The Humans - Matt Haig

Genre: Fiction
Synopsis: The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable novel about alien abduction, mathematics, and that most interesting subject of all: ourselves. Combine Douglas Adams’s irreverent take on life, the universe, and everything with a genuinely moving love story, and you have some idea of the humor, originality, and poignancy of Matt Haig’s latest novel.
Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man--as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son--who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew--the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.


 Review: The novel starts out on a hilarious note and continues in that vein for probably the first third of the book. As much as humans might struggle in a country where they know neither the language or customs, you can only imagine what difficulties an alien, with no knowledge of even the basic cultural elements universal to almost all human beings, let alone the norms of the western world, might face on his first day on Earth. Naturally, the results are genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny. If nothing else can be said for Matt Haig, he can see the amusing side of everything.

Fortunately, many other things can be said for Matt Haig. As the novel progresses, it understandably becomes less funny and starts to focus on the fallout of spending so much time among humans - winding up caring for them. I felt like it took a little while for this to start happening, and at first wasn't sure if there was going to be a solid plot or if the entire story would just be one alien bumbling around Earth being funny. The plot does eventually make an appearance, and I'll be the first to admit that it is unoriginal, and merely a vehicle for Haig to throw out some ideas and sentiments about the human condition which are relatable and beautifully expressed. That is far more okay a thing than you might think, reading this review. This book is like a quirky expansion upon that famous "Don't Forget To Wear Sunscreen" song - it will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, reminding you of what makes humans so special despite their myriad flaws.

Matt sounds like a man who has spent nights awake, wondering at his own place in a world that is sometimes difficult to understand - a man who is aware of, and has possibly experienced, the different ways that people try to cope - retreating into themselves, repressing their doubts and 'just getting on with it', and I wouldn't be surprised if this novel was as cathartic for him to write as it was for me to read. As a frequent cynic, particularly about the state of the human race, this book was a refreshing reminder of how people try, and how that is actually the most important thing anyone can do. With turns of phrase that made me teary, characters I myself came to love, just enough drama to stop it being soppy, and an alien with so much faith in humanity that it will restore your own, this is an absolute must-read.

Rating: 5/5

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