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by Matt Haig

The critically acclaimed author of The Radleys shares a clever, heartwarming, and darkly insightful novel about an alien who comes to Earth to save humans from themselves.“I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist. For those that don’t know, a human is a real bipedal life form of midrange intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.” The bestselling, award-winning author of The Radleys is back with what may be his best, funniest, and most devastating dark comedy yet. When an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth, his first impressions of the human species are less than positive. Taking the form of Professor Andrew Martin, a prominent mathematician at Cambridge University, the visitor is eager to complete the gruesome task assigned him and hurry back home to the utopian world of his own planet, where everyone enjoys immortality and infinite knowledge. He is disgusted by the way humans look, what they eat, their capacity for murder and war, and is equally baffled by the concepts of love and family. But as time goes on, he starts to realize there may be more to this weird species than he has been led to believe. Disguised as Martin, he drinks wine, reads poetry, develops an ear for rock music and a taste for peanut butter. Slowly, unexpectedly, he forges bonds with Martin’s family, and in picking up the pieces of the professor’s shattered personal life, he begins to see hope and beauty in the humans’ imperfections and begins to question the mission that brought him there. Praised by the New York Times as a “novelist of great seriousness and talent,” author Matt Haig delivers an unlikely story about human nature and the joy found in the messiness of life on Earth. The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable tale that playfully and movingly explores the ultimate subject—ourselves.
Download The Humans: A Novel epub
ISBN: 1476727910
ISBN13: 978-1476727912
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Genre Fiction
Author: Matt Haig
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Printing edition (July 2, 2013)
Pages: 304 pages
ePUB size: 1493 kb
FB2 size: 1254 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 757
Other Formats: mbr docx rtf txt

There are books we read that we enjoy immensely at the moment, but their memory fades, sometimes much faster than we would have predicted. Then there are others that literally leave their mark upon us, on our minds ... sometimes, if we’re especially lucky, upon our very souls.

I’m happy to report that The Humans was of this latter sort. The premise is fairly simple, at least when put into words here: An important math theorem is proved by a math professor, and an alien is immediately sent to Earth to kill off the guy and anyone else that may have been told of his discovery. Humans, it is asserted, are not at all prepared for the widespread changes which his proof would usher in for our civilization.

There were many times during the reading of this book where I laughed out loud. I don’t find myself laughing this much when reading most of the books I devour. But there were also important, pivotal moments throughout where I found myself sobbing.

This book is so full of wisdom, of a brilliant sort of assessment of our species, an assessment accomplished with such expertise that it was almost as if an alien truly was its author. The book MOVED ME, and in more ways than I’ve likely realized so soon upon completing it. It is one that will remain close to my heart for a long, long time. Of this, I am certain.
An alien appears on earth with just one single mission: to destroy all the proof of a great mathematical scientific discovery, that means all the physical evidence: digital as well as human. To be near his objects he clothes himself with the body of Andrew Martin, the man who made the discovery. And that is when things start to become complicated because human hard drives are different from digital hard drives in that they have all kinds of other properties and idiosyncrasies. Not only that, those character trades influence him in ways he could not have imagined. There is a neglected wife who can’t stop worrying, there is a very unhappy son with a preference for train tracks and roofs that are much too high and finally there is a clairvoyant dog. What seems to be a very easy job becomes the hardest thing he has ever done. And there is one question that starts to be the hardest one he ever faced: what is it in him that makes him doubt his mission?

That is the core question of this book. How is it that he values the life of a teenager much more than the safety of the universe? The alien has no idea. But this alien is smart and has feeling in his gut. On his quest he discovers that there are worse things than pain and death. The value of the paradox is another thing he finds worthwhile: an eternal life lived in comfort can be very short when remembered. The meaning of a short: ‘How was your day?’, can stretch endlessly.

This is a beautiful book that makes you think about what is really important in life (peanut butter is of much more importance than the solution to the Riemann hypothesis). What I found the cleverest thing of the book was that the man from another world felt more and more human as the story progressed. That’s just plain good writing. What I also found very impressive: Haig showed us how beautiful mathematics can be, that prime numbers can be a source happiness as well as madness and that Emily Dickinson is the answer to (almost) anything.

Finally a quote from the great man himself:
'She laughed some more. Laughter, I realised, was the reverberating sound of a truth hitting a lie. Humans existed inside their own delusions and laughing was a way out - the only possible bridge they had between each other. That, and love.'
I read a lot of books, one or two a week. I don't tend to review them because I know my reactions are personal, and attempting to assign a number of stars is torturous. However, every year or so, one truly stands out for me and I find myself recommending it to everyone I know. A couple of years ago, it was *Defending Jacob* by William Landay. In the past year, it was *The Humans* by Matt Haig.

I was initially interested in reading *The Humans* because the topic reminded me of "3rd Rock From The Sun", one of my all-time favorite TV sitcoms (at least the first season). Both premises are based on an outsider's interpretation of the human condition. The TV show was hilarious; this book is less so, but it has its moments. It is basically the story of an alien coming to earth on a serious mission. However, I found myself laughing almost to tears at one point as the alien was attempting to interpret a dog's conversation based on facial expressions since he couldn't decipher the dog's spoken language. The scene involves peanut butter. The alien has never experienced joy. Then on earth he discovers music! He is mesmerized by Debussy, feeling he has captured all the most beautiful aspects of the universe in his music ... but, then, wow, the alien hears the Beach Boys! And discovers the aforementioned peanut butter! And poetry! Etc. Mainly it is about what it is to be human and how it is our mortality that makes happiness possible. At one point the alien marvels that he has said "me" -- it has always before been "we". (That was thrilling.) I have inspired at least a dozen friends to read this book, and so far I think everyone likes or loves it, but for all different reasons. Some liked the collectivist vs. individual aspect, like I did. Some liked the human joy aspect, as I also did. One friend was just thrilled with all the wise observations that the alien made, his unique point of view. Another was tickled by all the Emily Dickenson quotes and references, most not attributed, and most of which, I must admit, I missed. One friend chose it for his book club, and said it was a success, both because people liked it and because it inspired lively discussion.

Be aware that the novel starts slowly and is rather dark. I wasn't liking it at first, and others said the same thing. My cousin put it aside for several weeks, not enjoying it, then picked it back up one day, and stayed up most of the night with it, enthralled. The alien isn't likeable. His mission is to murder. But once the story is set, it is a compelling read, and one I will revisit. It is an easy read, but interesting and thought-provoking, at times touching, at times profound. The idea that mortality is essential to human happiness is not a theme often explored. The book is a paean to human happiness.