H. G. Wells Month – Review of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells Month - SFFaudio Review

LibriVox - The Invisible Man by H. G. WellsThe Invisible Man
By H. G. Wells; Read by Alex Foster
13 MP3 or OGG Files – 4 Hours 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: 2006
Themes: /Science Fiction / Invisibility /

The narrator, Alex Foster, has a great voice for this tale. It’s a radio voice. There are few, if any, errors. And very importantly, it isn’t an American accent. The story takes place, if I understand my geography correctly, near London, so having an accent from that area is a plus. And yet, the text is very clear, with no misunderstanding, even by an American such as myself.

Interestingly, the description for how invisibility works is strikingly believable. In high school chemistry class, they had you put a certain amount of water in a beaker, put in a Pyrex rod, add a certain amount of a clear liquid, mix it, and boom (well, it was a surprise, anyway), the Pyrex rod that’s in the liquid vanishes. The index of refraction of the water was altered to match that of Pyrex. The Invisible man is invisible because he’s not only transparent, but in index of refraction matches that of air. Yet, Wells doesn’t go so far as to tell you the details on how the thing works, exactly. Just enough to get you going. Masterfully done.

Now, the story has been done again and again in literature. Typically, the rip offs change the man’s character greatly. Sometimes they come up with solutions to his various problems. Problems? Sure, well, he’s only really invisible when he’s naked. That’s a decided disadvantage when it’s winter. And in summer, the bug bites must be terrible. The solution was actually presented in the book, though the author chooses not to have the character use it.

Wells clearly wanted to have the book stand on it’s own. Not a serial like Tarzan. So, the Invisible Man is smart enough to be dangerous, but not smart enough to live forever. Many of the rip off’s, including a TV series, have the Invisible Man with a support network, and enough smarts to do interesting things as a serial.

The original book stands the test of time. Speaking of time. The Librivoxrecording of The Invisible Man is only about five hours long. Keep in mind that reading the text yourself is typically about three times faster. So this is a fairly short piece of entertainment. It’s broken up into fairly short readings. Sometimes three chapters in a single file, but always under about 35 minutes. The chapters must be very short. In any case, it means one can get through a whole scene, and have a convenient break point.

Now, I mostly listen to these things while doing something else. This summer, I’ve listened to several books while gardening. I bought a non-motorized lawn mower so that i can listen while doing that task. Most of my listening time, however, happens during my commute to work. In a break with tradition, I actually found myself speeding up a little during the most exciting parts. (This doesn’t get me to speeding, exactly, as I drive slower than the limit as a fuel conservation measure – which saves me more than an estimated $100 per year). It’s an hour each way, so it’s roughly ten hours a week. Against ten hours a week, a five hour book is pretty easy. The Tarzan books were about eight hours each. And when I listened to those, it was about one per week. Imagine reading fifty books a year.

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