Ralph Ellison's debut novel is a startling and unforgettable vision of racial tension and inequality in 1950s America. In a sprawling and unpredictable narrative, Invisible Man veers between surreal, near-farcical episodes and shocking realism. As much as Ellion's nameless protagonist seems to slip in and out of visibility, so does the novel slip in and out of verisimility, between razor sharp observation and obscurity. The underlying madness of the race question is presented subjectively with ferocious black humour, and the reader is swept violently into the narrator's position early in the novel with a brutal boxing match. We are forced to view things close up and only half understood, between distorted observation to grim lucidity - like the murder of his friend Brother Todd Clifton, a virtuoso piece of writing. It's a book overflowing with ideas and experimentations, but not to the total detriment of readability. The narrator can be a difficult perspective to empathise with, but this enforces the underlying ontological question at the core of the book: "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me." Buffeted from one situation to another, he spends the first half of the book sucked into and spat out of the American social machinery before being co-opted by a weirdly masonic communist party called The Brotherhood, which manipulates his perceived penchant for public speaking to enhance their outreach in a fast-deteriorating Harlem. The book's apocalyptic climax takes place in the Harlem race riots, a social meltdown presented as a nightmarishly surreal epiosode part-provoked by a horseback Caribbean fantatic, Ras the Exhorter. An extravagant and powerfully emotive work of the imagination.