Saturday, 14 April 2012

Review: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Book cover for The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
I had absolutely no intention of reading this quite so soon, but as I was aimlessly scanning my bookshelves (I can't be the only person who ends up staring at book spines when they get distracted, right?) it caught my eye and I suddenly decided this was definitely what I was going to read next. It was so far back on my TBR shelf that it literally had a fine coat of dust along the top, so it was about due for a read anyway. Possibly prompted by my recent reading of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2, possibly it was fate. Either way, don't you love it when that happens?

Plot summary - With his face swaddled in bandages, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses and his hands covered even indoors, Griffin - the new guest at The Coach and Horses - is at first assumed to be a shy accident-victim. But the true reason for his disguise is far more chilling: he has developed a process that has made him invisible, and is locked in a struggle to discover the antidote. Forced from the village, and driven to murder, he seeks the aid of an old friend, Kemp. The horror of his fate has affected his mind, however - and when Kemp refuse to help, he resolves to wreak his revenge. 

So, I've harped on about my League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge enough now that I'm sure some of you at least know what I'm talking about. The Invisible Man is the second book on my list - so two down, seven to go! I have to admit I didn't like this book as much as I liked the first, Dracula, although this is a very different read indeed. Just as a quick aside, the character of Frank Skinner in the movie isn't actually the same invisible man as in the novel. H.G. Wells' works are still in copyright until 31st December 2016, so his characters can't be used directly until then. It's a neat way of getting around the copyright legislation though!

It's a short read, but not a particularly easy one. H.G. Wells is renowned for his technobabble and it does tend to slow down the story at times. There are detailed essays on how Griffin manages to achieve invisibility, and most of these left me squinting my eyes in confusion. It's not an essential part to the plot though, so I didn't let it bother me overmuch.

Still, the story picks up when he leaves London, now invisible, travels through a nearby village where he continues his research and eventually ends up at the house of an old friend, Kemp. From here, I was fascinated. Griffin reveals his entire story whereas previously it had mostly been conjecture and vague hints. It's a long narration, but it's attention-grabbing.

There's more action than you'd expect, although by 'action' I actually mean 'violence.' It's quite a melodramatic little story, as the invisible man is hardly what you'd call likeable. He's very self-entitled - he has been wronged by the world, life isn't fair and he's been badly done to by society (and so on...), so he is more than justified in all his wrongdoings. I'm not sure if we're meant to pity him or not, but either way - I definitely didn't.

Long story short, I liked the concept and the story but my complete lack of empathy for Griffin meant that I couldn't really connect to the book at all.

Read the other reviews for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge!


  1. This was (and possibly still is) going to be the first book I read for your challenge but the more I ponder the list, the more I think I might go end up going for The Phantom of the Opera instead. I prefer the idea of a creepy theatre to lots of science, I think. I'm not so great with science (hence the career with words!) and I kind of end up sometimes skimming it Q_Q

    Oh, and I totally wander into the study sometimes and just sit (often on the floor!) and look at book spines, plotting out what I want to get to soon. It's quite counter-productive a lot of the time because I often end up wanting to read everything all at once but I make up for it on the occasions that I walk out with something a touch dusty to read...

  2. I've always been curious about this one and will be reading it for your challenge - when I get around to it!
    I find myself staring at book spines a lot :)


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