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The Humans: A Novel Paperback – August 12, 2014
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*Starred Review* The alien comes to Earth from Vonnadoria, an almost incomprehensibly advanced world; he comes with a sinister purpose, both to destroy and to collect information, hoping to rob human beings of their future. Assuming the person of Professor Andrew Martin, a celebrated mathematician who has made a dangerous discovery, he sets coldly and calculatedly to work. But there is a problem: though disgusted at first by humans, whom he regards as motivated only by violence and greed, he gradually comes to understand that humans are more complex than that, and, most dangerous to his mission, he discovers music, poetry, and . . . love. Becoming increasingly sympathetic to humans, he will ultimately do the unthinkable. The ever-imaginative Haig—The Dead Fathers Club (2007), The Radleys (2010)—has created an extraordinary alien sensibility and, though writing with a serious purpose (the future is at stake), has great good fun with the being’s various eyebrow-raising blunders as he struggles to emulate human behavior. Haig strikes exactly the right tone of bemusement, discovery, and wonder in creating what is ultimately a sweet-spirited celebration of humanity and the trials and triumphs of being human. The result is a thought-provoking, compulsively readable delight. --Michael Cart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Funny, poignant, and full of heart.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“A wonderfully funny, gripping and inventive novel.” (The Times (UK))
“A masterpiece. . . . Matt Haig is a supreme talent and a writer to cherish, and The Humans is undoubtedly his magnum opus.” (The Guardian)
“A brilliant exploration of what it is to love, and to be human, The Humans is both heartwarming and hilarious, weird, and utterly wonderful. One of the best books I’ve read in a very long time.” (S.J. Watson New York Times bestselling author of Before I go to Sleep)
“Funny, clever and quite, quite lovely.” (Sunday Times (London))
“Extraordinary.” (Independent (UK))
“An absolute corker of a novel: very clever, and very moving, and that rare and precious thing -laugh-out-loud funny.” (Daily Mail (UK))
“Matt Haig is a novelist of stunning talent, with a laser eye for the absurd and endless reserves of compassion. (Parade Picks)” (Parade)
“A thought-provoking, compulsively readable delight.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Delightful.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Quick-paced, touching, and hilarious.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Matt Haig has an empathy for the human condition, the light and the dark of it, and he uses the full palette to build his excellent stories.” (Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
In many ways, this gentle, elegant story is a secular revisit to C.S. Lewis's Screwtape letters. It's humanist message is similar, even expected, but delivered with such grace and insight that even a jaded reader is bewitched by its charm. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some more poignant ones, but the story never becomes trite or overwrought.
Reading this book is like an exhale at the end of a long journey. You see a little more clearly, and maybe even feel a little more deeply, the great beauty of people.
You should read The Humans. It will make you a better one.