I will admit, I didn’t really know what to expect with The Invisible Man. Obviously, I expected an invisible man to feature, and in that respect, I was certainly not disappointed. I meant to read this in March, for Readathin, but I completely failed on that front. Uni got away with me, as I expected it probably would, and then the pandemic has meant I’ve had to move out of uni, back home, and I’ve had less concentration for reading. Still, I just got round to reading it, so I’m reviewing it. Only a month later than I wanted to have read it by! I’m going to keep this review relatively spoiler-free, but it is over 100 years old, so I’m not going to be too stringent about that. If you’ve not read it, I won’t be spoiling the finer plot details for you, don’t worry! But I will discuss the overarching plot a bit.
I found the concept of the novel really interesting. Initially, the Invisible Man seemed to just be somewhat eccentric. He manages to integrate himself into society to some extent by covering up all his skin. The story opens when he arrives at an inn, and requests a room, and for a large part of the story, he remains in residence at the inn. In these first chapters, he seemed rude and standoffish, but as the reader fairly quickly realises the reason for his attachment to his clothing: his invisibility, it seems reasonable to assume that his attitude is another defence mechanism. I felt sorry for him somewhat, at first. I let myself think that perhaps he hadn’t wanted this, that he was afraid of being discovered, that he was pushing people away out of fear. I was wrong. Even in theses first chapters, I didn’t really feel particularly attached to any of the characters. I felt a bit of empathy for the Invisible Man, but I certainly didn’t like him.
As the story progresses, the Invisible Man turns into almost a caricature of evil. He coerces and threatens others into helping him, he steals, injures, and assaults. This side of his personality only truly emerges after his discovery and subsequent departure from the inn. It was after this point that I started to get put off a little. It felt rather The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but rather than Jekyll being the true personality, the eccentric physicist the reader is introduced to at the start is merely a mask for the true evil beneath.
The Invisible Man, on the run, eventually comes across an old acquaintance, and it is at this point that we finally find out who the Invisible Man is, and how he came to be this way. His true nature is revealed in his retelling of the past; he is not a man acting out of fear, but out of spite. As such, I didn’t really find any redeeming features in his character. I also felt the other characters weren’t fleshed out enough to really draw me in. Generally, on the character level, I wasn’t such a fan of this book, which is why I’ve not given it four stars.
On the plot and concept level, however, I did really like this book. I like the idea of the mad scientist, and Wells does a really good job of building the stakes and heightening anticipation as the climax draws near. The epilogue as well, was really interesting for me. I was intrigued by the narration of this book, as well. It’s narrated in third person, but it is not omniscient, nor does it closely follow the Invisible Man, though it does often act as if it is following him. There are sections where the narrator says they do not know what the Invisible Man was doing in certain times, whereas for the most part, the narrator follows him, recounting his private conversations.
Overall, I found this a pretty quick and enjoyable read. It’s not very long, and I easily read it in two sittings. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who’s read and enjoyed The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or anyone interested in science fiction, particularly classic sci-fi.
Rating: 3.5 stars.
This review also published on my GoodReads, goodreads.com/ells_f.