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Group reads > The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (spoilers)

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message 1: by Ivan (last edited Jul 15, 2011 01:41PM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
This was the first book I read by H. G. Wells. There being no rhyme or reason as to what I'll read, I was browsing around the book shop and saw this and became fascinated. This was in December 2010 and I've read a dozen of his other works since. I was taken by how contemporary his style is. Of the dozen I've read (and a number of short stories) "The Invisible Man" remains a favorite. The story is almost immediately engaging - quickly becomes enthralling. The pace is fast, the thrills are plentiful, it's darkly humorous, and even a little titillating - after all there is a naked man running around the countryside.

Enjoy.....let the discussion begin!


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I am really enjoying this book. I haven't gotten to the titillating part yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

What I find very interesting about this story is how the narrative is set up. The reader sees the action, follows the dialog in present tense, and then some comments are made as if these people are being asked to recall these same events as having occurred in the past. It reads like a report from a crime investigation as we follow the events "live". I don't think I've read another story set up this way.


message 3: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 49 comments I noticed that, too, Jeannette - I love how H. G. Wells seems to be telling me a story that he heard once - it's an excellent narrative device.

This is my first Wells, but I'm very much open to reading his other work. I quite like the sound of Kipps, and, since I love novels about time travel, the next Wells I hope to read is The Time Machine.

But, back to The Invisible Man: It was frightening in parts (when you put yourself in the situation and ask, "What if...?"), it was comical, it was intelligent, it was evocative - it was a very well-written, well formulated story.


message 4: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Just an aside...

Everyone should read the following story. It's quite short and very fun.

http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdon...


message 5: by Ivan (last edited Jul 15, 2011 08:26AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I do own Kipps - but haven't really made a start yet; it and Tono-Bungay are considered his greatest social satires.

As for The Invisible Man I was particularly frightened by the scenes on the streets of London and those in the department store; I found them harrowing.

Something else - something besides the point - H.G. didn't clutter his narratives with subplots involving women - his heros have no love interests. In almost all the film adaptations there have been girlfriends and/or wives who have remained present throughout the action. Not so in the books. In The Time Machine the Eloi are [from Wikipedia]: "They are described as being smaller than modern humans, having shoulder-length curly hair, chins that ran to a point, large eyes, small ears, and small mouths with bright red thin lips. They are of sub-human intelligence, though apparently intelligent enough to speak, and they have a primitive language." In the 1960 film Weena is played by Yvette Mimieux. Well folks, that's Hollywood. Even in James Whales very fun 1933 version of The Invisible Man, Gloria Stuart is introduced as the fiance of Claude Rains (her character does not exist in the novel). No women in The Island of Dr. Moreau, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, or The First Men in the Moon. I find this all rather strange as H. G. was known as a ladies man; a man of affairs if you will.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I guess he enjoyed being with the ladies, but didn't find them necessary for plot development. Interesting.

Yvette Mimieux was worth doing battle for, I suppose...


message 7: by Hayes (new)

Hayes (hayes13) I loved this story. It's my first Wells book too, and I will also carry on and read others.

I particularly like the fact that the story isn't cluttered with romance or subplot. I might have enjoyed a little more detail about the I.M.'s time at school, somehting that filled out his motivations, why did he become the "monster" that he did.


message 8: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I envy you Hayes, starting this journey. I know I am only just back from this literary adventure (one I'll take again I'm sure), but that thrill of discovery only comes once.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

It's the first one for me, too. Thanks for starting many of us down this road, Ivan. :)


message 10: by Johanna (new)

Johanna (johanna25) I began this last night, and I love it so far! It's engaging from the first sentence. I'm only a few chapters in, but I can't wait to get back to it tonight. I really enjoy the story-telling device that Wells uses--that of recounting an investigation (others have pointed this out). It's a neat way to foreshadow that the story might lead into something more sinister. My dad was a Wells fan, but I've never read any of his work until now. Thanks, Ivan, for suggesting this one!


message 11: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Here's another great short story by Wells (and not at all like the Joan Collins film)...

http://www.horrormasters.com/Text/a26...


message 12: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 49 comments It hadn't even hit me that it's a rare thing for a novel not to have some depth of romance as a main aspect... It's great to see that you can still have great fiction without romance, as in today's publishing world, romance is pushed as being an essential ingredient. (I'm not against romance, just for the record!)


message 13: by Max (new)

Max | 26 comments If Wells really was a ladies man then I can understand him not adding any romance to his works. A lot of the books I read that deals with romance(The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises just to name a few) talks about the difficulty of it. Since HG Wells was doing alright in that area, he must not have been bummed by the heart broken blues. Besides the genre of sci-fi is so unique and inventive stories can progress without the whisper of an undying love.


message 14: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Hence, his social satires included women.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Maybe he thought that a) mad scientists didn't have time for romance (Griffin most likely did not) or b) women wouldn't/couldn't understand all the science. There were not many lady scientists at the time (late 1880's), I suppose.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I am just at the beginning of the section where Griffin explains his methods to the doctor. I'm curious to see if Griffin started out a madman, or if his awful experiment turned his mind.


message 17: by Hayes (new)

Hayes (hayes13) Jeannette wrote: "I am just at the beginning of the section where Griffin explains his methods to the doctor. I'm curious to see if Griffin started out a madman, or if his awful experiment turned his mind."

That's what I want to know as well... there's a suggestion that he was different at school, but I wanted to know more about his time there with Kemp. I may have to go re-read that section where Griffin is talking about his experiment. I read it when I was quite sleepy one evening.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

That's why I closed the book last night. I want to read it while I am awake! He seems to have been a bit of a malcontent at school, complaining about his professor, and his students.


message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 18, 2011 11:37AM) (new)

I just finished the story and I really did enjoy it. I imagine it was quite "thrilling" in its day. The mad scientist with his totally amoral attitude, seeking to start a Reign of Terror.

I found it to be a bit melodramatic, or maybe even unintentionally "funny" like those old "B" movies: the image of Kemp running terrified over rough terrain and broken glass, and the mob scene where Griffin is subdued.

I like Wells' writing style, and I think I will read some of his social satire next.


message 20: by Silver (new)

Silver Funny I never even really considered the fact that this book is devoid of any sort of romantic inclinations though I suppose when you think about it, it really is unusual for a book not to have some romantic episode, but than though I am not generally a science fiction reader, I don't think of Sci-fi and romance really going together.

I find "the stranger" to be quite a compelling character. I like the fact that he seems to have this gentlemanly exterior, with this quiet rage within him that every now and than is provoked to the surface. And well I cannot help but sympathize with his efforts to just want to be left alone, and yet subject to the constant curiosity, and intrusiveness of others. I also like the comic elements which Wells weaves into the story and sort of balances it out with the more dramatic elements.

One of the things that I have been curious about is the frequent sneezing. I wonder is that is meant only to be used as a device to suggust the presence of the invisible man to the reader, as well as perhaps to those around him, or if if it is somehow a product of his condition and if the sneezing is an indication of of some illness or health concern that he is suffering becasue of what became of him.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Later in the book IM mentions catching cold, due to his being naked most of the time, hence the sneezing. Wells does use it to tip people off to his presence.


message 22: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Silver wrote: "Funny I never even really considered the fact that this book is devoid of any sort of romantic inclinations though I suppose when you think about it, it really is unusual for a book not to have som..."

I'm glad you mentioned the "comic elements" because I was reading a bit of literary criticism that claimed Wells' work is devoid of humor; which I think is balderdash. I'm currently reading his social satire Tono-bungay and have smiled and laughed my way through the first 75 pages.


message 23: by Silver (last edited Jul 18, 2011 12:37PM) (new)

Silver Ivan wrote: I'm glad you mentioned the "comic elements" because I was reading a bit of literary criticism that claimed Wells' work is devoid of humor; which I think is balderdash.."

I think there is a great deal of subtle, and perhaps even at times not so subtle humor in this story. Who could not get at least a chuckle out of the chapter "The Furniture that Went Mad" And all the interactions between "the invisible man" and Mrs. Hall and all these nosey neighbors I think had a great deal of humor to them.

Haha I think the person who cannot find any humorous instances within The Invisible Man must themselves be devoid of humor.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

I found quite a bit of it to be funny; I just wondered if it was all intentional or not?


message 25: by Silver (new)

Silver Jeannette wrote: "I found quite a bit of it to be funny; I just wondered if it was all intentional or not?"

I feel that it was indeed intended. I have read books before in which I had found aspects of it to be amusing while knowing the author themselves did not in fact intend to be so, but in this case, it feels as if Wells does very much know what he is doing and is aware of the comical aspects of the book. Perhaps even a tad bit of humor in a story like this is needed to aid the readers ability to suspend their belief.

Considering that the very idea of an invisible man is absurd, if the writer did try and approach it from a too strictly serious point of view, than it may not in fact serve as being as believable and may come off as too melodramatic. But there is that certain self-awareness both between the characters in the book and the reader that they are being presented with an idea that is indeed absurd and I think it is this acknowledgement that does help make the story more believable.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, Silver. This helps me get a better feeling for my thoughts on this book. Early sci-fi is/was quite fantastical, and Wells made Griffin a very unsympathetic character, rather dark in tone. So, the humor kept the story from being a true horror story. I'm still considering whether the humor made the story more believable...


message 27: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 49 comments I found it quite funny in places, too, which I think was a fantastic way of looking at it... had it been written as just plain horror, I don't think it would have endured as it has... Plus the humour leads to a bigger shock for the reader when Griffin starts to kill...

And, Ivan - having read the synopsis of Tono-Bungay a few weeks ago, I added it to my 'to read' list, as it sounded really quite funny! Glad you're enjoying it - let me know what you think of it once you've finished... :)


message 28: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Urgh; I've set it aside in favor of a book about Agatha Christie. I was really into it and then it kinda dried up for me - Wells started to ramble. I have to say that when Wells wrote science fiction romances (his term) he never strayed much from his topic, he never seemd to loose focus and these works (especially the early works and short stories) haven't an ounce of fat on them, not an extra word or punctuation mark; and that's one reason I like them so much and yet another reason why I enjoy novellas above most other fiction.


message 29: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 49 comments Is that the book about her disappearance for the 11 days? It looks really intriguing. Shame about the Wells - hope it gets better once you get back to it!


message 30: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Lois wrote: "Is that the book about her disappearance for the 11 days? It looks really intriguing. Shame about the Wells - hope it gets better once you get back to it!"

Yes, the book deals with those eleven days. We are reading it at Bight Young Things group. As far as the Wells goes, I am hoping to get back to it eventually.


message 31: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 49 comments I'm a member of Bright Young Things, and saw your post in there about it after I'd posted my previous message here. Looks really good - how are you finding it?


message 32: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
It's entertaining; the writer's style lacks passion, but he's presenting the facts.


message 33: by Silver (new)

Silver One of the things I enjoy about this book is his realistic portrayal of being invisible. It is almost like a careful what you wish for type of thing. I am sure many of us as kids have had our own fantasies of being invisible and initially it sounds like it would be this really cool thing, in which we could do anything we wanted, and have complete freedom.

But Well's shows the reality of what it might truly mean to be invisible and not just the ideal of it and how it had acutally come to be a sort of curse for Griffin. All of the consequences of invisibility that no one really considers ahead of time. The fact that you would have to go naked all the time, and how invisibility does not equate invincibility, so you are still susceptible to the same vulnerabilities of any human. And how even being invisible becaue you are still a solid body it may prove harder than one might think to avoid detection or discovery by other people.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

I loved Griffin's frantic recounting of all the near misses he had -- being trod upon, and knocked about; freezing and hungry. And, Griffin devolved into the worst kind of criminal, so he couldn't even attain recognition from the scientific community for his discovery.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

I finished reading The Invisible Man today - a first read for me of the book and the author - I found it extremely frightening and incredibly good. Although I was horrified as we traced the evolution of genius into madness, I was totally engaged throughout - I found myself asking what makes some scientists think they can change the natural course of things under the guise of improvement? Is it egotism? Is it lust for power? fame? fortune? Invariably, in these kinds of stories, the tinkering always ends in disaster - Why? -What do you think the authors of these types of stories are trying to tell us?


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Interesting question, Maria. This is my first Wells book, too, and I don't know enough about his feelings about science. He certainly was writing sci-fi (Time Machine, War of the Worlds, Invisible Man). And rather than a genius, Griffin ends up a madman. But, I didn't feel that he was warning the reader away from science in general. Maybe he was cautioning scientists to remember their morality, their humanity, when they explored these new and powerful technologies.


message 37: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
And, be careful what you wish for (as Silver said).


message 38: by Gary (new)

Gary Smith (gary622) | 4 comments I'd never read the story before, and really haven't read Wells before. Quite different than the Invisible Man "trope" so frequently alluded to in comics.

What struck me was that he didn't use his powers much for good or ill, although his intentions quickly turned "evil" - his entire life after turning himself invisible was pretty much just one thing after another.

Surprisingly realistic, once you accept the fantastic premise.


message 39: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I agree Gary. I think that's what makes Wells "work" so well, though science fiction it all seems plausible.


message 40: by Lois (last edited Jul 30, 2011 02:46AM) (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 49 comments Gary wrote: "Surprisingly realistic, once you accept the fantastic premise."

I agree. To me, it wasn't what one would expect a typical sci-fi story (if there is such a thing) to be... I say this as a reader who isn't into the mainstream sci-fi subjects of aliens, space, androids, etc... The only sci-fi I tend to like is that of time travel and 'what if...?' scenarios (such as The Invisible Man).


message 41: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Lois wrote: "Gary wrote: "Surprisingly realistic, once you accept the fantastic premise."

I agree. To me, it wasn't what one would expect a typical sci-fi story (if there is such a thing) to be... I say this..."


Speaking of time travel, I'm a third of the way through The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier and love it.


message 42: by Silver (new)

Silver I have to say that I could not help but to be sympathetic towards Griffin at least to some degree. I felt that he was driven to his madness by the constant harassment and persecution of others and that his bouts of violent temper were provoked. And while I do not agree with or condone some of his actions, I can understand how the need for self-preservation drove him to committing acts of desperation. After his struggles to try and survive his need to inspire fear in others was his last final act of self-defense.


message 43: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 30, 2011 08:36PM) (new)

I lost all sympathy for Griffin when he revealed how he got the money to fund his experiment -"I robbed the old man - robbed my father. The money was not his, and he shot himself." He coldly described how he continued with his project - "I was like a man emerging from a thicket, and suddenly coming on some unmeaning tragedy. I went to bury him. My mind was still on this research, and I did not lift a finger to save his character." Then he callously revealed his lack of remorse and blamed his father for the tragedy -"I did not feel a bit sorry for my father. He seemed to me to be the victim of his own foolish sentimentality." Psychopathic behavior eventually warping into monstrous behavior was the deal breaker for me. I cheered at the end - Griffin got what he deserved.


message 44: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I have to agree with Maria. People have all sorts of horrible things happen to them in their lives from childhood onward - and I have sympathy for them. However, that sympathy goes out the window when they in turn use their misfortune as an excuse to do harm to others.

Griffin was vainglorious and narcissistic from the start. The drugs only brought out the worst in him and then drove him in to madness. I found it all fascinating.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Ivan has summed up my feelings quite succinctly. I think he enjoyed tormenting people to some degree.


message 46: by Silver (new)

Silver With the exception of the robberies, it seems to me that most the people he harmed as a direct act of self-defense. The people whom he killed, or attempted to kill were people who were impeding his own survival. That does not excuse what he did, but I can understand what drove him to his actions.


message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 31, 2011 11:02AM) (new)

I suppose it depends on the definition of survival. Escaping capture, escaping punishment for crimes by killing goes beyond self-defense, at least by society's definition. And, what about the tramp (I can't remember his name right now), whom he pretty much enslaved to do his bidding? It was a rather extreme act in the name of survival.

Because I see him as being a man outside of society's moral standards by nature, I certainly understand that he felt his actions were justified out of a sense of self-preservation


message 48: by Silver (new)

Silver Jeannette wrote: "I suppose it depends on the definition of survival. Escaping capture, escaping punishment for crimes by killing goes beyond self-defense, at least by society's definition. And, what about the tra..."

Granted it is true that violence in the evasion of being captured for crimes committed is an extreme case of "Self-defence" but at the same time, Griffin is presented with many opportunities to harm or kill people and he does not act upon them, unless he is put in a position in which he must choose between his life, or freedom, or that of another. He does in fact generally try to avoid the use of violence until the moment in which he is backed up in a corner.

As with the example of Kemp's servant and Adaye. Both of them he easily could have killed but the serving girl, he leaves unharmed other than frightening her when he takes the note from her hand. But he does not physically assault her. And Adaye he gives the opportunity to save himself and only shoots him when Adaye attempts to assault him.

I do not say that I condone his actions, but I can understand what has driven him to commit them, and well I do not see the evidence to support the fact that he is a complete madman, if anything his actions are really no more different than that of a common criminal.

But he does not go out of his way to harm others, nor does he run around killing for the pure joy of doing so.

He was driven to it by the circumstances of his invisibility and while his stealing from other people, is not right, it was done as a direct result of his need for his self-preservation becasue of the situation in which he was placed in.

Same thing with Mr Marvel (the tramp) it was not right for him to threaten the man into helping him, but he was put in a situation in which he did not have many options open to him. He needed to enlist the assistance of another in order to acquire his belongings.


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it's a fine line with Griffin. I think he has a bit of a cruel streak in him. When the doctor and the clergyman are going through his things, for example (I should have kept the book, seriously), he hurts them repeatedly, in something of a spiteful way. And, at the end, it is madness to threaten the village, and later the world, with a reign of terror.

Maybe Wells wants to make us consider whether Griffin could have made some other choice from the beginning. He didn't want to be discovered, so he burned down the building he lived in. From that point on, he is basically on the run, and it becomes a slippery slope. The more stealing and violence he commits, for whatever reason, the more dangerous it is for him to return to "civilized" society. He could have, at any point, given himself up, and suffered the consequences of his actions.

Maybe Wells wants us to debate exactly this: is Griffin a madman, or a man driven to violent ends, even madness, out of self-preservation. And, is there a difference?


message 50: by Silver (new)

Silver Jeannette wrote: "I think it's a fine line with Griffin. I think he has a bit of a cruel streak in him. When the doctor and the clergyman are going through his things, for example (I should have kept the book, ser..."

Maybe it is just because I am very particular about my things, and I really don't like having my own personal space and privacy invaded I did not really blame him for his reactions to finding people snooping through his things.

I agree that his plan to cause a reign of terror was madness but at the same time I feel that the thing which led him up to that conclusion was the fact that he felt it was the only way he could get people to leave him alone.


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