The Humans Cover
The Humans

Author: Matt Haig

MM Rating: 4.5/5

Another brilliant offering by Matt Haig! The Humans is about an alien who comes to Earth hoping to erase all traces of a mathematical discovery that will allow mankind to leap several decades into the future, and how he (it?) falls in love with the planet and its inhabitants.

The entire novel is written from the point of view of the alien, as an explanation of its actions to fellow Vonnadorians and its experiences on Earth.

His sole mission on Earth is to eradicate anyone who knows about Professor Andrew Martin’s mathematical discovery about prime numbers. His fellow planet dwellers feels that humans were destructive enough without knowing such advanced mathematics. The Vonnadorians (species that the alien belongs to) are a highly advanced race of beings whose plane of existence has ceased to have pain, death or emotions, and simply exist to enjoy the ‘purity’ of mathematics. They have no relationships and are highly rational beings. This race observes humans, like we might watch an ant scurrying about and with about as much regard for humans as we might have towards the ant.

There are several laugh-out-loud moments in the book, starting from when the alien arrives on Earth and occupies Prof. Andrew Martin’s body, stands on the road stark naked trying to figure out the meaning of ‘get off the f***ing road you f***ing wanker‘. It cannot fathom that ‘the most intelligent life form still has to drive its own cars’. Nor can it stand the many offensive protruding body parts of a human and the concept of wearing clothes. His solution is to use Cosmo magazine to understand human language, and quickly works out that ‘orgasms were the central tenet of life on Earth‘. Of course, this leads to further comical situations.

The story showcases his emotional evolution, his understanding of what it means to be human. And along the way, he discovers the emotion of love when he begins to care for Andrew Martin’s wife and son, something he had never experienced on his home planet. He chooses to abort his mission (to kill anyone connected with the professor), cuts ties with his planet and stays as a human in Andrew Martin’s body.

I love how the author takes the mundane in a human’s life, and turns them into funny and thought-provoking questions. For instance, the alien quickly figures out that the clothes that a human wears turns him/her into a different being, capable of ostracising their own kind, even though everyone had the same body parts and looked similar. That humans were more worried about being locked in a room (jail) when they were already in a body that dies. And to appear sane on Earth, you had to be wearing the right clothes at the right place, saying the right things and only stepping on the right kind of grass. A cow is treated as a one stop shop for food, liquid refreshment, fertiliser and designer bags. And to humans, news was only things that directly affected humans, and cared more about things if they were happening closer to them.

His experiences on Earth are summed up into a chapter titled ‘Advice for Humans’ consisting of 97 (another prime) drops of wisdom, meant for his son Gulliver. Signing off with a couple of my favorites :

To like something is to insult it. Love it or hate it. Be passionate. As civilisation advances, so does indifference. It is a disease. Immunise yourself with art. And love.

You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life’s wonders. Never take so much as a single petal of a single flower for granted.

by a Vonnadorian posing as human – from THE HUMANS by MATT HAIG