Footnotes: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Ahead of Friday's long-awaited release of a new movie version of The Invisible Man, starring Elisabeth Moss, we're re-reading H.G. Wells' thrilling sci-fi horror on which it's based.

Universal Pictures

What's the story?

This Friday sees the release of the long-awaited movie adaptation of HG Well’s The Invisible Man. Starring Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), Universal Pictures’ interpretation of the 1897 sci-fi classic is giving an old tale a fresh feel: it’s an R-rated horror with a female focus.

What's the book?

A mysterious stranger arrives at a country inn during a fierce snowstorm. His face is wrapped in bandages, his eyes are hidden by dark glasses and he is wearing gloves… even indoors. At first locals assume he is the victim of a terrible accident. But soon, strange things begin to occur about the village.

H.G. Wells – the godfather of modern-day science fiction – wrote The Invisible Man in 1897. Yet its themes of greed, madness and science’s power to corrupt feel as pertinent now as they did then.

The story follows Griffin, a scientist who invents a serum that can alter the human body's refractive index to that of air so that it neither absorbs nor reflects light, turning him invisible. But, as he grows drunk on his new power, greed takes hold, then murder, followed by a bitter madness. It is a thrilling read that deserves its reputation as one of the greatest sci-fi horrors ever written.


In 1913, the eccentric Soviet physicist Yakov I Perelman pointed out in Physics for Entertainment that if HG Wells had followed the rules of physics, the Invisible Man would be blind, because the human eye works by absorbing light, not allowing it to pass straight through.  

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more