Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Humans: Matt Haig, February 23—March 2, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
An unnamed alien narrates his adventure on Earth in The Humans. Our protagonist inhabits the body of Professor Andrew Martin, who has recently answered the Riemann Question, relating to the distance between prime numbers. The aliens think this knowledge is damaging to the human race, and the wider universe, and set about to destroy all trace of it before it’s too late.
It’s somewhat tricky to pigeon-hole precisely what this book is about. It’s a wee bit sci-fi (the lead is an alien, after all). It’s a wee bit murdery, and it’s a wee bit love story. It’s a wee bit everything, and it’s apt given the title.
The concept of an alien looking at our world has been done before, but Haig’s approach is incredibly refreshing. Not-Andrew-Martin assumes that we are motivated by money and are inherently violent. But as he spends more time on earth, he begins to see the better side of human nature. It’s an uplifting variation on a theme that is tinged with optimism.
There is plenty of humour, whether from Not-Andrew-Martin misunderstanding British custom, or from his matter-of-fact narrative. But it also tugs at the heartstrings, particularly as he bonds with his victim’s family. And, strangely, despite the fact he has murdered the husband and father of the people he bonds with, he never comes across as the villain.
The Humans is a warm and funny tale with numerous subplots but one major question: what does it really mean to be human? The answer might not be so bad as you, and he, first expect.
Thanks to Jennifer Ellis for the recommendation.