THE 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.
The 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/
© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.