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The Humans

Review of: The Humans
Matt Haig

Reviewed by:
On August 31, 2014
Last modified:August 31, 2014


A tale of us mad humans told from the perspective of an alien starts out so-so and then grows into something more heart warming.

The HumansWell I have to say I was a little reluctant to read “The Humans” by Matt Haig.  However as it was suggested by my little sis Chris and she followed up the suggestion by pressing a copy of the damn thing into my sweaty palms, it was when we had our summer, you remember don’t you, July, hence the sweaty palms.

Anyway, there was no way out, I couldn’t say no without appearing to be more of a curmudgeon than I normally am.

My sister is a big fan of all things fantasy and science fiction, and beyond a teenage fascination with Tolkien and H G Wells, this has never really been my bag.  Although, saying that I’m a big fan of the Game of Thrones, at least the TV series, I know, I know, middle class porn, my sister assures me that the books aren’t nearly as rude, by the way, winter is coming!  Anyway, I’ll step away from the dragon and move back to “The Humans”.

Initially, all my fears were realised, I thought I was getting a Mork and Mindy-lite tale of an alien perspective that provides a humorous insight into us strange and primitive humans, our violence, our prejudices, our odd behaviour, essentially the barely evolved Ape.  What are male nipples for?  Why do we wear clothes when we all know what we look like naked?  And why do we spend so much time on our clothes when we’re all the same underneath those clothes?  Us silly humans thinking we can control our lives, that we have a purpose.  All very entertaining like a comic introducing the main act, light, superficial and a little clichéd, “take my mother-in-law, I wish you would!”  Harmless, but not something that will hold your attention for too long.

However, as the Vonnadorian alien that takes over the body of Professor Andrew Martin at the beginning of the novel begins its mission to destroy the evidence of a mathematic formula that will allow humanity to make a great leap, and potentially threaten the rest of the universe (all very Star Trek!), the novel begins to develop into something more profound.  As life, music, literature, relationships and love begin to crowd in on the mission the alien begins to find positives in all the chaos, loss, anger and violence that are part of humanity.  Finally the clarity of the mission is compromised and a sacrifice is required.

A warmth and honesty begins to flow through the novel as the alien discovers the contradictions at the heart of being alive, pleasure and pain, love and hate, birth and death.  And although the cliché count remains high I cannot deny that by the end of the novel I had a tear in my eye and a happy sense of sadness about Us Humans.  Although the clichés irritated me at the beginning of the novel, I had become more accepting by the end because really a cliché is cliché because at its heart it holds a kernel of truth.

Did “The Humans” make you reflect on the joys and sorrows of well…being human?

About Mark At The Word...

Once upon a time, when Mark was 8, he was asked to read a story he'd written about robots destroying the world to the whole school. He read that story, everyone laughed in the right places and a writer was born.

When not writing Mark reads to escape the many frustrations that life has created for him.

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