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A gripping and entertaining tale of terror and suspense as well as a potent Faustian allegory of hubris and science run amok, The Invisible Man endures as one of the signature stories in the literature of science fiction. A brilliant scientist uncovers the secret to invisibility, but his grandiose dreams and the power he unleashes cause him to spiral into intrigue, madness, and murder. The inspiration for countless imitations and film adaptations, The Invisible Man is as remarkable and relevant today as it was a hundred years ago. As Arthur C. Clarke points out in his Introduction, “The interest of the story . . . lies not in its scientific concepts, but in the brilliantly worked out development of the theme of invisibility. If one could be invisible, then what?”
Published: Random House Publishing Group an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780553901092
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I read The War of the Worlds a long time ago and I don't think I've really read any of Wells' other books until now, despite my intentions. I'm glad I finally got round to it. The Invisible Man isn't so much a story in some ways as an exploration of an idea -- not much happens, really: a man finds out how to make himself invisible but finds it much less convenient than expected, goes on a crime rampage, and is eventually killed. The main character is despicable and thoroughly unlikeable, which does the book no favours as a leisure read, but it's an interesting exploration of the idea. Though, of course, the 'scientific' explanation is laughable from a modern reader's perspective.

For the little that happens it's quite long and unrewarding, but considering Wells' influence on the genre, it's interesting in that way, too.more
Disturbing tale of a lunatic who made himself invisible. A quick and engrossing read.more
All I can say is that I was extremely disappointed with this book after reading it. I came into it with such high expectations, and those expectations fell flat on their face. The idea(s) are there, but the execution tremendously lacked. There is barely any character development, and the story is told like a report in a newspaper. I understand that that may be the point and style of Wells, but I wasn't buying it.more
This was one of the books we read in the only English class I took in college, Literature of Existentialism. I'm not sure I really understood existentialism then or now, but this is certainly a book worthy of inclusion on this or any other list.more
Read this as a pre-teen. So maybe that impaired my ability to fully see all the themes that Wells wove into his tale. But I definitely got the protagonist's feeling of being unappreciated and misunderstood. *big ol' sigh* Sorry dude. That's the price of wandering off from the mainstream experience.more
The Tragedy of the Invisible Man whose discovery should have gone into top ranking Research Institutions but all his genius is lost along the way.
The Invisible Man Griffin is an academic who discovers the secret of becoming invisible, this happens and he is able to use it, but alas still struggles with the same struggles he had when he was not invisible, like rejection, loneliness, isolation, this he turns into a Reign of Terror of The Invisible Man on the Village where he lives because DEATH is the only weapon left that has any effect. The Death Weapon turns back on him and in the closing moments the Invisible Man is himself felled and his invisible secrets remain in perpetuity only to be discovered upon the deaths of visible humans.more
A fearsome nightmare, a hallucination of a book. The Battle Royale sequence in the beginning has the terrifying grip of a fever dream, of sleep paralysis.

But Invisible Man, although steeped in allusions from science fiction, existentialism, Dostoevsky, and the Bildungsroman, is also very real, in its conveyance of an experience again that many of us simply cannot otherwise ever know.more
The year is 1952. An aspiring author, encouraged by some of the most reputable artists of his day, comes from the Harlem Renaissance with a debut novel that leaves readers speechless. The story begins with one of the most vivid introductions and jumps into a first chapter that is enthralling. Critics heap praises on the work and compare it to the works of Doestoevsky. Within a year the novel has won the National Book Award. It is perhaps the most eye-opening account of the black experience in America ever written in novel form. It opens the door to a new era of respect for the black novelist.

Flash forward over fifty years and there are many conclusions one could make about what happened between 1952 and today for this novel, Invisible Man. Of course its author, Ralph Ellison, went on to write many more successful works, each becoming stronger until he was regarded on an equal literary stance with other greats such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Twain. Someone in Hollywood has attempted to make at least one decent film adaptation of the novel. And of course it is heralded by the likes of Oprah who praise it for its insight and its five decades of influence for black youth.

None of this happened, though. It is as if Ellison’s Invisible Man was invisible itself.

That’s not to say that there is not still great respect for the book—it appears on nearly every list of greatest books of the 20th century. Personally, I expect more, though. Perhaps this is some fault of Ellison’s. He did, after all, spend nearly forty years writing a second book that he couldn’t finish. Had he completed three or four equally compelling works, would he be celebrated today as a great? Or perhaps the overarching themes of Invisible Man—multi-dimensional race relations and the pitfalls of ideology—are too much, even today, for some.

Whatever the case, I went into this book with some apprehension. I had read the first chapter a couple years back and had put it down to let it all marinate in my mind. I knew the rest of the novel couldn’t live up to that beginning, but I was curious. Finally, I relented and proceeded to finish Ellison’s masterpiece. Naturally the intensity unleashed at the beginning dies down–it would be cloying if it didn’t. The same wonderful imagery and evocative story-telling continues throughout, however, and Invisible Man lives up the title “classic.”

The only disappointment I felt upon completing this book was the knowledge that there was never another. A debut novel this grand deserves another.more
“Every conceivable sort of silly creature that has ever been created has been sent to cross me. If I have much more of it, I shall go wild. I shall start mowing them” says Griffin: the invisible man. H G Well’s character is unsympathetic in the extreme and this is what in the end gives this book a bit of an edge. When we first meet Griffin he does not come across as a mad scientist, but rather an irascible one, albeit with a vicious streak. His paranoia increasingly takes hold of him and he fights back to such an extent that he comes to believe that his natural place is to rule over the visible fools and dolts that try to apprehend him.We first meet Griffin as a mysterious character seeking a place of refuge in a seaside town somewhere in the South of England. He rents a room in a small boarding house where he can lock himself away and work. His curious landlady and fellow guests soon interfere with his plans and he uses his invisibility first to frighten them and then to make his escape. This first section of the book has the feel of a slapstick movie as Wells has great fun describing the antics of those trying to apprehend an invisible man. There are fights, chases, robberies, near murders, until finally the invisible man becomes notorious and must now live on his wits to hide from a nation bent on tracking him down.A wounded Griffin manages to escape and blunders into the house of Mr Kemp an old friend from university days and initially tricks him into giving him some aid. He slowly starts to tell Kemp his story and this is where the novel moves up a gear. Griffin has used himself as a guinea pig to test a chemical that he has invented that can neutralise the colour in skin pigmentation. His aim was to turn himself invisible, so that he could profit from the advantages that this would give him. He had not thought of the problems of being invisible and his first venture out into the streets of London naked in January soon made him feel that he was in a hostile world. Finding shelter and food were soon problematical and Wells description of Griffin in this altogether different environment is both imaginative and exciting. Griffin’s story is told in the first person, which contrasts nicely with the first section of the book which tells of Griffin’s exploits largely in the third person where we see the sometimes comical effects on other people of an aggressive invisible man.Dr Kemp soon realises that his old friend is now nothing more than a brutally selfish individual, whose only thought is how he can use his invisibility for his own gain and his obvious delight in his ability to hurt other people convinces Kemp he is mad and dangerous. The remainder of the book takes on the appearance of a thriller as Griffin is hunted downWells’s novel has plenty of thrills and spills and there is the excitement of the chase, which rounds out the novel nicely. There is also the fantasy of being invisible and Wells brings out this aspect of his story to fire the imagination making it another early entry into the ranks of science fiction. When Wells switches the emphasis from being a mystery adventure story into something more fantastical then the novel started to work for me. Published in 1897; the novel cannot escape it’s British Victorian flavour and so we are not surprised when Doctor Kemp wonders about putting powdered glass on the road to impede the invisible man “It’s cruel I know, it’s unsportsmanlike” For me this adds to the charm and a busy street in London full of Hansom cabs and other horse drawn carriages would be just as dangerous to an invisible person as motor car traffic would be today. A 3.5 star read.more
This was an eloquent and affecting book about racial tensions in America in the period leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. The unnamed narrator is used and abused in different ways that changed him over time from an idealistic young man to one who has been to the School of Hard Knocks where he learns that both ambitious blacks and unscrupulous whites have manipulated him to further their agendas with no regard for him as an individual. It's a powerful book about powerlessness in the south and in the streets of Harlem. IM is even betrayed in the "protected" setting of a Negro college where he is an excellent student on a scholarship.This is an intelligently written book about alienation. IM's search for identity unfolds through some superlative storytelling. From the beginning chapter where I was horrified by the Battle Royal to the Harlem Riots near the end of the book, IM experiences disillusionment with the world he dreamed of conquering as he comes to know himself and realize that "even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play." (581) It was interesting to me to note that Ellison's full name is Ralph Waldo Ellison, and like the famous Emerson he is named after, Ellison believes in self-reliance and in the foolishness of conformity: "Whence all this passion toward conformity anyway?--diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you'll have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive toward colorlessness? But seriously, and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain." (577)In my first sentence I categorized Invisible Man as a book about race, but I can see upon reflection that it is so much more. The title is Invisible Man not Invisible Black Man. The unnamed narrator's experiences are fairly universal in that the road to success has plenty of roadblocks. It is easy to feel invisible in a society that defines success by how much money or power one has rather than looking inside at our core values where our true worth lies. Though we may be invisible to society, the truth of who we are based on our thoughts, dreams, and actions is a better gauge of our self-worth. Whew! Deep thoughts. That is what a careful and open-minded reading of this book will do to you. Who knows...it might even be life changing.more
Wells' novel was originally serialized in Pearson's Magazine in 1897, and published as a novel the same year. Part ghost story and part science fiction tale, Wells’s The Invisible Man begins with the arrival of a mysterious, shrouded stranger in the small village of Iping. "The stranger came in early February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow,"(p 1)A man heavily clothed with hats, bandages and gloves takes a room at a local inn, and quickly unnerves the townspeople with his strange laboratory experiments and odd behavior. A series of burglaries take place in the village, and with her suspicion aroused, the innkeeper Mrs. Hall confronts the stranger. Removing all of his clothing and bandages, the man reveals that there is nothing underneath and that he is invisible. Terrified, Mrs. Hall flees and the police attempt to catch the man, but he throws off his clothes and thus eludes capture. After running from town to town, breaking into houses and stealing things along the way, the invisible man encounters a former associate, Dr. Kemp. The invisible man, who we finally learn is called Griffin, was a brilliant medical student of Dr. Kemp’s at the university. Griffin theorizes that if a person's refractive index is changed to exactly that of air and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but cannot become visible again. "The man's become inhuman, I tell you, said Kemp."(p 127) As Griffin grows increasingly unstable, he begins to feel self-delusions of grandeur and invincibility that lead to this tale’s shocking conclusion. The Invisible Man is reminiscent of Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (published a decade earlier) in the creation of an alter ego that quickly goes out of control. That is the interest of this story along with how Wells brilliantly works out the development of the theme if invisibility. If one could become invisible, what then? Certainly I found this aspect appealing when I first read the novel and undoubtedly it has contributed to the continuing popularity of this novel. Whether it is science fiction or rather speculative fiction is a critical concern but does not affect the reader's enjoyment. This novel belongs in a special place along with Wells other great early science fiction works. And if you really enjoy this story the dark side of man is even more evident in his earlier Darwinian arabesque, The Island of Dr. Moreau.more
One of the greatest American novels ever written. So rich and full of life and ideas. Although this is about the black experience in America, it's also about everyone, as the last sentence reveals. Allow the story to wash over and into your soul and it may reveal something about who you are, or believe to be. We are all invisible men. I also highly recommend the audiobook reading by Joe Morton (2010), he deserves a Tony or something, it was like a one-man Broadway play, the novel greatly benefits in a spoken word performance by a professional actor.more
This is another book that I loved. I remember watching the movie long, long ago. This is a classic tale of a brilliant scientist who makes a wonderful discovery, and then loses his mind.The book was long in the build up, and did meander a bit. I liked it when the Invisible Man decided that he wanted to create a reign of terror. I would, personally, have loved a little more exploration of the subject at this point. The evil genius, the evil joker, are all subjects that have fascinated me for years. HGW was such a great writer, he would have been brilliant had he delved deeper into the mind of the scientist.more
A strange and wonderful book. I expected a fairly conventional look at America from a black point of view in the early 20th century. Instead, it is a poetical, political, phantasmagorical story of an individual's education in blackness, America, and the hurman condition. This book has been more than adequately reviewed by other contributors; I would simply suggest that it an essential part of American literature, and essential reading for anyone who is interested in how America became what it is.more
Like the underground man in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, the invisible man lives underground, but he is invisible only because others refuse to see him for who he is. They manipulate him as a tool toward their goals. When he was fighting in the battle royale, he was only entertaining the white men. When he studied at the college, Dr. Bledsoe showcased him to the trustee as a model of the school’s success. In turn, the trustee funded the school to heel his wounded heart. When he went to New York, the communists used him to solicit members and ultimately sacrificed him through the Harlem riot to promote their agenda. Even Mary, who cared for him like a mother, didn’t see him for who he is. But such invisibility is not only that of an African-American, but of all Americans, and perhaps of all human. To exist but not be seen. To reflect light but be transparent. An object of others’ agendas rather than an individual.Only when he realized his invisibility did possibilities emerge, did he become free. Only then did he found himself. The person he is, rather then the person whom others wanted him to be. And in the end, he decided to emerge from his hibernation. What are the possibilities? Or perhaps more disillusionment?more
The Invisible Man is a tale of the antihero, Griffin, a scientist/student who found a way to make himself invisible which he saw as a means of power. “An invisible man is a man of power”. But there are disadvantages and everything he hoped to accomplish is halted by these difficulties, dogs that sense him, food which shows when ingested. Griffin can take his place beside Frankenstein and Faust as individuals who become more and more destructive as they pursue power. It is also a moral fable; invisibility places Griffen outside of society and alienates him. In the 1001 reference book; the reviewer states that the novel shows the author’s hostility to Nietzschean thought and particularly “superman”. The novel also reminds us that scientific discovery can be used to further evil rather than good. I enjoyed this tale and at first was thinking 3 stars but changed my mind and gave it four.more
[The Invisible Man] by H. G. Wells First line:~ The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand ~I did not enjoy this one as much as [The Island of Doctor Moreau] which I also just read. Once again, I am struck, by the dangers of indiscriminate ‘scientific’ experimentation. This story reminded me of Frankenstein although somewhat different. This time the scientist creates the ‘monster’ in himself and cannot deal with the consequences of his displacement from society. Frankenstein’s monster is the innocent victim in his story and the invisible man is a victim of his own creativity, no innocence there. The evolution of Frankenstein’s monster comes from his lack of acceptance right from the beginning and no experience at all with healthy relationships or an understanding of how to behave socially. Griffin’s situation is a devolution from years of experience relating to society and yet, when he runs into difficulty becomes a homicidal maniac. I cannot help but think that he had those tendencies to start with! (3.5 stars)more
Really great novel. I feel like I need to read some commentaries on it to really complete the experience, and I will. The story is easy to follow along, but Ellison is sometime too eloquent and/or poetic for my non-poetic mind to really get at the deeper issues he's addressing. Still, this novel is full of topics for discussion.more
I was looking for something short to read and came across an old beat-up copy of The Invisible Man on our shelves. It seemed like the perfect book --- a little science fiction, a compact story, something to read while sitting on the roof enjoying a sunny afternoon.Griffin, a scientist, invents a machine that uses optics to make things invisible to the naked eye. He tests his machine, and the procedure, on himself. He completes the process but he doesn’t have time to reverse it before he is kicked out of the inn where he’s conducting his experiments by the people of the town who don’t trust him. With no options, and no desire to explain himself or his work, he leaves the inn in his new invisible state. He steals to get what he needs then enlists a man to assist him in getting his notes back from the inn where he abandoned them. When he, and his invisible state, are reported to the authorities, Griffin flips and goes on a bit of a terror spree wanting to get back at the man who betrayed him.The science fiction aspect of the book is interesting and the explanation believable. Griffin wasn’t a likable character though --- he’s arrogant, mean, and capable of murder. I kept wondering what it was that made him that way because I didn’t believe it could have been the invisibility alone. He does tell his story but it doesn’t do anything to help his cause considering he openly talks of murder, setting fire to a place to hide his work, and robbing people. I’m fine with not liking the main character and here Griffin is really just being used as social commentary anyway so I understood the reasoning for it even if he didn’t appeal to me.Having not read much HG Wells since high school, I was slightly stunned to find I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would. Don’t misinterpret that, I did like it, just not love it. I’m a person that likes to bond with the main character and here that wasn’t possible. The reader isn’t supposed to like Griffin but even knowing that didn’t help me. For me, he was the cruel scientist bent on revenge not caring about the people he was planning to hurt along the way to get what he wanted. As I’m writing this review I’m beginning to wonder if I’m experiencing an aversion to Wells’s writing and now I’m thinking of going back to re-read The Time Machine to see what I think of that. Interesting how that happens to me sometimes.more
This was a quick read. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I was surprised that we didn't get to hear the invisible man's story until so far in. From the perspective and information given, it was like the fact that he was invisible was supposed to eventually strike us as a great surprise, but... it's called "The Invisible Man." Anyway, it did pick up once we finally heard his story.From the beginning, I wanted to like the invisible man, or at least to have some sympathy for him. Oh, maybe he has a reason for not wanting to talk to anybody, I hoped, but he was just a bad-tempered jerk from the start. I feel like the author could have addressed some deeper themes here if the story had been just a little different, but maybe it's just supposed to be more of a fun read.I did find the ideas about how he became invisible interesting-- the real science fiction part of it. I also laughed at one scene where he has a dreadful time trying to convince someone he's invisible, and the end was somewhat exciting.more
I didn't enjoy this one as much as Wells' two more famous books. I just couldn't get it out of my head that (spoiler alert?) for most of the book the Invisible Man had his Invisible Junk flopping around, making him far less menacing a villain than Wells intended.more
A very interesting book about Harlem and the different social movements happening at that time. There was an "unreal" feeling about the way the book was written. It felt almost like the whole story was happening in someone's dream or like the narrator was insane. It gave me the feeling the whole time like I almost understood what was happening but not quite. I wasn't sure if the author was alluding to events I should have known about or whether the author wanted to give me that feeling. This is defintiely a book I will have to read the Spark Notes for to make sure I didn't miss something important. (And it always annoys me when I can't just read a book and enjoy the book without having to see what others said about the book to understand it.)more
I have been re-discovering H G Wells in free Kindle downloads, though this is the first time I have read 'The Invisible Man'. The book is fascinating in its concept and of course it spawned almost an industry of adaptations and imitations including the TV series I remember from the 1960s featuring Peter Brady as the title character, though in an entirely different setting and conceit than the original.Here the title character is frustrated physicist Griffin who perfects a way of refracting light which, combined with some treatment of colour pigmentation (all very vaguely 'explained'), allows the character complete invisibility when naked, while retaining the solidity of the original human form. Griffin is initially delighted by his discovery which he imagines is going to give him the key to power and access in the world.He is soon disillusioned: the chapters devoted to Griffin naked on the streets of London trying to feed and clothe himself (having burned all his belongings) while trying to remain undetected are among the most powerful in the book. Griffin's reaction when he realises that his life as the Invisible Man is not going to be the idyll he imagined is a fury which leads to his determination to conduct a Reign of Terror against humanity.The Reign of Terror is shortlived. I won't give away the ending, though it's easier to spot than Griffin starkers. I was somewhat unsatisfied by it as I was by much of the book, though there are some gripping passages. The dialogue, especially in the 'crowd scenes',is clunky and false to the ear. The narrative is fast-paced but sometimes hobbled with clumsy prose. My main problem is with the character of Griffin himself who is portrayed as entirely amoral and thus never really engages the reader's sympathy even during his worst privations. I can understand why Wells chose this characterisation, as it sets up a sort of rationale for Griffin's deluded Reign of Terror, but I can't help feeling there is an opportunity missed by not developing a more rounded character, which could have given us a more mature reflection on the problems and moral dilemmas of Griffin's condition, and a more empathetic protagonist.I was going to end by saying that Griffin is two-dimensional, but I suppose it's more accurate to say he is no-dimensional - at least with his clothes off.more
I learned a good deal about the life of afro-americans in the USA. It is a wonderful book. But it is painful and dramatic. Life is not easy for blacks in the US. I wish there was a better understanding of the importance of africans in the construction of what we (including us, brazilians) are today. Our culture, our life, our language, our music and hundreds of other aspects of our daily life is linked to their culture.more
My second H.G. Wells novel. Honestly, I didn't enjoy The Invisible Man quite as much as I did The War of the Worlds. The storyline and writing were both top notch, but I just found it hard to REALLY enjoy a novel in which I totally despised the main character. In all actuality, I guess my feelings towards the protagonist/antagonist (yes, both are the same character) would be considered a win for the author, as I feel that Wells didn't intend for the reader to truly like this character. What I find interesting is that as I was reading the novel, I did feel a bit of sympathy for the main character's plight from time to time, but then he would do something so over-the-top or horribly nasty that I would immediately lose any sympathetic feelings and replace them with something more akin to loathing. I did enjoy the novel for the most part though and Wells crafts a wonderful story that keeps the reader interested throughout. I found the science behind his explanation of events to be sufficient to carry the story especially considering the time in which it was written and think that this is another fine example of early Science Fiction before Science Fiction was actually defined as a genre.more
I always thought my first foray into H.G. Wells would be The War of the Worlds - but actually this made a fantastic starting point! A quick read, The Invisible Man is accessible, vivid and packs quite a punch along the way, and I really enjoyed it. It's about... well, an Invisible Man. Except when he first arrives in the little town of Iping, no one KNOWS he's an Invisible Man. Swathed in bandages, wearing gloves and heavy clothes, and with a hat and goggle-like glasses hiding his features, everyone assumes he's had a terrible accident. It's only when odd things begin to happen and the increasingly volatile gentleman is provoked into revealing his secret that all hell breaks loose. Is he a sympathetic victim or a murderous madman? Will he find someone to help him? How on earth did he reach this point in his life? How DOES a man render himself invisible anyway?What really surprised me, at least earlier on in the book, is how funny it is. The small-town characters are so amusing - Mr Marvel, the tramp, has some particularly good one-liners that made me chuckle - and some of their brilliantly observed little foibles are ones we all recognise even if we'd rather not admit to them! Nearer the end of the book the humour gives way largely to the Invisible Man's eloquently-told story and the melodramatic thrill of the chase, which was interesting but for me, not as enjoyable as the quick wit of the first half. Nevertheless, I'm very glad to have finally read this classic of science fiction writing - and I'm still looking forward to The War of the Worlds!more
"...one of the greatest jokes in the world is the spectacle of the whites busy escaping blackness and becoming blacker every day, and the blacks striving toward whiteness, becoming quite dull and gray."Ellison is certainly a skilled writer and his prose impressive (his dialogue, not so much). The story is expertly layered with imagery, metaphors, and foreshadowing. I appreciate some of his more blatant imagery (such as the kneeling slave statue or his infamous paint mixing scene). I am glad to have read such an African American classic, such an acclaimed social commentary... but it will be the last.I have found this book to be more tedius than entertaining; more garrulous than insightful. There are many gaping holes in the storyline which I understand were left to mystery purposefully by the author, but instead of intriguing the plot, it was confusing this reader. Perhaps Ellison's language is too subtle for me to grasp or too sophisticated for my palate. For a subject as powerful and personal as racism, it fell short of the claims made on it.A fellow goodreads user (Nathaniel Calhoun) said it best in his review:'This is strongly reminiscent of German Expressionist drama from the early 20th century. It suffers from an inability to actually characterize anyone beyond the protagonist. Every other character is crushed by the need to represent a whole class or demographic. All of the other figures are episodes in his life, his personal development, his realization of society's deep-seated decay and his inexorable (and predictable) movement towards disillusionment. Which is to say that it is a heavy-handed, young, stereotype filled book.Yes, it is a worthy historical object. Yes, it is an interesting foil to other pieces of American literature (which does not have too many books of this variety); but I don't think it deserves great praise if it is judged on its own merits. The prose is nothing special, the dialect isn't handled with particular grace, it has an irritating tendency to state the obvious and to self-interpret and the author actually takes the time to call attention to the fact that he is choosing to rant at you for the last five pages--a total admission of weakness.I am, however, giving it two stars in the "it was okay" sort of fashion. I'm not upset that I read it. I just won't read it again, teach it or recommend it to anyone.'more
Invisible Man was on a list of "100 Significant Books" I was working through, and is considered one of the great novels of the 20th Century, not just one of the great American or African-African works. I've heard Ellison described as the "Black Joyce" which is rather unfair to Ellison--both because he's his own man, and because his novel is much more readable and enjoyable than Joyce's Ulysses, also on that list. The theme is stated right in the beginning, in one of the most eloquent openings I've read in literature:I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me.That's from the Prologue. The first chapter sets the tone for the novel: surreal, brutal, disturbing. In it and developed throughout is this conception of the Booker T Washington vision of how to respond to racism as treason to self and to race. I can't help but feel Ellison is unfair to Booker T. Washington and his legacy, particularly in how he depicts his fictional counterpart Bledsoe, but I can't deny the power of Ellison's imagery and language, and it's fascinating in its way how this novel written in the late 1940s and published in 1952 is still relevant today. I can hear so many echos in it that reflect racial divides--not so much in terms of black and white but more the black versus black debates: W.E.B. DuBois versus Booker T. Washington; Shelby Steele versus Cornell West. And despite all I've read before on the period, I do feel the book made me better understand why both the Communist Party and Black Nationalism might have appealed in the first half of the 20th century to American blacks frustrated over their treatment by their fellow Americans.Not everything about the novel works for me however. So many of the incidents in the book are too bizarre to be taken as real, I found it off-putting at times and it made it harder to feel for his narrator and take what happens to him seriously. For one because I didn't feel they all fit together with the narrative and narrator--they feel episodic, rather than part of an arc for his character. There's something here that makes me think more of Kafka, where every character and scene is pregnant with symbolism. Ten months pregnant--with triplets. Sometimes I thought the racial imagery and handling of issues were very heavy handed. (Optic white paint, "the right white?" Really?) And I never identified and rarely sympathized with Ellison's unnamed "invisible man." At times, and not just at the beginning, he's just too naive and foolish to be believed, such a tool, even for someone that young. He changes so much to fit those he's around, is such a chameleon, that seems more the explanation for being "invisible" than the color of his skin. (Even if I get Ellison's point he is a chameleon because of racism.) He even allows his own name to be effaced at one point and at another wears a disguise. One of the few times he exerts himself as an individual is when he chooses to buy yams from a street vendor and eat them right there. Few of the characters outside the narrator ever seemed real to me, especially the female characters. It doesn't help that so much of Ellison's dialogue comes across as, if not stilted, than at least stagey and filled with stock phrases. The Epilogue just doesn't work for me. It's as eloquent as the prologue, but didn't convince me it linked up with the narrator's experiences. On the other hand, there is a streak of humor through the book I couldn't help appreciating. (I loved Ellison's description of his character's first encounter with the New York City subway system--over fifty years later, and the description is still apt.) But you know, on that list of "100 Significant Books," this one is the only one by an African-American, and often seems mentioned as the book to read in that category. I did like Invisible Man a lot, but I wouldn't consider it as amazing a read as Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Toni Morrison's Beloved or especially Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. All of those books have characters I cared about much more than Ellison's narrator. On the other hand, not only was this a surprisingly fast-paced read, but many of the scenes, despite of or because they're so bizarre, are definitely very memorable and likely to stay with me a long time. And that's why for all the problems I had with it I rated it four stars. Very much worth the read.more
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Reviews

I read The War of the Worlds a long time ago and I don't think I've really read any of Wells' other books until now, despite my intentions. I'm glad I finally got round to it. The Invisible Man isn't so much a story in some ways as an exploration of an idea -- not much happens, really: a man finds out how to make himself invisible but finds it much less convenient than expected, goes on a crime rampage, and is eventually killed. The main character is despicable and thoroughly unlikeable, which does the book no favours as a leisure read, but it's an interesting exploration of the idea. Though, of course, the 'scientific' explanation is laughable from a modern reader's perspective.

For the little that happens it's quite long and unrewarding, but considering Wells' influence on the genre, it's interesting in that way, too.more
Disturbing tale of a lunatic who made himself invisible. A quick and engrossing read.more
All I can say is that I was extremely disappointed with this book after reading it. I came into it with such high expectations, and those expectations fell flat on their face. The idea(s) are there, but the execution tremendously lacked. There is barely any character development, and the story is told like a report in a newspaper. I understand that that may be the point and style of Wells, but I wasn't buying it.more
This was one of the books we read in the only English class I took in college, Literature of Existentialism. I'm not sure I really understood existentialism then or now, but this is certainly a book worthy of inclusion on this or any other list.more
Read this as a pre-teen. So maybe that impaired my ability to fully see all the themes that Wells wove into his tale. But I definitely got the protagonist's feeling of being unappreciated and misunderstood. *big ol' sigh* Sorry dude. That's the price of wandering off from the mainstream experience.more
The Tragedy of the Invisible Man whose discovery should have gone into top ranking Research Institutions but all his genius is lost along the way.
The Invisible Man Griffin is an academic who discovers the secret of becoming invisible, this happens and he is able to use it, but alas still struggles with the same struggles he had when he was not invisible, like rejection, loneliness, isolation, this he turns into a Reign of Terror of The Invisible Man on the Village where he lives because DEATH is the only weapon left that has any effect. The Death Weapon turns back on him and in the closing moments the Invisible Man is himself felled and his invisible secrets remain in perpetuity only to be discovered upon the deaths of visible humans.more
A fearsome nightmare, a hallucination of a book. The Battle Royale sequence in the beginning has the terrifying grip of a fever dream, of sleep paralysis.

But Invisible Man, although steeped in allusions from science fiction, existentialism, Dostoevsky, and the Bildungsroman, is also very real, in its conveyance of an experience again that many of us simply cannot otherwise ever know.more
The year is 1952. An aspiring author, encouraged by some of the most reputable artists of his day, comes from the Harlem Renaissance with a debut novel that leaves readers speechless. The story begins with one of the most vivid introductions and jumps into a first chapter that is enthralling. Critics heap praises on the work and compare it to the works of Doestoevsky. Within a year the novel has won the National Book Award. It is perhaps the most eye-opening account of the black experience in America ever written in novel form. It opens the door to a new era of respect for the black novelist.

Flash forward over fifty years and there are many conclusions one could make about what happened between 1952 and today for this novel, Invisible Man. Of course its author, Ralph Ellison, went on to write many more successful works, each becoming stronger until he was regarded on an equal literary stance with other greats such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Twain. Someone in Hollywood has attempted to make at least one decent film adaptation of the novel. And of course it is heralded by the likes of Oprah who praise it for its insight and its five decades of influence for black youth.

None of this happened, though. It is as if Ellison’s Invisible Man was invisible itself.

That’s not to say that there is not still great respect for the book—it appears on nearly every list of greatest books of the 20th century. Personally, I expect more, though. Perhaps this is some fault of Ellison’s. He did, after all, spend nearly forty years writing a second book that he couldn’t finish. Had he completed three or four equally compelling works, would he be celebrated today as a great? Or perhaps the overarching themes of Invisible Man—multi-dimensional race relations and the pitfalls of ideology—are too much, even today, for some.

Whatever the case, I went into this book with some apprehension. I had read the first chapter a couple years back and had put it down to let it all marinate in my mind. I knew the rest of the novel couldn’t live up to that beginning, but I was curious. Finally, I relented and proceeded to finish Ellison’s masterpiece. Naturally the intensity unleashed at the beginning dies down–it would be cloying if it didn’t. The same wonderful imagery and evocative story-telling continues throughout, however, and Invisible Man lives up the title “classic.”

The only disappointment I felt upon completing this book was the knowledge that there was never another. A debut novel this grand deserves another.more
“Every conceivable sort of silly creature that has ever been created has been sent to cross me. If I have much more of it, I shall go wild. I shall start mowing them” says Griffin: the invisible man. H G Well’s character is unsympathetic in the extreme and this is what in the end gives this book a bit of an edge. When we first meet Griffin he does not come across as a mad scientist, but rather an irascible one, albeit with a vicious streak. His paranoia increasingly takes hold of him and he fights back to such an extent that he comes to believe that his natural place is to rule over the visible fools and dolts that try to apprehend him.We first meet Griffin as a mysterious character seeking a place of refuge in a seaside town somewhere in the South of England. He rents a room in a small boarding house where he can lock himself away and work. His curious landlady and fellow guests soon interfere with his plans and he uses his invisibility first to frighten them and then to make his escape. This first section of the book has the feel of a slapstick movie as Wells has great fun describing the antics of those trying to apprehend an invisible man. There are fights, chases, robberies, near murders, until finally the invisible man becomes notorious and must now live on his wits to hide from a nation bent on tracking him down.A wounded Griffin manages to escape and blunders into the house of Mr Kemp an old friend from university days and initially tricks him into giving him some aid. He slowly starts to tell Kemp his story and this is where the novel moves up a gear. Griffin has used himself as a guinea pig to test a chemical that he has invented that can neutralise the colour in skin pigmentation. His aim was to turn himself invisible, so that he could profit from the advantages that this would give him. He had not thought of the problems of being invisible and his first venture out into the streets of London naked in January soon made him feel that he was in a hostile world. Finding shelter and food were soon problematical and Wells description of Griffin in this altogether different environment is both imaginative and exciting. Griffin’s story is told in the first person, which contrasts nicely with the first section of the book which tells of Griffin’s exploits largely in the third person where we see the sometimes comical effects on other people of an aggressive invisible man.Dr Kemp soon realises that his old friend is now nothing more than a brutally selfish individual, whose only thought is how he can use his invisibility for his own gain and his obvious delight in his ability to hurt other people convinces Kemp he is mad and dangerous. The remainder of the book takes on the appearance of a thriller as Griffin is hunted downWells’s novel has plenty of thrills and spills and there is the excitement of the chase, which rounds out the novel nicely. There is also the fantasy of being invisible and Wells brings out this aspect of his story to fire the imagination making it another early entry into the ranks of science fiction. When Wells switches the emphasis from being a mystery adventure story into something more fantastical then the novel started to work for me. Published in 1897; the novel cannot escape it’s British Victorian flavour and so we are not surprised when Doctor Kemp wonders about putting powdered glass on the road to impede the invisible man “It’s cruel I know, it’s unsportsmanlike” For me this adds to the charm and a busy street in London full of Hansom cabs and other horse drawn carriages would be just as dangerous to an invisible person as motor car traffic would be today. A 3.5 star read.more
This was an eloquent and affecting book about racial tensions in America in the period leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. The unnamed narrator is used and abused in different ways that changed him over time from an idealistic young man to one who has been to the School of Hard Knocks where he learns that both ambitious blacks and unscrupulous whites have manipulated him to further their agendas with no regard for him as an individual. It's a powerful book about powerlessness in the south and in the streets of Harlem. IM is even betrayed in the "protected" setting of a Negro college where he is an excellent student on a scholarship.This is an intelligently written book about alienation. IM's search for identity unfolds through some superlative storytelling. From the beginning chapter where I was horrified by the Battle Royal to the Harlem Riots near the end of the book, IM experiences disillusionment with the world he dreamed of conquering as he comes to know himself and realize that "even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play." (581) It was interesting to me to note that Ellison's full name is Ralph Waldo Ellison, and like the famous Emerson he is named after, Ellison believes in self-reliance and in the foolishness of conformity: "Whence all this passion toward conformity anyway?--diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you'll have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive toward colorlessness? But seriously, and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain." (577)In my first sentence I categorized Invisible Man as a book about race, but I can see upon reflection that it is so much more. The title is Invisible Man not Invisible Black Man. The unnamed narrator's experiences are fairly universal in that the road to success has plenty of roadblocks. It is easy to feel invisible in a society that defines success by how much money or power one has rather than looking inside at our core values where our true worth lies. Though we may be invisible to society, the truth of who we are based on our thoughts, dreams, and actions is a better gauge of our self-worth. Whew! Deep thoughts. That is what a careful and open-minded reading of this book will do to you. Who knows...it might even be life changing.more
Wells' novel was originally serialized in Pearson's Magazine in 1897, and published as a novel the same year. Part ghost story and part science fiction tale, Wells’s The Invisible Man begins with the arrival of a mysterious, shrouded stranger in the small village of Iping. "The stranger came in early February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow,"(p 1)A man heavily clothed with hats, bandages and gloves takes a room at a local inn, and quickly unnerves the townspeople with his strange laboratory experiments and odd behavior. A series of burglaries take place in the village, and with her suspicion aroused, the innkeeper Mrs. Hall confronts the stranger. Removing all of his clothing and bandages, the man reveals that there is nothing underneath and that he is invisible. Terrified, Mrs. Hall flees and the police attempt to catch the man, but he throws off his clothes and thus eludes capture. After running from town to town, breaking into houses and stealing things along the way, the invisible man encounters a former associate, Dr. Kemp. The invisible man, who we finally learn is called Griffin, was a brilliant medical student of Dr. Kemp’s at the university. Griffin theorizes that if a person's refractive index is changed to exactly that of air and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but cannot become visible again. "The man's become inhuman, I tell you, said Kemp."(p 127) As Griffin grows increasingly unstable, he begins to feel self-delusions of grandeur and invincibility that lead to this tale’s shocking conclusion. The Invisible Man is reminiscent of Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (published a decade earlier) in the creation of an alter ego that quickly goes out of control. That is the interest of this story along with how Wells brilliantly works out the development of the theme if invisibility. If one could become invisible, what then? Certainly I found this aspect appealing when I first read the novel and undoubtedly it has contributed to the continuing popularity of this novel. Whether it is science fiction or rather speculative fiction is a critical concern but does not affect the reader's enjoyment. This novel belongs in a special place along with Wells other great early science fiction works. And if you really enjoy this story the dark side of man is even more evident in his earlier Darwinian arabesque, The Island of Dr. Moreau.more
One of the greatest American novels ever written. So rich and full of life and ideas. Although this is about the black experience in America, it's also about everyone, as the last sentence reveals. Allow the story to wash over and into your soul and it may reveal something about who you are, or believe to be. We are all invisible men. I also highly recommend the audiobook reading by Joe Morton (2010), he deserves a Tony or something, it was like a one-man Broadway play, the novel greatly benefits in a spoken word performance by a professional actor.more
This is another book that I loved. I remember watching the movie long, long ago. This is a classic tale of a brilliant scientist who makes a wonderful discovery, and then loses his mind.The book was long in the build up, and did meander a bit. I liked it when the Invisible Man decided that he wanted to create a reign of terror. I would, personally, have loved a little more exploration of the subject at this point. The evil genius, the evil joker, are all subjects that have fascinated me for years. HGW was such a great writer, he would have been brilliant had he delved deeper into the mind of the scientist.more
A strange and wonderful book. I expected a fairly conventional look at America from a black point of view in the early 20th century. Instead, it is a poetical, political, phantasmagorical story of an individual's education in blackness, America, and the hurman condition. This book has been more than adequately reviewed by other contributors; I would simply suggest that it an essential part of American literature, and essential reading for anyone who is interested in how America became what it is.more
Like the underground man in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, the invisible man lives underground, but he is invisible only because others refuse to see him for who he is. They manipulate him as a tool toward their goals. When he was fighting in the battle royale, he was only entertaining the white men. When he studied at the college, Dr. Bledsoe showcased him to the trustee as a model of the school’s success. In turn, the trustee funded the school to heel his wounded heart. When he went to New York, the communists used him to solicit members and ultimately sacrificed him through the Harlem riot to promote their agenda. Even Mary, who cared for him like a mother, didn’t see him for who he is. But such invisibility is not only that of an African-American, but of all Americans, and perhaps of all human. To exist but not be seen. To reflect light but be transparent. An object of others’ agendas rather than an individual.Only when he realized his invisibility did possibilities emerge, did he become free. Only then did he found himself. The person he is, rather then the person whom others wanted him to be. And in the end, he decided to emerge from his hibernation. What are the possibilities? Or perhaps more disillusionment?more
The Invisible Man is a tale of the antihero, Griffin, a scientist/student who found a way to make himself invisible which he saw as a means of power. “An invisible man is a man of power”. But there are disadvantages and everything he hoped to accomplish is halted by these difficulties, dogs that sense him, food which shows when ingested. Griffin can take his place beside Frankenstein and Faust as individuals who become more and more destructive as they pursue power. It is also a moral fable; invisibility places Griffen outside of society and alienates him. In the 1001 reference book; the reviewer states that the novel shows the author’s hostility to Nietzschean thought and particularly “superman”. The novel also reminds us that scientific discovery can be used to further evil rather than good. I enjoyed this tale and at first was thinking 3 stars but changed my mind and gave it four.more
[The Invisible Man] by H. G. Wells First line:~ The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand ~I did not enjoy this one as much as [The Island of Doctor Moreau] which I also just read. Once again, I am struck, by the dangers of indiscriminate ‘scientific’ experimentation. This story reminded me of Frankenstein although somewhat different. This time the scientist creates the ‘monster’ in himself and cannot deal with the consequences of his displacement from society. Frankenstein’s monster is the innocent victim in his story and the invisible man is a victim of his own creativity, no innocence there. The evolution of Frankenstein’s monster comes from his lack of acceptance right from the beginning and no experience at all with healthy relationships or an understanding of how to behave socially. Griffin’s situation is a devolution from years of experience relating to society and yet, when he runs into difficulty becomes a homicidal maniac. I cannot help but think that he had those tendencies to start with! (3.5 stars)more
Really great novel. I feel like I need to read some commentaries on it to really complete the experience, and I will. The story is easy to follow along, but Ellison is sometime too eloquent and/or poetic for my non-poetic mind to really get at the deeper issues he's addressing. Still, this novel is full of topics for discussion.more
I was looking for something short to read and came across an old beat-up copy of The Invisible Man on our shelves. It seemed like the perfect book --- a little science fiction, a compact story, something to read while sitting on the roof enjoying a sunny afternoon.Griffin, a scientist, invents a machine that uses optics to make things invisible to the naked eye. He tests his machine, and the procedure, on himself. He completes the process but he doesn’t have time to reverse it before he is kicked out of the inn where he’s conducting his experiments by the people of the town who don’t trust him. With no options, and no desire to explain himself or his work, he leaves the inn in his new invisible state. He steals to get what he needs then enlists a man to assist him in getting his notes back from the inn where he abandoned them. When he, and his invisible state, are reported to the authorities, Griffin flips and goes on a bit of a terror spree wanting to get back at the man who betrayed him.The science fiction aspect of the book is interesting and the explanation believable. Griffin wasn’t a likable character though --- he’s arrogant, mean, and capable of murder. I kept wondering what it was that made him that way because I didn’t believe it could have been the invisibility alone. He does tell his story but it doesn’t do anything to help his cause considering he openly talks of murder, setting fire to a place to hide his work, and robbing people. I’m fine with not liking the main character and here Griffin is really just being used as social commentary anyway so I understood the reasoning for it even if he didn’t appeal to me.Having not read much HG Wells since high school, I was slightly stunned to find I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would. Don’t misinterpret that, I did like it, just not love it. I’m a person that likes to bond with the main character and here that wasn’t possible. The reader isn’t supposed to like Griffin but even knowing that didn’t help me. For me, he was the cruel scientist bent on revenge not caring about the people he was planning to hurt along the way to get what he wanted. As I’m writing this review I’m beginning to wonder if I’m experiencing an aversion to Wells’s writing and now I’m thinking of going back to re-read The Time Machine to see what I think of that. Interesting how that happens to me sometimes.more
This was a quick read. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I was surprised that we didn't get to hear the invisible man's story until so far in. From the perspective and information given, it was like the fact that he was invisible was supposed to eventually strike us as a great surprise, but... it's called "The Invisible Man." Anyway, it did pick up once we finally heard his story.From the beginning, I wanted to like the invisible man, or at least to have some sympathy for him. Oh, maybe he has a reason for not wanting to talk to anybody, I hoped, but he was just a bad-tempered jerk from the start. I feel like the author could have addressed some deeper themes here if the story had been just a little different, but maybe it's just supposed to be more of a fun read.I did find the ideas about how he became invisible interesting-- the real science fiction part of it. I also laughed at one scene where he has a dreadful time trying to convince someone he's invisible, and the end was somewhat exciting.more
I didn't enjoy this one as much as Wells' two more famous books. I just couldn't get it out of my head that (spoiler alert?) for most of the book the Invisible Man had his Invisible Junk flopping around, making him far less menacing a villain than Wells intended.more
A very interesting book about Harlem and the different social movements happening at that time. There was an "unreal" feeling about the way the book was written. It felt almost like the whole story was happening in someone's dream or like the narrator was insane. It gave me the feeling the whole time like I almost understood what was happening but not quite. I wasn't sure if the author was alluding to events I should have known about or whether the author wanted to give me that feeling. This is defintiely a book I will have to read the Spark Notes for to make sure I didn't miss something important. (And it always annoys me when I can't just read a book and enjoy the book without having to see what others said about the book to understand it.)more
I have been re-discovering H G Wells in free Kindle downloads, though this is the first time I have read 'The Invisible Man'. The book is fascinating in its concept and of course it spawned almost an industry of adaptations and imitations including the TV series I remember from the 1960s featuring Peter Brady as the title character, though in an entirely different setting and conceit than the original.Here the title character is frustrated physicist Griffin who perfects a way of refracting light which, combined with some treatment of colour pigmentation (all very vaguely 'explained'), allows the character complete invisibility when naked, while retaining the solidity of the original human form. Griffin is initially delighted by his discovery which he imagines is going to give him the key to power and access in the world.He is soon disillusioned: the chapters devoted to Griffin naked on the streets of London trying to feed and clothe himself (having burned all his belongings) while trying to remain undetected are among the most powerful in the book. Griffin's reaction when he realises that his life as the Invisible Man is not going to be the idyll he imagined is a fury which leads to his determination to conduct a Reign of Terror against humanity.The Reign of Terror is shortlived. I won't give away the ending, though it's easier to spot than Griffin starkers. I was somewhat unsatisfied by it as I was by much of the book, though there are some gripping passages. The dialogue, especially in the 'crowd scenes',is clunky and false to the ear. The narrative is fast-paced but sometimes hobbled with clumsy prose. My main problem is with the character of Griffin himself who is portrayed as entirely amoral and thus never really engages the reader's sympathy even during his worst privations. I can understand why Wells chose this characterisation, as it sets up a sort of rationale for Griffin's deluded Reign of Terror, but I can't help feeling there is an opportunity missed by not developing a more rounded character, which could have given us a more mature reflection on the problems and moral dilemmas of Griffin's condition, and a more empathetic protagonist.I was going to end by saying that Griffin is two-dimensional, but I suppose it's more accurate to say he is no-dimensional - at least with his clothes off.more
I learned a good deal about the life of afro-americans in the USA. It is a wonderful book. But it is painful and dramatic. Life is not easy for blacks in the US. I wish there was a better understanding of the importance of africans in the construction of what we (including us, brazilians) are today. Our culture, our life, our language, our music and hundreds of other aspects of our daily life is linked to their culture.more
My second H.G. Wells novel. Honestly, I didn't enjoy The Invisible Man quite as much as I did The War of the Worlds. The storyline and writing were both top notch, but I just found it hard to REALLY enjoy a novel in which I totally despised the main character. In all actuality, I guess my feelings towards the protagonist/antagonist (yes, both are the same character) would be considered a win for the author, as I feel that Wells didn't intend for the reader to truly like this character. What I find interesting is that as I was reading the novel, I did feel a bit of sympathy for the main character's plight from time to time, but then he would do something so over-the-top or horribly nasty that I would immediately lose any sympathetic feelings and replace them with something more akin to loathing. I did enjoy the novel for the most part though and Wells crafts a wonderful story that keeps the reader interested throughout. I found the science behind his explanation of events to be sufficient to carry the story especially considering the time in which it was written and think that this is another fine example of early Science Fiction before Science Fiction was actually defined as a genre.more
I always thought my first foray into H.G. Wells would be The War of the Worlds - but actually this made a fantastic starting point! A quick read, The Invisible Man is accessible, vivid and packs quite a punch along the way, and I really enjoyed it. It's about... well, an Invisible Man. Except when he first arrives in the little town of Iping, no one KNOWS he's an Invisible Man. Swathed in bandages, wearing gloves and heavy clothes, and with a hat and goggle-like glasses hiding his features, everyone assumes he's had a terrible accident. It's only when odd things begin to happen and the increasingly volatile gentleman is provoked into revealing his secret that all hell breaks loose. Is he a sympathetic victim or a murderous madman? Will he find someone to help him? How on earth did he reach this point in his life? How DOES a man render himself invisible anyway?What really surprised me, at least earlier on in the book, is how funny it is. The small-town characters are so amusing - Mr Marvel, the tramp, has some particularly good one-liners that made me chuckle - and some of their brilliantly observed little foibles are ones we all recognise even if we'd rather not admit to them! Nearer the end of the book the humour gives way largely to the Invisible Man's eloquently-told story and the melodramatic thrill of the chase, which was interesting but for me, not as enjoyable as the quick wit of the first half. Nevertheless, I'm very glad to have finally read this classic of science fiction writing - and I'm still looking forward to The War of the Worlds!more
"...one of the greatest jokes in the world is the spectacle of the whites busy escaping blackness and becoming blacker every day, and the blacks striving toward whiteness, becoming quite dull and gray."Ellison is certainly a skilled writer and his prose impressive (his dialogue, not so much). The story is expertly layered with imagery, metaphors, and foreshadowing. I appreciate some of his more blatant imagery (such as the kneeling slave statue or his infamous paint mixing scene). I am glad to have read such an African American classic, such an acclaimed social commentary... but it will be the last.I have found this book to be more tedius than entertaining; more garrulous than insightful. There are many gaping holes in the storyline which I understand were left to mystery purposefully by the author, but instead of intriguing the plot, it was confusing this reader. Perhaps Ellison's language is too subtle for me to grasp or too sophisticated for my palate. For a subject as powerful and personal as racism, it fell short of the claims made on it.A fellow goodreads user (Nathaniel Calhoun) said it best in his review:'This is strongly reminiscent of German Expressionist drama from the early 20th century. It suffers from an inability to actually characterize anyone beyond the protagonist. Every other character is crushed by the need to represent a whole class or demographic. All of the other figures are episodes in his life, his personal development, his realization of society's deep-seated decay and his inexorable (and predictable) movement towards disillusionment. Which is to say that it is a heavy-handed, young, stereotype filled book.Yes, it is a worthy historical object. Yes, it is an interesting foil to other pieces of American literature (which does not have too many books of this variety); but I don't think it deserves great praise if it is judged on its own merits. The prose is nothing special, the dialect isn't handled with particular grace, it has an irritating tendency to state the obvious and to self-interpret and the author actually takes the time to call attention to the fact that he is choosing to rant at you for the last five pages--a total admission of weakness.I am, however, giving it two stars in the "it was okay" sort of fashion. I'm not upset that I read it. I just won't read it again, teach it or recommend it to anyone.'more
Invisible Man was on a list of "100 Significant Books" I was working through, and is considered one of the great novels of the 20th Century, not just one of the great American or African-African works. I've heard Ellison described as the "Black Joyce" which is rather unfair to Ellison--both because he's his own man, and because his novel is much more readable and enjoyable than Joyce's Ulysses, also on that list. The theme is stated right in the beginning, in one of the most eloquent openings I've read in literature:I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me.That's from the Prologue. The first chapter sets the tone for the novel: surreal, brutal, disturbing. In it and developed throughout is this conception of the Booker T Washington vision of how to respond to racism as treason to self and to race. I can't help but feel Ellison is unfair to Booker T. Washington and his legacy, particularly in how he depicts his fictional counterpart Bledsoe, but I can't deny the power of Ellison's imagery and language, and it's fascinating in its way how this novel written in the late 1940s and published in 1952 is still relevant today. I can hear so many echos in it that reflect racial divides--not so much in terms of black and white but more the black versus black debates: W.E.B. DuBois versus Booker T. Washington; Shelby Steele versus Cornell West. And despite all I've read before on the period, I do feel the book made me better understand why both the Communist Party and Black Nationalism might have appealed in the first half of the 20th century to American blacks frustrated over their treatment by their fellow Americans.Not everything about the novel works for me however. So many of the incidents in the book are too bizarre to be taken as real, I found it off-putting at times and it made it harder to feel for his narrator and take what happens to him seriously. For one because I didn't feel they all fit together with the narrative and narrator--they feel episodic, rather than part of an arc for his character. There's something here that makes me think more of Kafka, where every character and scene is pregnant with symbolism. Ten months pregnant--with triplets. Sometimes I thought the racial imagery and handling of issues were very heavy handed. (Optic white paint, "the right white?" Really?) And I never identified and rarely sympathized with Ellison's unnamed "invisible man." At times, and not just at the beginning, he's just too naive and foolish to be believed, such a tool, even for someone that young. He changes so much to fit those he's around, is such a chameleon, that seems more the explanation for being "invisible" than the color of his skin. (Even if I get Ellison's point he is a chameleon because of racism.) He even allows his own name to be effaced at one point and at another wears a disguise. One of the few times he exerts himself as an individual is when he chooses to buy yams from a street vendor and eat them right there. Few of the characters outside the narrator ever seemed real to me, especially the female characters. It doesn't help that so much of Ellison's dialogue comes across as, if not stilted, than at least stagey and filled with stock phrases. The Epilogue just doesn't work for me. It's as eloquent as the prologue, but didn't convince me it linked up with the narrator's experiences. On the other hand, there is a streak of humor through the book I couldn't help appreciating. (I loved Ellison's description of his character's first encounter with the New York City subway system--over fifty years later, and the description is still apt.) But you know, on that list of "100 Significant Books," this one is the only one by an African-American, and often seems mentioned as the book to read in that category. I did like Invisible Man a lot, but I wouldn't consider it as amazing a read as Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Toni Morrison's Beloved or especially Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. All of those books have characters I cared about much more than Ellison's narrator. On the other hand, not only was this a surprisingly fast-paced read, but many of the scenes, despite of or because they're so bizarre, are definitely very memorable and likely to stay with me a long time. And that's why for all the problems I had with it I rated it four stars. Very much worth the read.more
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