The Humans Hardcover – July 2, 2013
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“Funny, poignant and full of heart.” Source: Entertainment Weekly
“Matt Haig is a novelist of stunning talent, with a laser eye for the absurd and endless reserves of compassion.” Source: Parade, "Parade Picks"
“The Humans is by turns silly, sad, suspenseful and soulful….Haig manages…to burrow beneath clichés as he explores the meaning of sentimentality, loyalty, love, and mortality….Haig's insights are often compelling.” Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
“At its heart, this novel is really about the art of being human and all that entails.” Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“A surprisingly touching and often hilarious tale….Haig elevates the premise with his deft, humor-rich storytelling skills. A reverence for mathematics and history also runs through the book, cutting through some of the sentimentality with a healthy dose of intellectualism. The Humans is an engaging summer read.” Source: Bookpage
“The Humans is a breathtaking novel…eye-opening and endlessly fascinating. Matt Haig has created a masterpiece of fiction that should be required reading for all who inhabit this great big ball we call Earth.” Source: BookReporter
“A thought-provoking, compulsively readable delight.” Source: Booklist (starred review)
"Delightful." Source: Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Quick-paced, touching, and hilarious.” Source: Library Journal (starred review)
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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.
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 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.
Top international reviews
Unfortunately as the book went on it became less a novel and more a vehicle for the author to beat the reader over the head with his observations on the nature of the human condition, and how life is basically pretty good even amongst the violence and hypocrisy, and you definitely shouldn't kill yourself if it all gets too much. I have no problem with these sentiments at all, it was just way too ham-fisted and preachy in a work of fiction for my tastes.
I know as I follow the author on social media that he struggles terribly with depression and I can see that much of this book was, if not autobiographical, at least based strongly on his own life experiences and opinions so I get where he was coming from.
All that said, I did enjoy the actual story that was scattered in amongst the preaching. The plot was clever enough to keep me guessing where it would go next and the relationship between Real!Andrew / Alien!Andrew and his son was well written and touching.
As with all really good books, the basic idea behing Matt Haig's Humans is simple. That is, if you think that the concept of an Vonnadorian alien arriving one day on Earth and inhabiting the body of a Cambridge professor who has proved the Riemman hypothysis is a simple one. The alien has to adapt to human life so not to draw attention and soon finds out that by taking off clothes in public is not the best way to do this.
There is a strong comic element through this novel and the alien is constantly baffled and bewildered by human behaviour and his discovery of peanut butter sandwiches, Australian wine, Talking Heads, human relationships and sex are hilarious. He, eventually become more human and less Vonnadorian, and there are interesting philosphical questions posed throughout.
We now know what Bazadean body waste smells like (vegetable stir fry) but are not really any wiser as to who Vonnadorians actually are. Perhaps we are not supposed to as they are protecting us from knowing too much about the universe. Maybe now Reimman has been proved this is all too late.
I love this book because it so perfectly describes what it feels like to be around other people, and constantly have to deal with their weird concepts and ideals that seem backwards and, well, alien, to you.
If you have also never felt as if you belong, GET. THIS. BOOK.
Initially, I was not sure if I was going to enjoy reading this book from the aliens perspective but was soon sucked into his alien view points of how he perceived the human race. It was at times comical, enlightening, and a very enjoyable read.
The author was very clever at pointing out how as individuals we focus perhaps too much on ourselves which then leaves us less time to realise how those around are really doing.
I would recommend this book to all. A very good read. More please.
An alien being takes on a human form - that of professor of mathematics, Andrew - and comes down to earth to kill everybody whom the professor may have appraised of his great discovery that would give humans knowledge for which they aren't ready. Flowed, weird and utterly illogical to the alien, unbeknown to themselves, the humans manage to charm him and get a stay of execution.
The book is entirely predictable. I am not betraying any great secrets or twists for there aren't any. You will know very soon into the book that the humans in Andrew's life will get our alien onto their side. But the predictability doesn't matter. It is the spirit of this book that is so sweet and so endearing that you will want to keep reading. It is also the poignancy and almost Christ-like self-sacrifice of our alien that captures your heart. And last but not least, it is the hilarity of the alien's observations of human rituals and his definitions of our everyday objects. Seen from the perspective of an alien, we are laughable - in a good way.
Hes got the strength and weaknesses of the Human race absolutely spot on.
This book made me laugh and cry in equal measure and have recommended it to many.
Read this book and be enlightened.
Some people have criticised the book for starting off well then veering off. I disagree with this and feel the book held good course throughout maintain a steady level of qaulity. Very short chapters which I enjoy as I read on my commute so I like to be able to stop at the end of a chapter
The tale is possibly that of an alien who has arrived on our world to perform a task that will stop the human race from advancing. In doing so it has taken the place of a human and begins to see and experience our world as an outsider.
Possibly though it's not that at all. As someone who's suffered issues with depression and a feeling of complete detachment I also wondered if this wasn't the tale of a man who'd had a total breakdown after pushing his brain to the limit and was experiencing the world as an outsider for the first time and seeing things as they really are (and gain a huge dose of perspective in doing so, whilst learning to live and love).
The feeling of detachment really resonates for me as does the experiences described as a person and a parent and I was not at all surprised to read of the experiences of the Author that have informed this.
Well, whichever it is, this is just brilliant. The most human of books and worthy of anybody's time I think.