Thursday, May 4, 2017

Invisibility Is a Terrible Career Move

I love this cover, it's from a 1949 edition.
I'm not a huge science fiction fan but The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells is so short I thought I'd give it a whirl. I'd actually started it a few years ago and for some reason never read past the first couple of pages, which was a mistake. I recently found a downloadable audiobook from my library, and was amazed that I was absolutely gripped by it -- it reads like a thriller and I couldn't wait to find out how it was going to turn out.

The story starts with a mysterious stranger, covered in a coat, hat, scarves, and goggle-ish sunglasses, who arrives at a boarding house in Surrey, where he takes rooms. The landlady begins to wonder if her new tenant has had some terrible accident or is disfigured because she never sees his face or hands uncovered, and he never eats in front of anyone else. He has mysterious boxes and parcels delivered, and is working on something scientific. She finds him eccentric but ignores it, because he pays well and on time.

Eventually, people become suspicious, especially after a break-in at the local vicarage coincides with the stranger's inability to pay the rent on time. After a confrontation, the locals realize his secret and he's on the run. After some plot twists and turns, he finds refuge with an old schoolmate who coincidentally lives nearby (it's a Victorian story so there has to be at least one amazing coincidence, right?) Wells uses this meeting with the old classmate to give the Invisible Man a chance to explain the back story of how he became invisible, and we finally learn his name. 


Of course things take a turn for the worse and it becomes quite thrilling. Anyone who thinks Victorian novels are boring has clearly never read this book, because it's quite a page-turner. I think H. G. Wells was very clever to start the novel in the thick of the story, so you become intrigued by the mystery of the Invisible Man, and curious about his history. I was also really sympathetic towards the Invisible Man until I learned the back story; then it was all action and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. I did listen to the entire thing on audio and found myself walking just a little longer so I could find out what happen next. I actually preferred it to the print version because the narrator was so good. (It was the OneClick Digital version narrated by Victoria Morgan, in case any one is wondering).

The first edition -- what a great cover!
I think I've now read all of Wells' most famous science fiction works except The Time Machine (I still haven't read that one because I was terrified by the Morlocks in the 1960 film version which I watched all alone as a child. I am still scarred by it.) This one is by far my favorite -- I found The Island of Doctor Moreau to be creepy and disturbing and War of the Worlds was a little boring in parts. This one was very engaging and I was only slightly bored by the technical explanation of how the Invisible Man actually became invisible, which is rather short and vague anyway. This was so good I may give The Time Machine a try after all. I also want to read Ann Veronica which is one of Wells' social satires. I've also read Kipps a few years ago and really liked it.

I'm counting this as my Book I've Started But Never Finished for the Victorian Reading Challenge.

10 comments:

  1. Hmm, now you have me curious. I want to know his backstory!!!! (I've always wanted to have the power to become invisible, but I have a feeling this is not about having a super power.) Anyway, The Time Machine (the film) was my favorite when I was younger - yes, the Morlocks were frightening, though it was so fake, too - but the book isn't anything like the film. I guess it is a good thing, although at first I was disappointed. Nonetheless, it wasn't such a major problem. Wells still has an idea to his story (even if you disagree, which I did).

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    1. I wouldn't recommend invisibility unless you can make your clothes invisible as well -- and therein lies the problem. Maybe shape-shifting is a better superpower, though I've always wanted to be able to communicate with animals (telepathically, so as not to attract attention).

      And if you've seen The Time Machine, I highly recommend the episode of Big Bang Theory when they bid on one of the props from the movie.

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    2. OK, I'll check that out. My husband was hooked on BBT for a long time. I bet he'd like to watch that episode w/ me. Thanks.

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  2. I love the title to this post!

    I read this book back in junior high and have pretty much no memory of it. I should give it a re-read because it does sound quite good!

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    1. It was much better than I expected. I would recommend it anyone who thinks classics are boring.

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  3. The husband and I listened to this once on a road trip and it really did help the time pass! It's about time for a reread, I think.

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    1. The audio was great. Normally I get impatient and can't wait for the audio to find out what happens, but this narrator was really good so I held out and didn't read ahead.

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  4. If you enjoyed Kipps, I think you'd really enjoy The History of Mr Polly, about a draper's assistant who escapes to a better life. The film is also good.

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    1. I would like to read that one! I didn't know there was a movie for thanks for letting me know. And I've found an audio version of Ann Veronica so I'll hopefully get to it soon.

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  5. Wow, we had completely different reactions on this one! I haven't got on with H.G. Wells to date. I loved The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, though. DINOSAURS. :)

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