100 of 112 people found the following review helpful
On the surface, THE INVISIBLE MAN concerns a scientist named Griffin who has discovered the means to invisibility--but who has gone mad in the process. When frustrated in his efforts to restore himself to visibility, he determines to embark upon a reign of terror that will make him master of the world. It is worth noting, however, that Wells was very much a social writer and that his novels are inevitably commentaries on various social evils. Once you scratch the surface of THE INVISIBLE MAN you will find that it is very much a parable of class structure that dominated British life during the Victorian age: there are many "invisible men;" this particular one, however, is in a very literal situation.
And it is the literal situation from which the novel draws most of its power. Invisibility sounds attractive--but what if you were to actually become so? How would you cope with the ordinary details of every day life? Griffin does not cope well at all, and although Wells suggests that his madness have arisen from a number of sources, he also implies that it may arise from the fact of invisibility itself, again twisting the context back into the social criticism on which the novel seems based.
First published in 1897, THE INVISIBLE MAN is one of Wells earliest novels, and for all its charms it creaks a bit in terms of plot and structure. Some may disagree, but to my mind the most effective portion of the novel are the chapters in which Griffin relates his adventures to fellow scientist Kemp--but regardless of its flaws remains extremely influential and it has tremendous dash and style throughout. Short enough to be read in a single sitting, it is a quick and entertaining read and it is also quite witty in an underhanded, subversive sort of way. Extremely memorable!
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
First, this edition: it's reasonably well-formatted for a free ebook, with few typos, although the table of contents is not clickable; it clocks in at 1,841 "locations."
As to the story itself:
This is H.G. Wells' foundational science-fiction tale of a mad scientist who discovers a way to turn himself invisible. It's a masterfully told story that's been entertaining readers for roughly a hundred years, and I'd lay good odds you'll find it well worth the read.
What many readers might miss, though (I certainly did, my first time through) is that this isn't just a sci-fi potboiler; it's a modernization of the Platonic story of the Ring of Gyges. Beyond being a master storyteller, Wells was also an ardent philosopher and socialist, and like all of his other tales, there's a major political point here -- that morality derives from society -- and some additional minor political themes, like the plight of the urban poor.
Wells' genius here was to take the Platonic story of a Ring of Invisibility that inevitably led its wearer to commit injustice, and revitalize it in a modern context and in a way that made a sophisticated philosophical point.
Where Plato's Glaucon states:
"For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice."
Wells extrapolates to the present, not only making the story amenable to modern readers by substituting a scientific process for a magic ring, but also by building on Plato's point: not only does Wells' protagonist commit selfish injustice after selfish injustice, but his self-severance from society drives him into a murderous megalomania, and his end is quite the inverse of Plato's Gyges (who ended up king of Lydia and, supposedly, an ancestor of Croesus).
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 1999
This is a classic tale about a researcher who, while he was the equivalent of a graduate student in physics, discovers a treatment for making himself invisible (using chemicals and mathematical expressions containing four dimensions). He quickly discovers how dependent he is on others and that he doesn't have the power he thought he would. I had always thought, based on what I had heard about the film based on this book, that the invisibility process made the researcher (Griffin) mad. However, upon reading the novel, I find that Griffin is morally and ethically bankrupt long before he takes the treatment. His initial reasons for becoming invisible is to avoid paying his rent (as he sneaks out of the building, he sets it on fire as a "lesson" for his landlord). All he thinks about is himself and to have power over others. He steals from his father who, since it wasn't his money, commits suicide. Griffin goes to the funeral simply because it is expected of him; but, he feels no remorse. He is a man who feels that the end (his power) justifies the means. Wells clearly has Griffin as the villian.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2005
This is a absolutely wonderful book that can be read quickly, maybe even in one sitting. It is told in the first person by an observer who knows the invisible man and is appalled by the transformation that is taking place as both drugs and power corrupt his acquaintence's mind.
What is so fun about this book is the pace: you really feel like you are there. It is all realistically imagined, down to the slowness of the undigested food that can still be seen in the invisible's man stomach. This makes the book far better sci-fi than the films, with the possible exception of the one with Claude Rains, which is the best one and the closest to the original novel by far.
In addition to Mary SHelley and Jules Verne, Wells helped to set the standard for all hard sci-fi that followed. Thus, if you like sci-fi as literature, this is a MUST read. But if you want a really fun read, this is also good for that.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 1999
"The Invisible Man" by H.G. Wells is not your standard sci/fi-horror novel. Wells wrote in a different era of time, and so uses a different style than what you might expect. The book begins in the village of Iping, and Wells does a masterful job of presenting each character with thier own style and the impact that Griffin/The invisible man has on them. In fact the entire first third of the book is almost a study in using dialog and mental asides for characterization. Then the novel shifts to Dr. Kemp and his relationship to Griffin - along with a healthy does of Griffin's account of his youth and scientific discoveries. Again Wells does a good job of explaining Griffin's temper and growing dementia. The conclusion of the novel depicts Griffin's final plunge into outright megalomania - spurred on in fact by his own genius and the reaction of others to his invisible condition. The book is a good read, but not without it (minor) flaws. If you are not into characterization, you will probably find the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the novel pretty uninteresting. If you are expecting excessive violence you will be dissappointed (only 2 persons die if I recall properly). In the end, this book is a very good example of the amount of detail a great author can heap into a small book. In our day and age of 'More Is Better' pop-hack authors like Eddings and Jordan, Wells still proves that with writing - size isn't important, it's how you use what you know. Wells squeezes more into 1 page than Jordan 'squeezes' into 100 pages.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2006
H.G. Wells was a prolific Victorian English author who is best remembered today by four novels written in a three year period early in his career: "The Time Machine" (1895), "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897) and "War of the Worlds" (1898). He was writing "The Invisible Man" at the same time he was working on "War of the Worlds" which came out just a few months later. According to one commentator, a common characteristic of all four novels, and the secret of their success, is their graphic violence contrasted with the innocence of their settings.
Wells was not the first to write of invisibility, other works from the 19th century include Gui de Maupassant's "Le Horla" and American novelist Fitz-James O'Brien "What Was It?". However it was Well's who created the mythological character that is immediately recognizable to anyone who has never even read the book. The invisible man, Griffith, is partly a mad scientist in the tradition of Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll dabbling in the mysterious arts, and partly a warning about the dangers and fears of science to an innocent public which was seeing dramatic change brought on by scientific advances.
The first part of the novel is fairly light-hearted with the invisible man seemingly a sad victim of his fate trying to hide his true nature and scorned by society, and even dogs. But then he begins to commit petty crimes, even gleefully taunting those around him - and then he designs to go on a "reign of terror" - similar to Frankenstein who was born innocent, but taught by those around him who saw only the fearsome and loathsome, he lives up to his reputation and becomes the evil which others "see" (or don't). His creation of invisibility is an innocent act, but it is man reaction and use of that invention that leads to evil.
"The Invisible Man" can also be contrasted with the English 'Invasion Literature' genre that was popular at the time ("War of the Worlds" is invasion literature canon). Similar to "Dracula" (1897) which played on the fears of a foreign invasion of the "dark" Eastern Europeans, "The Invisible Man" was a "Stranger" (the title of the first chapter), invading the otherwise peaceful confines of a quiet and normal English village.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2002
Several rural villages in England are stalked by a new evil--an invisible man with no morals, who claims he has been forced by circumstances to institute his personal reign of terror.
Cloaked in a costume of sorts to hide his self-inflicted invisible status (when it suits him), this "lone wolf genius" creates fear and havoc in his depredations of the unsuspecting countryside. Nasty pranks, then theft culminate in murder and egomaniacal threats--dark traces of his personal journey to depravity, in this classic cautionary tale of genius run amock. The author presents this absurd hypothesis in such scientific terms that it Almost seems within the realm of possibility.
Thirty-year-old Griffin, an albino, spent his post graduate years working secretly on a formula which would render living organisms invisible to the eye. Prematurely forced out into the world which he schemes to dominate without well-laid plans or adequate resources, he turns viciously bitter. Trusting no one--until he reveals the sordid details of his social and chemical
trials to a former university colleague, Dr. Kemp--the Invisible Man suffers the pangs of hell as he finds himself cursed and conspired against. Yet he brought it all on himself, by his callous disregard for human feelings and customs. Griffin ultimately becomes the object of an intense manhunt by the people he scored as naive and helpless sheep. HG Wells moves us to both despise and pity the wretch, as all humanity is ill at ease at this mockery of creation. A man needs a body, a shadow and a reflection in order not to arouse suspicion in a
relatively balanced world. Fantasy or Sci Fi, this novel continues to catch the attention of readers who speculate on the role of the individual in society. A fast-paced, quick read with serious undertones for all ages.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Roughly a century ago, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne virtually created the Science Fiction novel. In a period of less than 4 years, Wells wrote three seminal classics of the genre: The Time Machine (1895), The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898). The Invisible Man, which owes an obvious debt to Frankenstein, is based on one of the eternal themes of mankind and one of the perennial themes of Science Fiction. First, it explores the nature of man by asking whether an invisible man would still be bound by normal morality. Second, it develops the theme of science as a two edged sword; after initially conveying great power, scientific innovation turns on its wielder, driving him mad. One hundred years later, this ambivalence about technology and scientific progress has remained a central part of our culture.
As in all of the best books of the genre he helped to create, Wells combines these speculations with an exciting, fanciful tale. He and Verne truly set their successors a lofty standard to aspire towards.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2006
First off, the book is amazing--taut, tantalizing and fast-moving. The protagonist is . . . fascinatingly horrible. I really don't want to reveal more. It was fun for me because I knew so little about what was going to happen!
Wells does a masterful job of leading the plot through several points of view. Some parts you see happen before you, some you only hear about and some you can only guess at. It leaves the reader wanting more until the very unexpected, very horrifying end.
Now, as for this edition, I found it very meddlesome and cantankerous. The footnotes took particular pleasure in pointing out every mistake Wells made, whether with the timeline or in describing events. It was frustrating to read, as I didn't dare skip the notes because some of them were necessary to get definitions of words we are not familiar with today.
So, yes, read this book. Please. But no, don't get this version. Got it? Good!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2006
H.G. Wells' _The Invisible Man_ (1897) recounts the horror of a scientist condemned to invisibility due to an ill-advised choice to ingest potions that make him disappear. After conducting secret experiments for almost four years while living in London slums, scientist and provincial professor Mr. Griffin sees invisibility as a means to escape from poverty and obscurity. What motivates him is a desire for power and a wish "to transcend magic." In the middle of the novel, Griffin recounts, "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, the story dwells on the drawbacks of both invisibility and of scientific investigation that lacks an awareness of consequences.
One irony of the novel is that Griffin is, in many respects, already invisible by the time that he literally becomes invisible. The structure of the book reinforces this idea, as Griffin is invisible when the novel begins. His own story only emerges later. Through a reckless desire for "his magnificent vision," Griffin alienates himself from his family and society as a whole in a profound way. As he seeks invisibility and immateriality, his impoverished background becomes repugnant to him; it is what he labors to abandon. For example, he describes his father's funeral with a bitter attention to the material circumstances and emotional dissociation: "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 in turn precipitates violence. Wells offers a psychologically astute picture of the pathology of violence.
Wells' construction of the science behind invisibility reveals his own deep fascination with science as well as a suspicion of its applications. Just as in _The Time Machine_ and _The Island of Dr. Moreau_, Wells' explanations of scientific experiments and inventions are ingenious and terrifying. Griffin develops a process to discolor his blood vessels and remove his pigmentation. Such a pursuit, however, lacks any intrinsic merit. Wells suggests that when science exceeds the limits of nature and is undertaken as a form of monomania, danger inevitably ensues.
One of the novel's strengths is that it presents the predicament of Griffin's particular form of invisibility empirically. In other words, the practical challenges that Griffin faces as he moves about the world are described vividly. To be fully invisible, for instance, requires that Griffin be completely naked, since only his physical person, not his clothes, is invisible. This is especially entertaining because Griffin's physical attributes are withheld from the reader who sees only what the characters themselves see, which his thin air. The reader, like the characters, must imagine the antagonist, Mr. Griffin, in order to know who he is.
In the final chapters, Mr. Griffin assumes the role of the most feared agents in contemporary society--the terrorist. Unseen in the midst of civil society, the invisible man strikes with vengeance, using his invisibility as a weapon. Griffin desires to make 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 [...]." The end of the novel, particularly the chapter "The Hunting of the Invisible Man," describes how the English town of Burdock attempts to apprehend an invisible threat.
The Invisible Man is surprisingly relevant in terms of its discussions of social invisibility, science, and violence.