up to the protagonist’s revelatory confession.

Of course, finding such similarities caused me to make comparisons between other aspects of the two novels, which is always dangerous when one of the pieces examined is an old favorite. Certainly Wells’ prose is not in the same league as Stevenson’s; when I recently goaded my father into reading Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of the things that he raved to me about was the beauty of Stevenson’s writing. While reading The Invisible Man, very few descriptions or turns of phrase stuck out to me—and when they did, it was more often than not because of the very awkwardness of them. In passages of dialogue, the difficulty of the reading could be blamed on Wells’ use of local dialects, but obviously that does not prove a fitting excuse elsewhere. That said, I also suspect that my edition (1992, Dover Thrift) contained typos: there seemed to be verbs missing in odd places.

The characters, too, are often less than sympathetic. While most of the rabble the Invisible Man encounters during his stay in the town of Iping (I - XII) seem to be good people, we don’t get to know them very well, and when they are hurt or terrorized, one doesn’t quite know how to react. The Man himself evokes some pity owing to the misery of his condition and the onset of insanity, but he is so cruel that one can feel no more emotion towards him than towards a rabid animal; moreover, he is not as complex as one could wish—there is no visible struggle between good and ill in his soul. Dr. Kemp is virtually the only character worth cheering for but is, again, rather flat as a whole.

Finally, I do have to question Wells’ prerogative in titling the book The Invisible Man, given that the characters’ invisibility is supposed to remain a mystery up until Chapter VI! Ah well, it would make little difference nowadays.

A few passages of the book were genuinely impressive, and its quality as a narrative improved in the latter half, changing my evaluation of it from dislike to indifferent respect. The Invisible Man’s unveiling was truly thrilling, and his great narrative (XIX - XXIII) actually quite interesting, although a little bogged down by the details of the pseudo-science. (Again, Stevenson really had the right idea in keeping the nitty-gritty of his scientist’s experimentations obscure.) I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of humor present in the first half of the book, especially relating to the person of Mr. Thomas Marvel.

Given the cultural impact of the idea (I still want to see the Claude Raines movie), I think it’s worth reading once, but I for one found it hard to love.
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LibraryThing member elliepotten
I always thought my first foray into H.G. Wells would be The War of the Worlds - but actually this made a fantastic starting point! A quick read, The Invisible Man is accessible, vivid and packs quite a punch along the way, and I really enjoyed it.

It's about... well, an Invisible Man. Except when he first arrives in the little town of Iping, no one KNOWS he's an Invisible Man. Swathed in bandages, wearing gloves and heavy clothes, and with a hat and goggle-like glasses hiding his features, everyone assumes he's had a terrible accident. It's only when odd things begin to happen and the increasingly volatile gentleman is provoked into revealing his secret that all hell breaks loose. Is he a sympathetic victim or a murderous madman? Will he find someone to help him? How on earth did he reach this point in his life? How DOES a man render himself invisible anyway?

What really surprised me, at least earlier on in the book, is how funny it is. The small-town characters are so amusing - Mr Marvel, the tramp, has some particularly good one-liners that made me chuckle - and some of their brilliantly observed little foibles are ones we all recognise even if we'd rather not admit to them! Nearer the end of the book the humour gives way largely to the Invisible Man's eloquently-told story and the melodramatic thrill of the chase, which was interesting but for me, not as enjoyable as the quick wit of the first half. Nevertheless, I'm very glad to have finally read this classic of science fiction writing - and I'm still looking forward to The War of the Worlds!
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LibraryThing member devenish
This is,for me,one of the finest Science Fiction stories of all times.
From the opening lines-'The stranger came early in February,one wintery day,through a biting wind and a driving snow,the last snowfall of the year,over the down,walking from Bramblehurst Railway Station,and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly-gloved hand.-to the fantastic end,the reader is transported into the bleak world of the Invisible Man.Evil though he undoubtably becomes,one cannot but feel a great pity for him in his terrible end. H.G. Wells is without doubt an extremely fine writer in this genre.… (more)
LibraryThing member baswood
“Every conceivable sort of silly creature that has ever been created has been sent to cross me. If I have much more of it, I shall go wild. I shall start mowing them” says Griffin: the invisible man. H G Well’s character is unsympathetic in the extreme and this is what in the end gives this book a bit of an edge. When we first meet Griffin he does not come across as a mad scientist, but rather an irascible one, albeit with a vicious streak. His paranoia increasingly takes hold of him and he fights back to such an extent that he comes to believe that his natural place is to rule over the visible fools and dolts that try to apprehend him.

We first meet Griffin as a mysterious character seeking a place of refuge in a seaside town somewhere in the South of England. He rents a room in a small boarding house where he can lock himself away and work. His curious landlady and fellow guests soon interfere with his plans and he uses his invisibility first to frighten them and then to make his escape. This first section of the book has the feel of a slapstick movie as Wells has great fun describing the antics of those trying to apprehend an invisible man. There are fights, chases, robberies, near murders, until finally the invisible man becomes notorious and must now live on his wits to hide from a nation bent on tracking him down.

A wounded Griffin manages to escape and blunders into the house of Mr Kemp an old friend from university days and initially tricks him into giving him some aid. He slowly starts to tell Kemp his story and this is where the novel moves up a gear. Griffin has used himself as a guinea pig to test a chemical that he has invented that can neutralise the colour in skin pigmentation. His aim was to turn himself invisible, so that he could profit from the advantages that this would give him. He had not thought of the problems of being invisible and his first venture out into the streets of London naked in January soon made him feel that he was in a hostile world. Finding shelter and food were soon problematical and Wells description of Griffin in this altogether different environment is both imaginative and exciting. Griffin’s story is told in the first person, which contrasts nicely with the first section of the book which tells of Griffin’s exploits largely in the third person where we see the sometimes comical effects on other people of an aggressive invisible man.

Dr Kemp soon realises that his old friend is now nothing more than a brutally selfish individual, whose only thought is how he can use his invisibility for his own gain and his obvious delight in his ability to hurt other people convinces Kemp he is mad and dangerous. The remainder of the book takes on the appearance of a thriller as Griffin is hunted down

Wells’s novel has plenty of thrills and spills and there is the excitement of the chase, which rounds out the novel nicely. There is also the fantasy of being invisible and Wells brings out this aspect of his story to fire the imagination making it another early entry into the ranks of science fiction. When Wells switches the emphasis from being a mystery adventure story into something more fantastical then the novel started to work for me. Published in 1897; the novel cannot escape it’s British Victorian flavour and so we are not surprised when Doctor Kemp wonders about putting powdered glass on the road to impede the invisible man “It’s cruel I know, it’s unsportsmanlike” For me this adds to the charm and a busy street in London full of Hansom cabs and other horse drawn carriages would be just as dangerous to an invisible person as motor car traffic would be today. A 3.5 star read.
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LibraryThing member ssimon2000
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.
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LibraryThing member Hdeel
is such an amazing story .. talks about a person who is invisible no one can see him .. only with his bandages, his hat and his big glasses
and why is that? he's afraid to show to the other world who really is he, cause they will get scared of him .. and he was acting like a strange man .. he made the furniture of the house dancing and he stole a money from people in the midnight to pay for the place that he is staying in .. and the owner of the Inn thought about something strange about him and all the village were talking about him and why he's behave like this !! and there is a doctor who came to see what's the story about this man but he get mad and yell in his face and he kicked him out .. !!
later on when he show the people who is he they became like crazy .. everyone was running around and falling ..
well.. i learned something from the story .. don't judge about the people without knowing them .. give everyone a chance to show you whats their personality and whats there story
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
A young scientist finds a way to make himself invisible, but his success leaves him outcast from society. The Invisible Man is the story of a person who loses his humanity while pursuing an illusive scientific experiment.

This famous book is really more of a cautionary tale than a scary story. The main character, Griffin, is not a likeable guy. He’s rude and often cruel. Every choice he makes is driven by his underlying desire to further his own goals and his selfishness leaves him oblivious to the wellbeing of others.

The narrative itself is a bit stiff, but that’s to be expected in most Victorian literature. We see the outside world’s view of Griffin long before we learn how this happened to him. By the time he lets his side unfold it’s difficult to connect with his character.

It was much more tragic than I expected. It reminded me of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The author blends science with morality to highlight the importance of considering both elements in your life. What is the power to make yourself invisible worth if you lose your soul by doing it?
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells is a classic science-fiction story originally published in 1897. This tale verges on horror as a student of science, Griffin involves himself into research in optics and invents a way to render the body invisible. At first gleeful with his transformation, he becomes more and more angry when he realizes he cannot find a way to reverse the invisibility.

There is very little to like about Griffin who appeared to be a selfish, self-centered individual. He is described as a man of random temper given to bouts of heedless violence. His altered condition was extremely difficult to live with and this only made him more angry, more violent and a threat to all that he met.

I quite enjoyed this story. Although it was a little dated, I liked the angle the author took, showing how terrible and isolating this condition could be. This dark tale didn’t hesitate to show the mental instability of the main character whose revenge driven cruelty and fury toward others made it very difficult to feel any sympathy towards him. The Invisible Man is a classic sci-fi morality tale that holds up well.
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LibraryThing member andyray
H. G. Wells was a futuristic writer, a man before his time. As he wrote the first alien invasion story, the first time travel story, he also dealt with the idea that man can make himself invisible, whether psychologically or psychially. Ironically, a few years back there was a story on how mirrors can be used to refract light so the human being (or object) in the midst of the mirrors can be rendered "invisible."… (more)
LibraryThing member sgerbic
Reviewed December 1999

I read half of this book aloud to Stirling but this book doesn't translate well out loud. The "Hero," Griffin is anything but. The problem of being invisible are tremendous but most of the problems he brings on himself. The reader wants to like him and to help him but his is such an ass that you are happy to see him put down. The people in the story are extremely superstitious and irrational, which frustrates me. The professor Kemp who is introduced far to late in the story is likable but little is known about him. The book is confusing with all the names, places and accents which along with the changing of voices often makes this book difficult to read. I did enjoy that Mr. Marvel succeeds in the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member LARA335
This is such a famous novel that I was expecting a far better read. The opening chapter, as a muffled mysterious stranger comes to an inn, asking for a room and to not be disturbed is full of promise. But the rest of the story was tedious, as the invisible man loses his temper, and seems only to want to revenge himself on others. What is fascinating is the title which captures the imagination. But Wells strangely concentrates on the downside of invisibility - having to be naked in cold weather, being unable to eat invisibly, having others bump into you, without having some fun plus side moments.

So, a great idea, and I'm sure this is why the novel is 'a classic' - but none of the characters were particularly interesting, the invisible man himself plain peculiar, and what he gets up to bizarre and slow-moving.
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LibraryThing member 1morechapter
I have never read anything by H.G. Wells before, and I found this book very intriguing. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book. He set up the mood and atmosphere perfectly; it was very suspenseful. The middle of the story bogged down a bit, but by the ending I was enjoying it again. It was interesting to note that in my edition they noted four alternative endings to the one I read. They were very minor changes, and my favorite ending was not the one published in this edition.

One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis, and though Lewis admired Wells’ writing, he disagreed with him philosophically on many points. I just read that Lewis based one of the characters in That Hideous Strength on Wells himself. I’m planning on reading that book and the first two in the Space Trilogy by Lewis in 2008, so I’m really looking forward to seeing Lewis’ take on Wells’ character and ideology.
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LibraryThing member beserene
A classic and a quick read -- I finished it in the space of two hours when I was tired of slogging through work texts and obtuse stories. This is the story that asked us to question what might really happen if we had a the power to be invisible -- questioning the stability of the human psyche and human morality. Even with these questions, this is an adventurous and, dare I say, fun read. Wells maintains a naturally quick pace that satisfies even while providing all the necessary information. The science may be fuzzy, but Wells shows us science fiction in its earliest apex.… (more)
LibraryThing member GBev2008
There's a pretty good message to scientists here; Just because you can figure out how to do something it doesn't mean it's a good idea.

The story is readable and has its moments, but it isn't quite as compelling as I had hoped. Seriously, what's the REAL point here? Nothing very meaningful seems to be going on here.… (more)
LibraryThing member Blenny
I didn't expect this book to be as good as it was. I expected it to be a bit turgid but found it was quite the opposite, funny even.
There is a definite dark humour running throughout this novel and I surprised myself by bursting into laughter (rather embarrassingly) on the train at one point!
I liked the way that Wells throws in some of the problems that could come with being invisible, such as feeling the cold, can still be heard and smelt, walked into by people, can't travel far as no clothes can be worn especially regarding the feet, can't eat much as food can be seen in the body etc.
The aspirations of Griffin's character are similar to those of Victor Frankenstein's as both tirelessly and desperately work to further science and their own glory, only to create chaos, regret and sometimes death. Such is the legacy of man and human nature and H.G Wells, very much ahead of his time, knew it.
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LibraryThing member legendaryneo
This book is a quick easy read and well worth it. Not a tremendous amount happens in the story, but then again its only 110 pages. It is a classic science fiction story about a man who makes himself invisible. However life as an invisible man isn't exactly as he believed it would be.
LibraryThing member gmillar
A bit more "pop" than the other of his stories I have: The First Men in the Moon. I enjoyed it (and the logic/science of it) but it was more predictable than I expected it to be after reading the other book.
LibraryThing member gregbak
Character as cause of downfall; the man's invisibility is a dimension of his growing social exclusion. The best part of the book is the invisible man's confession to his old school chum. The rest of the book is an inferior adventure tale.
LibraryThing member Omrythea
This classic set the stage for lots of other great science fiction writing.
LibraryThing member kronos999
Very forward driven H. G. Wells classic. Infinitely more interesting than 'The Island of Dr. Moreau'. The author had clearly thought out the disadvantages of permanent invisibility and their effects on the human subjected for them for too long.
LibraryThing member themulhern
Lively and bizarrely humorous. There are numerous comic English characters. H. G. Wells was not all that impressed by his countrymen. This book is very different from "The Island of Dr. Moreau", the only one of Wells' other books that I have read. The reading was excellent. There is some inherent humor in a story in which the protagonist is necessarily naked or stealing the clothes off other people's bodies; the fact that this was a Victorian novel makes it somehow a bit more funny.… (more)
LibraryThing member Cathyvil
Disturbing tale of a lunatic who made himself invisible. A quick and engrossing read.
LibraryThing member gbill
It’s such a great concept, and of course has spawned various derivatives and movie versions over the years, so you have to give H.G. Wells some credit for penning The Invisible Man in 1897. In one of the better aspects of the book, Wells makes the invisible man irascible and increasingly insane, towards the end proclaiming he’s going to go on a reign of terror, and that “this is day one and year one of the new epoch – the Epoch of the Invisible Man. I am Invisible Man the First.” Perhaps that’s what comes from drinking strychnine! Wells also comes up with a reasonably plausible explanation for how invisibility is achieved, far-fetched as it is.

However, I have to say that the novel is not as great as it could have been. There are too many descriptions of chases and physical altercations, and what the book wants is more subtlety. The invisible man uses his power to steal, and I suppose it’s interesting that he’s faced with the dilemma of only being invisible outdoors in January if he’s naked. But the concept could have been expanded on, and he could have been a hidden witness to all sorts of dark things people do privately (and maybe altruistic things as well). He could of course also have been a voyeur. He could have used his power far more intelligently. Meanwhile, those who are pursuing him don’t ever think about throwing flour or something like that onto him so that they can see him. It’s short and worth reading, but a little unfortunate that after a great initial concept from such an intelligent writer that it’s so simple.
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LibraryThing member isabelx
About noon he suddenly opened his parlour door and stood glaring fixedly at the three or four people in the bar. "Mrs. Hall," he said. Somebody went sheepishly and called for Mrs. Hall.
Mrs. Hall appeared after an interval, a little short of breath, but all the fiercer for that. Hall was still out. She had deliberated over this scene, and she came holding a little tray with an unsettled bill upon it. "Is it your bill you're wanting, sir?" she said.
"Why wasn't my breakfast laid? Why haven't you prepared my meals and answered my bell? Do you think I live without eating?"
"Why isn't my bill paid?" said Mrs. Hall. "That's what I want to know."
"I told you three days ago I was awaiting a remittance -- "
"I told you two days ago I wasn't going to await no remittances. You can't grumble if your breakfast waits a bit, if my bill's been waiting these five days, can you?"
The stranger swore briefly but vividly.
"Nar, nar!" from the bar.
"And I'd thank you kindly, sir, if you'd keep your swearing to yourself, sir," said Mrs. Hall.
The stranger stood looking more like an angry diving-helmet than ever. It was universally felt in the bar that Mrs. Hall had the better of him. His next words showed as much.
"Look here, my good woman -- " he began.
"Don't 'good woman' me," said Mrs. Hall.
"I've told you my remittance hasn't come -- "
"Remittance indeed!" said Mrs. Hall.
Still, I daresay in my pocket -- "
"You told me two days ago that you hadn't anything but a sovereign's worth of silver upon you."
"Well, I've found some more -- "
"Ul-lo!" from the bar.
"I wonder where you found it," said Mrs. Hall.
That seemed to annoy the stranger very much. He stamped his foot. "What do you mean?" he said.


The reader realises one of the disadvantages of invisibility well before Griffin spells it out, as he keeps sniffing, coughing and sneezing due to catching cold from going about naked in winter. Although Griffin thought that invisibility would make him invincible and invulnerable, it turns out to be more of a curse, but he is such a nasty piece of work that I felt no sympathy for him at all.

I really like the structure of the story, which begins when Griffin is already invisible, and gradually fills in the backstory as the book progresses.… (more)

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