- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (August 12, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476730598
- ISBN-13: 978-1476730592
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 477 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Humans: A Novel Paperback – August 12, 2014
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About the Author
Matt Haig is the bestselling author of several children’s books and novels, including The Radleys, winner of the ALA Alex Award. An alumnus of Hull University and Leeds, his work has been translated into twenty-nine languages. He lives in York with his wife, UK novelist Andrea Semple, and their two children.
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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.