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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells 
9th-Apr-2006 11:59 pm
Two more sci-fi novels by H. G. Wells whose plots have achieved widespread, mainstream recognition.

Wells, H. G. The Invisible Man. 1897.
Summary: The albino Griffin discovers a way to turn himself into an Invisible Man. While trying to find a way to reverse the procedure, he terrorizes a small English town and is discovered, and, after fleeing, reveals himself to his friend Dr. Kemp, who, recognizing his madness, betrays him to the police and to his eventual death.
Comments: So maybe the antics of the common people and an amoral Invisible Man are supposed to be funny...but, really, they're so NOT, and Wells's attempts to make it so fall flat. I have trouble laughing at other peoples' stupidity, I suppose. Moreover, Griffin is really not, after all is said and done, a very original character; he shares Dr. Moreau's at-any-cost scientific ambition, and crossing that with unexplained short temper and megalomania does nothing to make him more three-dimensional. I was also underwhelmed by Griffin's (and thus Wells's) analyses of what advantages and disadvantages being invisible confers. So much for ninja, eh? :P Really, the only interesting stuff here is Griffin's own account of his discovery and subsequent transformation (though if someone could explain to me how someone who is invisible can see, I'd be eternally grateful)--the rest was surprisingly uninspired.
Notes: trade paperback, Dover Thrift Edition
Rating: 4.5/10 - A wish-fulfillment premise but lacks rather in imaginative possibilities.

Wells, H. G. The War of the Worlds. 1898.
Summary: Technologically advanced, bloodsucking Martians invade England and wreak havoc in robotic tripods until they are laid low by Earth bacterial infection.
Comments: Even though we know now that Mars is bereft of high life forms, this novel strikes me as surprisingly modern in its conception. Though the story is told by a narrator (most likely an incarnation of the author himself) who witnesses most of the pertinent events firsthand (and is even, in a sentimental subplot, able to reunite with his estranged wife in the end), I found the descriptions of the humans' various reactions to the alien threat and generalized mass exodus and hysteria, to be more interesting and relevant than invasion from outer space. Not to mention the likelihood of England being target Numero Uno on the Martian's hit list! The assumption that one's own homeland is the center of the world often shows up in popular fiction and media; I wonder if it speaks to fear of immigrants and miscegenation...? Also, the artilleryman's fantasy of humanity in rat-like resistance resonates with the passions of guerrilla movements the world over and had me rolling my eyes exactly as Wells intended. I saw echoes of The Time Machine in the narrator's speculation that the Martians were once more humanoid and of The Island of Dr. Moreau in his constant anxiety that invasion might recur, though this novel is more skillfully written and more coherent than previous endeavors. Although, how an alien world could NOT have any microscopic symbiotic organisms fails to compute in my brain.
Notes: trade paperback, Dover Thrift Edition
Rating: 5/10 - If you're not a fan of the war novel (with emphasis on the plight of civilians and refugees), give this sci-fi classic a pass. You already know the plot, after all, right?
28th-Apr-2006 11:08 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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