Book Club: The Invisible Man

“Alone– it is wonderful how little a man can do alone! To rob a little, to hurt a little, and there is the end.”

I finally deleted my Kindle Unlimited subscription because I was not reading enough to justify the monthly payment, and I realised there are lots of good books on Prime Reading which I can access for free (with my prime subscription). One of such books was The Invisible Man. I was familiar with the book before-or so I thought. Once I started reading it I realised while I had heard of the book before, it did not appear that I had actually read it. For one I thought the main character in the book was called David Copperfield. Clearly some confusion here.

The Invisible Man is a Science Fiction novel by H.G Wells published in 1897. It follows the story of a stranger who arrives at an inn in a little village in West Sussex. The man is completely covered from head to toe; his face is bandaged and his body wrapped up in thick clothes. The Stranger is irritable and bad natured; and tells his hosts that he is a scientist that needs to be left alone to carry out his work. The mysterious nature of this stranger rouses interest and suspicion and this sets off a series of events that result in chaos and destruction. The stranger is revealed to be a scientist who has unlocked the laws of physics and managed to make himself invisible. However the invisibility is not the bliss he envisioned and instead causes a lot of problems, which coupled with his own natural bad temper and non-existence moral compass, makes him quite a villain.

“I was invisible, and I was only just beginning to realise the extraordinary advantage my invisibility gave me. My head was already teeming with plans of all the wild and wonderful things I had now impunity to do.”

One thing that this book taught me is just how undesirable it would be to be invisible. Whenever we are faced with making a hypothetical choice from a list of superpowers I always give invisibility a thought, before eventually picking something else. It would be nice to be nothing and just move around and eavesdrop without being bothered. I always thought of invisibility in a more ghostly term, in which you are completely unseen to others and can move around with ease; maybe even get a flight without paying. I never considered that you would still be human, just not visible, so you can still get hurt, feel the elements, etc. Of course this science fiction book is not a true documentation of invisibility but I find this to be a more “realistic” portrayal.

“But you begin now to realise,” said the Invisible Man, “the full disadvantage of my condition. I had no shelter — no covering — to get clothing was to forego all my advantage, to make myself a strange and terrible thing. I was fasting; for to eat, to fill myself with unassimilated matter, would be to become grotesquely visible again.”

I found the book easy enough to read, despite being written in 1897. There were not a lot of obscure, archaic words that I had to look up. The most interesting thing was the use of the word “Ejaculate”. Although this is a perfectly normal word that means to “say something quickly and suddenly“, that is a dated meaning and Ejaculate is now more used to refer to semen. So it is always funny to me when I see the word used in its original fashion, usually in older books.

“He lit the dining room lamp, got out a cigar, and began pacing the room, ejaculating.”

Though this is categorised as a Science Fiction book, there was not much science fiction happening until towards the end when The Invisible Man goes on a lengthy spiel about how he managed to subvert the laws of physics and achieve his feat. I swiftly skipped past all the science parts about light and refraction and this and that. I left Physics in secondary school and I will not entertain it any more. The rest of the book was pleasant to read and I enjoyed the story. The book was not very long, and I was captivated enough by the tension and drama. I was quite frustrated at how Mr. Invisible managed to evade capture over and over again. How strong could he possibly be? Also, he is a clear example that book smart is not everything because he could have lived a good life if he was just willing to share his findings with the world.

When I started the book, I assumed I would be sympathetic to the plight of The Invisible Man (who at this point I still thought was called David Copperfield). By the end of it I wanted him dead, or at least hurt. He was so evil, selfish and unreasonable. I assumed he had accidentally made himself invisible and was now trying to find a cure, and his bouts of rage were due to his frustration. Nope. He was just a vile tyrant with zero regards for others. The idea of an invisible man is actually terrifying. This must be what Paranoid Schizophrenics are trying to tell us.

“The pain had passed. I thought I was killing myself and I did not care.”

One thought on “Book Club: The Invisible Man

  1. Pingback: Crime and Punishment | Gobbledygook

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