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2018 Book #41 - The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

This is only the second thing I've read by H.G. Wells, the first being the magnificent short story In the Country of the Blind, which makes a strange counter-narrative. (I once gave a talk on blindness in literature at a conference on blindness, and that story figured heavily in my argument that literature offered insights that the professional texts do not.)

It took me a while to lose myself in this over-familiar scenario, but once I did I was thoroughly engrossed. The plausibility is much higher than you might think in a science fiction story written 121 years ago. Much like in In the Country of the Blind, what seems like a superpower turns out to be a curse, and for much the same reason. In both stories, the narrator has grandiose dreams of domination, but finds himself estranged and freakish, learning the hard way that most of the pleasures and ease in life come from our enmeshment in society. Cut yourself off from the habitual good will of friends and strangers alike, and life gets nasty in a hurry. Rather than reveling in the glories he imagined, the Invisible Man finds himself shivering naked, out of doors, scavenging for food, on the run.

Griffin, who becomes the Invisible Man, is not a particularly likeable fellow in the first place, and his alienating ordeal drives him mad, turning him into a monster. Could invisibility have had a different effect on a different man? Surely, but it doesn't seem it could have had a good effect on anyone, not the way Wells describes it, which is very convincingly.

I really hate superhero movies and this is the perfect opposite of a superhero movie. It makes a wonderful antidote to all the pathetic wish-fulfillment crap that passes for so much of our imaginary life these days.

Tags: 2018 book reviews
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