Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Is there anybody out there?

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"Already I had made a piece of cloth and a cat invisible. At once I set about performing the experiment on myself.

"I had not expected the suffering. My body was all afire. I understood now why the cat had howled until I chloroformed her. But I stuck to it.

"The pain passed. I shall never forget that dawn and the strange horror of seeing that my hands had become as clouded glass and watching them grow clearer until at last I could see through them even after I had closed my transparent eyelids.

"I gritted my teeth and stayed there to the end. At last only the dead tips of the fingernails remained, white and pallid. I struggled up and stared at nothing in my shaving glass, at nothing save where an attenuated pigment still remained behind the retina of my eyes, fainter than mist.


That was the passage on the back of my copy of H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man, so naturally, I had to buy it. Also, look at that bandage head on the cover. Tantalizing. Because this book was written in 1897, you don't have to buy it to read it. In fact, you can read the whole thing on your computer here. Maybe you should start reading a chapter a night. Maybe you should start right now.

The thing about this book is it isn't really what I was expecting (actually, it was even better), and the blurb on the back cover, while awesome, isn't totally indicative of the book. Its taken from a section towards the middle where the Invisible Man tells his secrets to an old school chum of his. The rest of the book is told from the view of a distant observer, and we usually have no idea what the Invisible Man is thinking.

I did learn that being Invisible is not all that great. First, to actually be invisible, you have to be naked. Wells didn't get into the more intimate problems one might foresee with this (it was 1897 after all), but he did note that it is often very cold and your feet get all cut up. Speaking of cold, if its raining or snowing, or even if dust is thrown up on you from the road, you become oddly visible again. And, when you eat, your partially digested food is visible until you have completely ingested it. Finally, being invisible does not allow you to walk through walls, make no noise when you walk or sneeze, or not be felt when someone runs into you.

This book had some great science stuff in it (becoming invisible is complicated), a nice little morality twist, and some creepy bits as well. Also, the choloroformed cat mentioned at the beginning of this post was not killed, he let it out his window.

Now I really want to rent this movie version of the book, starring Claude Rains as the Invisible Man... Have any of you seen it?

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