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The Invisible Man by H G Wells

writerinthenorth
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The Invisible Man by H G Wells

Postby writerinthenorth » Thu May 10th, 2012, 8:32 am

I have been re-discovering H G Wells in free Kindle downloads, though this is the first time I have read 'The Invisible Man'. The book is fascinating in its concept and of course it spawned almost an industry of adaptations and imitations including the TV series I remember from the 1960s featuring Peter Brady as the title character, though in an entirely different setting and conceit than the original.

Here the title character is frustrated physicist Griffin who perfects a way of refracting light which, combined with some treatment of colour pigmentation (all very vaguely 'explained'), allows the character complete invisibility when naked, while retaining the solidity of the original human form. Griffin is initially delighted by his discovery which he imagines is going to give him the key to power and access in the world.

He is soon disillusioned: the chapters devoted to Griffin naked on the streets of London trying to feed and clothe himself (having burned all his belongings) while trying to remain undetected are among the most powerful in the book. Griffin's reaction when he realises that his life as the Invisible Man is not going to be the idyll he imagined is a fury which leads to his determination to conduct a Reign of Terror against humanity.

The Reign of Terror is shortlived. I won't give away the ending, though it's easier to spot than Griffin starkers. I was somewhat unsatisfied by it as I was by much of the book, though there are some gripping passages. The dialogue, especially in the 'crowd scenes',is clunky and false to the ear. The narrative is fast-paced but sometimes hobbled with clumsy prose. My main problem is with the character of Griffin himself who is portrayed as entirely amoral and thus never really engages the reader's sympathy even during his worst privations. I can understand why Wells chose this characterisation, as it sets up a sort of rationale for Griffin's deluded Reign of Terror, but I can't help feeling there is an opportunity missed by not developing a more rounded character, which could have given us a more mature reflection on the problems and moral dilemmas of Griffin's condition, and a more empathetic protagonist.

I was going to end by saying that Griffin is two-dimensional, but I suppose it's more accurate to say he is no-dimensional - at least with his clothes off.

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