We often imagine becoming invisible in pretty innocuous terms—mostly harmless voyeurism or prank-playing. H. G. Wells knew, however, that if humans could ever become invisible it would harm them, resulting in chaos and violence as it does in his bizarre science fiction parable The Invisible Man. A man invisible to society can only become a monster of the most frightening kind.
His transformation comes through great physical pain, showing 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 aberration of a man who can't be seen heralds the possibility of any terror, any act of lawlessness. The invisible man suffers his own apocalypse, as his alteration and evil intentions ravage his mind to the point of insanity, a point beyond which is anarchy and disorder.
This isn't a fun adventure story. Wells didn't write entertainments because his concern was preserving the human race and issuing warnings, not sedating people with simple stories of science gone wrong that wrap up neatly and leave us satisfied. The Invisible Man does not leave careful readers satisfied, ending with the threat that what has just been read could and probably will happen again.
The proper response isn't the death of science. The proper response is science tempered by morality, science used to serve humanity. Wells's understanding of human nature and its capacity for evil, as well as the absurdity of claiming scientific progress is 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
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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