One of the ‘fathers of science fiction’, H.G. Wells was seen as forward-looking and prophetic. I’m not a huge science fiction fan, but I have always enjoyed The Invisible Man. Published in 1897, it mingles science and horror. This novel will make you realise that invisibility is no blessing.
Come with me on a fabulous reading journey through 2020. Together we will explore a thought-provoking selection of 19th and 20th Century classics. For each novel you will receive an illustrated monograph packed full of intriguing stories about the author behind the book, explaining its themes, tempting you with film versions to watch, and challenging you with discussion questions.
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I am not a big sci-fi reader – science fiction is generally a section of a bookstore or library that fails to tempt me. I also prefer novels to have a hero and heroine and preferably a love story – The Invisible Man has none of those things. And yet it’s a fabulous book with a gripping plot and relevant and complex issues that are as topical today as when Wells wrote it.
H.G. Wells’ life was a real rags-to-riches tale. His mother was a domestic servant, his father ran a little shop and earned a bit extra playing cricket, but they could not long keep their son in school and he was apprenticed in his teens to a draper. He loathed the work and it gave him a real sympathy for the poor and downtrodden, sparking his life-long interest in socialism. The story of how he escaped the draper, got himself an education and began to write is a fascinating one.
Wells was also a womaniser and was rarely faithful to anyone for long. Some remarkable women fell for him – authors Edith Nesbit and Rebecca West, and possible spy Moura Budberg, were some of them. He wasn’t especially handsome, but when in his company it seemed to these women that no other man could compare with him. His views on sex were remarkably modern, and he put them into practice whenever he could!
“To do such a thing would be to transcend magic. And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man—the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none. You have only to think! And I, a shabby, poverty-struck, hemmed-in demonstrator, teaching fools in a provincial college, might suddenly become—this.”
― H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man
Wells had a genius for predicting the future in his fiction. He could see the growing power of Mussolini and Hitler and announced this would certainly end in war. Did you know that he fought with Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons over this very issue when he visited Australia in 1938? He was ahead of his time in calling for the protection of whales, more humane divorce laws, free education for all, and much more. His novels showed humanity’s increasing reliance on machines and science, and also pointed out that scientific developments could cause harm as well as bring benefits. His books were hugely popular and so Wells’ idea reached a large audience.
In The Invisible Man a scientist called Griffin finds a way of making himself invisible. As children, don’t we all dream of an ‘invisibility cloak’ or the power to disappear at will? The trouble is that Griffin fails to discover a way of reversing the process. Nor has he considered some of the implications of invisibility – he cannot make the food he has just swallowed invisible, or the clothes he needs in an English winter. He becomes a freak, he frightens people, he is cold and hungry and has no place to sleep. Nor does he really know what to do with his new power, and he squanders it on petty pranks and thefts. How people respond to him, how they fear what he can do, and how they try to kill him are the things that make up the plot of this fabulous book.
Wells is often referred to as ‘the Father of Science Fiction’. Learn about this forward-thinking man and join me in delving into one of his best novels and thinking about just what invisibility really means.
“An invisible man can rule the world. No one will see him come; no one will see him go.”
― H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man
We live in a world where science is continually pushing the boundaries. What is moral, how far should science be allowed to go? These questions of today also fascinated H.G. Wells in an era when science and technological progress were making rapid and sometimes frightening advances. Do you think this book is still relevant today? Tell me in a comment.
This Literary Readers’ Guide is a real treat! In it I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. Included are 8 thought-provoking discussion points, perfect for books clubs or just to get you thinking a bit harder yourself.
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