The Humans – Matt Haig

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The Humans was a quick and easy read, and very funny in places – great for the holidays. It was very amusing, and quite original, though owing a lot to books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. It was life affirming.

Both of these books look at outsiders – people who are different in some sort of way, and find it difficult to understand human feelings and relationships.  The Curious Incident… as you probably know is a story told from the point of view of a boy with autism, a medical condition that makes personal interactions and understanding of feelings more difficult. The Humans takes the same theme, but in this case the outsider is an alien dropped to earth with a mission: to eliminate all knowledge of the breakthrough in prime number mathematics made by Professor Andrew Martin.  To safeguard the universe, human beings, weirdly ugly and dangerously unpredictable, must never achieve this higher level of mathematical understanding. It could lead to the development of technologies that would threaten the fabric of all life.

The alien lands in the stolen body of the professor.  He begins to experience things from Martin’s point of view: his chaotic private life, his infidelities, his complex relationships with a teenage son.  There are elements of Craig Raines’ poem A Martian Sends a Postcard Home: these are amusing and imaginative.  Later the alien, naive and unworldly, fails to understand why Martin is engaged in a sordid affair with a voluptuous young student: isn’t his beautiful wife enough?  Shouldn’t he be caring more for his troubled son?  Martin has spent a lifetime bent on academic and professional success, leaving his wife and child as collateral damage, but now he has gone.  Having taken his place, the alien falls in love, and decides to stay.

If only things were that simple!

 

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