I will start by saying I read The Humans at a time I wasn’t feeling very human at all.
The Humans by Matt Haig took me by surprise; it grabbed me with the salient rhetoric of the alien protagonist and forced me to reevaluate some of the core beliefs underpinning my own human nature. This happens on occasion with novels, and I find it always occurs when you most need it, for this alone I had to give this beauty of a kick-ass- sci- fi- adventure- come- guide- to- life a review.
Haig’s novel is a tale of a nameless martian who takes the place of Martin, a Cambridge Mathematics professor who finds the key to the universe in a Maths algorithm; a key, it is decided by his higher-ups, humans are just too dimwitted to possess. From that brief summary you’d think that The Humans would read like Alien or perhaps is a reworked pastiche to Douglas Adam’s riotous (yet let’s be honest, whimsically bizarre) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; and at first I wondered the same. Haig’s alien narrator, is very alien; he picks up earth lingo from a quick glance at Cosmopolitan magazine, loves walking around naked and doesn’t get love – wait a minute perhaps he is quite human after all?
However, with a little patience it becomes evident there more meat to Haig’s work than staunch adherence to the conventions of his genre. For lovers of Alien et al, beware; there is a death ray gun at one point but a disappointing lack of tentacles.
The first few chapters read as you would expect of a body-snatcher tale, but there is a refreshing rawness in Haig’s writing too. He critiques the human race in a way that made me feel exposed in a good way, for instance why exactly are many people convinced humans are the most intelligent race in the world or the universe? Perhaps we are indeed rather ‘average’ and ‘delusional’ as the speaker suggests. Perhaps, indeed, averageness is better than a synthetic, coercive superiority?
It is as the plot begins to culminate and the protagonist’s discovers: peanut butter, music, familial love; all those little things that you don’t sit and take stock of enough that make being human pretty nifty, that Haig’s novel comes into itself. The protagonist’s journey to understanding mankind is uplifting and downright funny in parts but more than that it is important. Haig has the ability to highlight morality and mortality without judgement, and the end result is inspiring. I found myself nodding sagely in agreement and laughing out loud and also thinking ‘wow, I’d never thought of it like that’ many a time and in the end I felt as if I understood myself a tiny bit more, which really for 294 page novel is quite something. I will leave you to log in to Amazon and purchase The Humans in a fit of glee but first Haig’s alien tells us why we adore art, music and the act of creation:
‘They are bridges back to themselves, back to who they are’
because you see art like love
‘ was a way to live forever in a single moment.’
The Humans? 5 Stars & two of my finest bourbon biscuits.