THE INVISIBLES (1903): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

InvisiblesTHE INVISIBLES (1903) – Written by Edgar Earl Christopher, this novel nicely anticipates cinematic serials and integrates science fiction and slight occult touches into its storyline.

Jean Valdemere, an extraordinary Frenchman, saves the life of Castleman, an Englishman, in India. After rescuing the Brit from an attacking tiger Valdemere uses his half-scientific and half-supernatural powers of precognition to tell Castleman his future.

When the pair meet again 10 years later in Chattanooga, TN, the Englishman tells Valdemere how uncannily accurate his predictions were. The Frenchman informs Castleman that he, too, can acquire such abilities if he joins Jean’s secret organization, called the Invisible Hand.

Mascot new lookThe organization can also help the British youth get revenge on Czarist Russia for the torture of his Russian mother years earlier. It turns out that the Invisible Hand is a secret society determined to overthrow the Czars and install a new Russian government.

The Invisible Hand numbers over 2,000 members with a leadership council of 100. The organization boasts some of the greatest scientific minds in the world and possesses stockpiles of futuristic weaponry.

Among those weapons are super-powerful explosives and a high-tech submarine. The secret society also has a fortune in gold and jewels, plus several artificially-created diamonds of enormous value.

The wealth, weaponry and submarine are hidden away in the Invisible Hand’s secret headquarters – a network of caverns near Chattanooga. The cavern stronghold is riddled with trap doors, secret passageways and brilliantly engineered defensive systems to guard against intruders.

This hidden lair also contains the petrified remains of thousands of pre-Columbian peoples. Their link – if any – to the Invisible Hand is never revealed.

While visiting Valdemere’s New Orleans home, Castleman falls in love with Jean’s daughter. Eventually the young Englishman learns that his new colleagues plan to use their submarine and super-explosives to destroy Russia’s Kronstadt Naval Base.

In the meantime the Czar of Russia has hired the French detective Deneau to counter the Invisible Hand. Deneau and an aide locate and infiltrate the Hand’s cavern headquarters.

Keeping everyone’s motivations as murky as in Film Noir, Deneau’s real reason for investigating the Invisible Hand was to loot their enormous wealth. The corrupt detectives are planning to flee with their plunder in the commandeered submarine.

In the end Deneau is thwarted, the submarine is wrecked and most of the Invisible Hand’s Council of 100 dies when a natural gas explosion destroys their cavern headquarters and their millions. (Note to self: Do not build a secret hideout in caverns which suffer erratic eruptions of natural gas.)

Valdemere, Castleman and a muscular Hand operative survive. The Frenchman plans to rebuild the Invisible Hand following this setback and the Brit gets a happy ending with Jean’s daughter.

The Invisibles flirts with Bulwer-Lytton territory. The reader can easily imagine that Valdemere’s powers of hypnotism and precognition are related to the Vril. The secret society aspect of the story AND its periodic references to assorted characters being Jewish can’t help but put one in mind of Masonic Lodges and the Kabala. “The Invisible College” was a frequent nickname for Masonic organizations. 

There’s also a bit of a Les Habits Noirs feel to the Invisible Hand organization.  

Unfortunately, this novel is nowhere near as much fun as it should be. It can be tough to slog through and its main appeal lies in the way so many of its ideas would go on to become staples of later Pulp Fiction.  

FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here:    https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/

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4 Comments

Filed under Ancient Science Fiction

4 responses to “THE INVISIBLES (1903): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

  1. Ghghhh

    You’re a hero.
    I don’t mean to be disrespectful of your post which I read and found truly interesting.
    But who you are comes out so much louder than anything you write.
    As I’m leaving an anonymous comment I can say whatever I want.
    Therefore I say, you’re a hero.

  2. Alan Hurley

    Addendum: THE INVISIBLES (1898): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION
    Edison’s Conquest of Mars (Apologizes if I repeat your previous)
    Just as Wells 1897“War…” was at 1st published by Cosmopolitan Magazine in serialized form, Astronomer Garrett P Serviss’s 1898 sequel Edison’s Conquest of Mars was put to press in the same way by the Boston Post.
    The uniqueness and importance of this book cannot be underestimated. Since that time, although mentioned by many famed publishers in the mag trade, it was only had a first 1500 reprint in 1947. That is the one I had bought in a bookmobile in the 1950’s and fell for sci-fi sway. The father of rocketry, Robert Goddard, mentioned in his writings that it stimulated his lifetime love of space travel when he read it in the Post.
    It included the earliest mention but not named of course of PTSD in people of Boston (the Post’s editorial license). It had the first to have functional space suits, manned EVA guns; Moon training bases and grounds for the Mars invasion; exploration and proper description of asteroids; asteroid mining for platinum and noting ones of gold; actuate description of light and dark shadows in space; scientist astronauts; and an accurate understanding of the Moon’s history.
    It also had the first space combat; alien abduction; disintegrators; oxygen pills; cigar-shaped alien spacecraft; an improved martial flying machines built in NJ that completed the 1st human trip to the Moon and back (skip Verne); and the aliens building the Pyramids.
    Fearing a second invasion, since the last arriving Martians escaped in their craft through an immense explosion that destroyed the remainder of Boston a call went out a decision to be made. Edison found the Martian secrets and improved on them.
    The Kaiser, Tsar, Sultan, Victoria, Mikado, China’s Tsait’ien, Siam and heads of state from everywhere else met with McKinley in D.C. to fund source multiple thousand million dollars for the invasion and also the donation of the Great Mogul Diamond. A Corp of literature and science went along among them Lord Kevin, Lord Rayleigh, Professor Roentgen, and Dr Moissan (guess what he did).
    I leave it to you to learn of the great adventures that awaited them against the Martian defense and the space exploration that went along with it. Who won? Of course!
    Alan Hurley

    • Thank you very much for the recap of that novel! I did cover it about 5 years ago in an entire series of blog posts here since there are so many fun elements to that story. No problem, though, just wanted to agree with you that it is a terrific story!

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