on 13 May 2015
I discovered this book at Waterstones, and within the first few pages it had me giggling, so I decided to buy it on the Kindle store the moment I got home (because unfortunately I don't have the space for anymore books, they have to take up my hard drive instead).
If you are unsure as to what this book is about, the premise is this: an alien from an incredible advanced world light years away from our own, is sent to Earth on a mission to clear all evidence of a particular scientific breakthrough that scientist Andrew Martin has discovered. Hours after this scientific breakthrough, Andrew Martin is killed, and an unnamed alien has taken residence inside Professor Martin's body. All he has to do is get rid of any evidence of this breakthrough, and exterminate anyone who knows of its discovery. But will our unnamed narrator go through with his mission statement, or will he fall prey to human emotions and find himself unable to go through with it?
I dived into the book only grasping a very loose idea of the premise, so as to what would happen was beyond me. This constant state of the unknown is what helped keep the pages turning, especially during the first 100 pages of the book, as during that time I found it quite difficult to connect with Andrew (I will refer to the main character as "Andrew", as although the narrator is left unnamed, "Andrew" is the name of the body he inhabits.), and I'm unsure as to why, perhaps it was because his reflections were of the more negative persuasion? Eventually though, Andrew won me over. In particular, his scenes with his dog Newton were my favourite. The fact that he's able to communicate with him (despite being in a human body) is a humorous notion, and his scenes with Newton always left me smiling.
The mathematical jargon that occasionally spilled over several pages did leave my eyes glazed over, I must admit. But, I managed to pull through and though I will never claim to be an expert mathematician, I do feel like I've learnt a few new things - for example, the beauty and complexity of prime numbers.
The more I read the book the more impossible it became to put it down. I entered this fictional world with no real preconceptions on how it could end, or what could happen in between, so every plot twist was completely out of the blue for me, and for that to happen in a novel is a very rare thing, and something that should really be noted. As I reached the last few pages I was going crazy hoping that the storylines would be neatly wrapped up by the final page. As to whether that happens, I won't reveal, but what I can say is that the ending leaves you wanting more, just as a good book should.
All in all this book was a real treat. Full of humour, deep musings about our life as simple Earthlings that if you're not careful, could tip you over the edge to a existential crisis (please, no one tell Dan Howell about this book!), hit you right in the feels, as well as sending shivers down your spine during specific creepy moments towards the end of the book (remind me never to read scenes like that in the middle of the night, all alone). If you're looking for something completely different, or you happen to be a lover of aliens, mathematics, humour and peanut butter, then this book will be perfect for you. I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled for books by Matt Haig in the future. You have a new fan, dear sir!
on 20 May 2013
This book was my first exposure to Matt Haig's writing, and I've fallen in love with his voice, his honesty and remarkable insight. It's an important novel that doesn't read like an important novel. Overall, I think it's best described as a love letter to humanity.
It follows the account of a nameless alien who takes over the body of a mathematician who's discovered something the alien civilisation doesn't believe the people of Earth can yet handle. So he comes to Earth with the mission to destroy the evidence of the discovery and to kill everyone who knows about it.
Something funny happens along the way. He begins to interact, to have his curiosity engaged. He learns what it means to be human, and in sharing this insightful and funny account, also tells a love story.
I'd seen other readers saying the book made them cry. It made me wary at first, because I don't like tragedy. After having read it, I can report that I did cry at the end, but not because it was tragic, but because it was perfect and beautiful, the way a person might cry at a wedding, the birth of a baby, or at receiving good news. The ending was perfect and gave a message of love and hope that was never sappy, never self-important, but sweet and subtle, like first love.
I would recommend this book to anyone.
on 14 September 2014
This is such a lovely book. Beautiful. Elegiac. Philosophical. And about as honest appraisal of the ridiculous lives us humans lead as you'll ever find in fiction. You need to read it, right now.
Actually, it's a hug of a book, a story that will resonate with everyone, a story of what it is to be human by someone who is dispassionate enough to really know. Starman meets the Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time x The Man Who Fell to Earth.
When Professor Andrew Martin solves an enormously complex algorithm that unlocks the secret of prime numbers, solving the Riemann equation that has been unresolved for years, he just has to die. And our nameless alien protagonist is sent to kill him across space and time, replacing him physically so as to use the unfortunate Professor's body to find out who else has learnt the secret of the Riemann equation so they too can be killed. This superior knowledge cannot be left in human hands, because, you see, the Riemann solution will enable humans, once enough of them have understood it, to advance so rapidly they'll be able to spread across the known Universe. Something the superior beings sending our assassin cannot allow to happen.
There's just one flaw in their plan. In order to blend in as a human, the alien assassin takes the form of one and begins to fall in love with our chaotic and ridiculous lives. Professor Andrew Martin, turns out, is a bit of a bastard. Emotionally distant from his wife and teenage son, Gulliver, a workaholic with no time for anyone but the pursuit of mathematical supremacy he has few friends and even fewer redeeming features. But as the alien settles into the man's skin the absurdity of our all too brief lives begins to intrigue it. And slowly, impossibly and against the express wishes of its superiors back across space and time, the assassin begins to do the impossible. It begins to feel emotions, experience joy and depression, yearning and love and actually, to enjoy being human.
As the alien becomes more and more deeply embroiled in human existence he doesn't want to leave and this leads him into inevitable trouble with the bug-eyed boys back home. The Humans is beautifully, sparingly written and there's a gem of wisdom and reflection on every page. It's a page turner too (I gobbled it in a day and a half this summer holiday) and it speaks deeply to us about what should and is important. As our alien sinks deeper and deeper into the human world he sees afresh what we have forgotten, how the very fleeting impossibility of our brief stint in the sun, makes it such a beautiful and amazing thing to be cherished.
This book will slap you round the face, mindfulness, philosophy, existentialism all wrapped up in a plot that drives us forward to a poignant and deeply reflective ending.
This is such a humane book, detailing our mistakes and pecadillos, lauding them actually, a exploration of our absurdities which will make you smile and cry, sometimes on the self-same page. Within its pages we turn into anthropologists of our own curious species and through these new eyes learn to see our world afresh.
Feeling down, despairing and bleak about the world (let's face it there's enough to be depressed about) read this honest, humane and deeply beautiful book. Poetry disguised as prose, wisdom disguised as popular fiction. The author has a wonderful voice; calm, gentle and so very kind its like music. Matt Haig is the very best kind of genius, one who makes us want to strive harder to live better lives, of us, among us, with us on this ultimately tragic trudge beneath the stars.
A rare and thoroughly well deserved Five Stars (*****)
Congratulations Matt Haig. "The Humans” is funny, original, moving, exciting, intriguing, very amusing, and - best of all - life re-affirming.
I’m glad I didn’t know much about this book when I read it, it’s the best way to approach it. All you need to know is that this hugely enjoyable novel shines a spotlight on humanity - the good, the bad and the ugly - and ultimately becomes an inspirational guide for life.
Any writer who is perceptive enough to know that “This Must Be The Place” by Talking Heads would even move an alien to tears is astute and able enough to write a perfect novel.
Read it. It’s great.
I got this book to take on holiday after ready so many positive comments. It was exactly what I needed after a tough old 12 months, I was gripped from the start and had several enjoyable days dipping in and out.
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.
on 1 September 2014
The Humans is a warm hearted, life affirming account of what it is to be human. The premise of the story is an alien arrives on earth charged with the task of taking the place of mathematician, Andrew Martin, and eliminating his wife and son. It's a simple story but, one that is told with such feeling, it latches onto the reader's heart and won't let go. It is through the alien Andrew Martin's eyes that we come to see how terrifying, crazy but ultimately full of promise life is. As this so called imposter insinuates himself into the family, he becomes more and more connected to them. I particularly loved his relationship with the son Gulliver and, when he writes a list of advice for the boy, I was moved to tears. Haig's style of writing is deceptively straight forward, giving the impression of an easy read whilst challenging us to contemplate our very reason for existence. I recommend this book highly and if it doesn't fill you with hope for the human race then nothing will.
on 28 September 2014
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book and probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been for all the glowing reviews on Twitter. When I saw the book I absolutely fell in love with the cover and knew I had to read it. If it took me a while longer than normal to read the book it was because I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at the cover.
Professor Andrew Martin has been killed and his body taken over by an alien because he has solved the Riemann hypothesis, a mathematical problem that will lead to great technological advancement for the human race. This is a problem for the alien race as they view humans as a violent, greedy race of mid-intelligence and they don’t want them spreading their wings across the universe. The alien has to destroy all proof that the hypothesis has been solved and has to kill anyone that may have been told about it.
It is an unusual read and one that you can’t help but get into right away. The humour is infectious. The description of ordinary mundane human things, seen through the eyes of someone with no knowledge of them is hilarious. The alien has a love of mathematics and in particular the beauty of prime numbers, so he finds it quite difficult to understand human ways.
As the story moves on it becomes more poignant. The alien finds that living amongst humans gives him a better understanding of them and their, sometimes strange, ways. He comes to care for and even love his ‘family’, Newton the dog, peanut butter and Emily Dickinson.
This is a wonderful book full of observations on humans, both good and bad. I cringed with embarrassment at some of them but smiled with pleasure at others. The list compiled by the alien for his earth son, entitled ‘Advice for a Human’ is a particular joy, with the humour and wit keeping it from falling into schmaltzy sentimentality.
If there is one thing I will take from this book, it will be: you live 25,000 days, make sure you remember some them.
on 10 May 2016
Although I wasn't totally blown away by this novel, I did, nevertheless, thoroughly enjoy reading this inventive, funny book by Matt Haig.
The story revolves around a mathematics genius, Professor Andrew Martin. His research leads him to a scientific breakthrough. Unfortunately for Andrew, his work is being observed by an alien species from a distant planet. They feel that the human race is just not ready for this advancement in mathematics and that Earth and its inhabitants would suffer as a consequence of Professor Andrews' discovery. It is decided that the only solution would be to wipe out all trace of the 'Riemann Equation' by murdering the person/s privy to to the formulae. In the process, an alien 'infiltrates' Andrews' body. Essentially, Andrew is killed and this alien takes on his human form. Using Andrew as a vehicle, the alien endeavours to find out if anyone else knows the mathematical formulae - with a view to killing them.
What follows is an often amusing tale about human behaviour. Slowly, we (and the alien) get to know the Andrews family. The alien becomes the unnamed narrator of the story so we get to view humans from his POV. Unsurprisingly, this gives the reader a chance to observe the sometimes flawed nature of our species. It would be unfair to give further details as the joy of reading this novel is to be found in experiencing the alien/human interactions and to witness the trials and tribulations of the Andrews' family.
I found it to be a quick read and an absolute delight.
on 26 March 2016
I can't do this book justice. It is just so good on so many levels! The Humans is the story of an alien sent to Earth to destroy evidence of a breakthrough in a previously unresolved mathematical theory; the Reimann hypothesis. In destroying the evidence, he must also destroy the person who solved the hypothesis, Professor Andrew Martin, and those closest to him.
What starts with supposedly a quick, planned, easy task, the alien has his first human lesson in that nothing goes as planned. He attempts to quickly adjust to human life; our behaviour, mannerisms and communication but nothing makes sense to him; WE are the aliens. He and his kind have a strong dislike of humans and what it is to be one. Human behaviour makes no sense to them. We are known to them as selfish, violent, aggressive and ignorant. And so, the alien attempts to perform his task without letting himself be affected by us.
I loved so much about this book. It makes you question what it is to be human, the things we do and the choices we make. It is filled with wonderful little quotes about our humanisms; quotes that wouldn't go amiss on an inspirational quotes Pinterest board!
Matt Haig wrote The Humans based on his experience of depression and anxiety; times when being a human must've felt alien to him. His experience, whilst terrifying and overwhelming, has helped him write a brilliant book for which I as a reader am extremely grateful.
The Humans is a really great book, a wonderfully different and refreshing story that helps put things in perspective. Five astronomically big stars from me :)
on 1 November 2015
This isn’t a science fiction book. It is a book about being human. The main character is an alien (a Vonnagon) who takes the body of brilliant mathematician Andrew Martin who has solved the puzzle of prime numbers (the Reimann Hypothesis). This solution according to the Vonnagons will have disastrous consequences upon the Cosmos in general. Martin’s breakthrough must remain out of harm’s way.
This is an odd and sensitively written book that takes a distant standpoint of what it really means to be human. The alien who takes the human form is from an advanced race, yet his thoughts are crippled by logic, his narrative a little stilted, almost like that of an adolescent boy. I first thought him as like Data from Star Trek pushed into a human body slowly learning about what being human feels like. Of course, it is overwhelming and not always pleasant. Logic takes second place when subjected to hormones, food cravings, hangovers and facing mortality. Poetry and love would seem to be the only way of bringing everything together.
There are some funny moments like Andrew’s first experience of earth walking down a road naked, when he is spat at for this offence. Andrew not understanding thinks that spitting is an earth greeting and so he spits at other people. He also struggles with the concept of infidelity and teenage suicide, both which he gets disastrously wrong, yet also right in a naive way. The chapter ‘Advice for a Human', would seem obvious, only it isn’t when being human every day.
A read that poses questions about what being human means, it made me think for days afterwards.