The bestselling, award-winning author of The Radleys is back with what may be his best, funniest, and most devastating dark comedy yet. Read more...
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The bestselling, award-winning author of The Radleys is back with what may be his best, funniest, and most devastating dark comedy yet. When an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth, his first impressions of the human species are less than positive. Taking the form of Professor Andrew Martin, a prominent mathematician at Cambridge University, the visitor is eager to complete the gruesome task assigned him and hurry back home to the utopian world of his own planet, where everyone enjoys immortality and infinite knowledge.
He is disgusted by the way humans look, what they eat, their capacity for murder and war, and is equally baffled by the concepts of love and family. But as time goes on, he starts to realize there may be more to this weird species than he has been led to believe. Disguised as Martin, he drinks wine, reads poetry, develops an ear for rock music and a taste for peanut butter. Slowly, unexpectedly, he forges bonds with Martin's family, and in picking up the pieces of the professor's shattered personal life, he begins to see hope and beauty in the humans' imperfections and begins to question the mission that brought him there.
Praised by the New York Times as a "novelist of great seriousness and talent," author Matt Haig delivers an unlikely story about human nature and the joy found in the messiness of life on Earth. The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable tale that playfully and movingly explores the ultimate subject--ourselves.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-05-20
- Reviewer: Staff
In 1859, German mathematician Bernard Riemann put forth a hypothesis that prime numbers have a pattern. In 2012, an unnamed alien is sent to Earth to ensure the hypothesis is never proven. The Vonnadorians wish to prevent humans from gaining knowledge before they are psychologically prepared for the advancements that would ensue. The invader inhabits the body of Andrew Martin, the arrogant and selfish mathematician who discovered the proof to Riemann’s hypothesis; at first disgusted and confused by his human shell, the alien is eventually transformed, and the more time he spends with Andrew’s wife and son, the more he comes to doubt his mission. Haig (The Radleys) creates a delightful sense of displacement in “Andrew” and draws the reader into the experiences that make us human, ugly, wonderful, and mundane by turns. While at times the novel is sentimental, the wonder and humor with which the protagonist approaches life, and the many emotions and discoveries he experiences, are worth getting a bit weepy over. Agent: Andrea Joyce, Canongate. (July)
Maybe humans aren't all that bad
How often do we contemplate what it is that makes us human? Caught up in the daily minutiae of our lives, many of us lose sight of the true miracle that is our existence. This is the sentiment explored by British author Matt Haig in his novel The Humans, which takes a hackneyed premise (the observation of Earthlings by a visitor from another galaxy) and turns it into a surprisingly touching and often hilarious tale.
Our narrator is Professor Andrew Martin, a brilliant mathematician who has just cracked the Riemann hypothesis, a mind-bending, real-life theory that is considered one of the math world’s most significant unsolved problems. Only it isn’t really Andrew the reader is following. Our protagonist is actually an alien being, sent from his hosts on a far-distant and extremely advanced planet to kill the professor, take on his identity and delete all knowledge of the solved hypothesis from Earth. In the view of these extraterrestrials, humans are nothing but incredibly simple, brutally violent, money-hungry beings who aren’t worthy of the revolutionary effects this proof would have.
If this sounds far-fetched and a bit ridiculous, well . . . it is. But Haig elevates the premise with his deft, humor-rich storytelling skills, even as some plot points can be seen several pages away. Will the alien Andrew Martin realize that the “simplicity” of human emotions such as love and grief—things not experienced in any way on his planet—are actually complex and beautiful? Will the idea of mortality—also not seen on his planet—cause him to appreciate the magnificent fragility of earthly life?
What do you think?
Yet even when the storyline seems predictable, there is much pleasure in the journey as the previously impassive “professor” is awakened to the joys of the Talking Heads, crunchy peanut butter, sex, soccer and the sloppy-tongued loyalty of a good dog. 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.