Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells

A recent attempt by Kevin and I to create a list of 30 goals we want to achieve before 30 left me realizing what a huge task this 100 Best Novels thing is.  To my portion of the list, I added my goal to read this entire list compiled by Modern Library.  When I sat down to look at what that would mean over the next four years, I suddenly was met with the immensity of my undertaking.  I need to read two of these books per month for the next four years to meet my goal.  Talk about a challenge!  Never fear, I will do it (although maybe not by age 30).  

Still, the realization gave me a big shove in the direction of the classics.  I posted about my experience rereading Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby on Monday.  I was hoping to post about another member of the list today.  However, upon preparing this post, I realized I made a mistake.  I read H.G. Wells' classic science fiction novel, The Invisible Man.  I meant to read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.  Sigh.  No wonder I could not figure out how this story pertained to racism.  The really pathetic thing is, this isn't the first time I've read one book thinking it was another.

The mistake did not turn out all bad, however.  I had not previously read Wells' short novel (Thank goodness it was short! I don't feel so stupid that way!).  Wells, who also wrote The War of the Worlds deeply affected the face of science fiction writing.  Since I do endeavor into that genre from time to time, I certainly benefited from reading one of the pioneers.

Wells' story centers around its title character, the Invisible Man.  Wells does not reveal the characters invisibility right from the start.  Instead, he allows readers to engage in the mystery before revealing the truth.

The story turned out to be a fairly simple one.  Man experiments scientifically, eventually turning himself invisible.  He dreams of the power this will give him, but mostly it turns out to be a deterrent from enjoying anything good in life.  People don't understand him. He gets angry and vicious.  People kill him in a mixture of self-defense and misunderstanding.

In the middle, Wells gives a fairly long explanation of the invisibility and how it was made possible scientifically.  I suppose some science fiction readers want to see the break down of how things are working, but, for me, I found that passage to be a bit arduous.  Wells could have given a more general overview and left out the detailed science stuff.  I understand why it's there, I just would prefer a focus on story.

In its entirety, the whole thing lasts less than a couple hundred pages.  The story moves quickly and is easy to read (minus that long science-y part).  I did not find it to be anything spectacular, but I also think I do not have the same appreciation for its ingenuity as its contemporaries.  Wells, I'm certain, was not the first science fiction writer, but he make marks in the genre that have lasted over a century.  I don't think this work belongs on the 100 Best Novels list like I thought it was, but it still has significance in its own way.

Have you ever read one book thinking it was another?  Was it a disappointment or a happy surprise?

Pages: 192
Date Completed: June 30, 2013

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