Usually when we imagine becoming invisible it's a pretty innocuous fantasy—mostly harmless voyeurism or prank-playing. H.G. Wells knew, however, that should invisibility ever become possible for humans it would immediately turn out to their detriment, even resulting in chaos and violence as it does in his bizarre science fiction parable The Invisible Man. A man truly invisible not only to society but to himself can only become a monster, and that of the very worst and most frightening variety.
That the invisible man's transformation is only accomplished through great physical pain represents the danger of "mad science" as well as the lengths man will go to escape the limits of nature. The wintry atmosphere of the novel evokes an almost post-apocalyptic English countryside in which the introduction of such an aberration as a man who can't be seen heralds the possibility of any terror, any act of lawlessness. And indeed, the invisible man suffers his own post-apocalypse, as his bizarre transformation and truly evil intentions have ravaged his mind to the point of insanity, a point beyond which there is only anarchy and every kind of disorder.
This isn't a fun adventure story the way certain film versions would have us believe. Wells couldn't be bothered to write mere entertainments because (as a humanist) his great concern was preserving the human race and issuing warnings to it, not sedating it with simple stories of science gone wrong that wrap up neatly and leave us satisfied. Ultimately, The Invisible Man does not leave the careful reader satisfied, ending as it does with the threat, however small, that what has just been read could (and in all honesty, probably will) happen again.
The proper response isn't the death of science. The proper response is science within the context of morality, science that is not given free reign but that is used to serve humanity to further good and supress evil. Wells' understanding of human nature and its capacity for evil, as well as the absurdity of claiming scientific progress is entirely amoral, make his intelligent novel all the more poignant. Not a book to be read late at night, this should nevertheless be required reading for every adult living in the modern age.
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