THE ORIGINAL MAD SCIENTIST
From the imagination of science fictions greatest pioneer, a tale that’s neither grotesque or romantic, but a classic nonetheless.
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Format: Paperback, 208 Pages
Date: 31st March 2005 (First Published 1897)
I have previously made the case that H.G. Wells is the most influential science fiction author of all time, ahead of such luminaries as Verne, Clarke and Asimov. Despite his obvious limitations as a fiction writer, he was an exceptionally creative and original storyteller with an imagination unrivalled by his peers; many of his ideas were truly ahead of their time. While it may be difficult to categorically state which of his published stories should be considered his definitive work (as there are several candidates), his 1897 novella, The Invisible Man, is arguably his best known work. It has been a hugely influential book, spawning numerous adaptations in other mediums, and been a source of inspiration to countless other writers. Little wonder that over a century after its first publication the story continues to be reprinted to this day.
Fittingly, coming from such a pioneering author, The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance (to give the book its full original title) is one of the earliest, if not the first, examples of the “Mad Scientist” trope: the conceit of the man of science who is so consumed by whether or not it is possible to accomplish a particular goal through science, he doesn’t stop to think about the possible negative ramifications of doing so, or wilfully chooses to ignore the potential consequences, which invariably results in disastrous outcomes. The invisible man of the story is just such a scientist; someone whose single-mindedness and lack of foresight in regards to his quest to achieve invisibility leads him to recklessly experiment on himself before he has devised a way to reverse the process. The book’s plot charts the increasingly desperate efforts of the invisible man to make himself visible again.