Matt Haig’s novels have included a family who happen to be vampires, a boy who gets his wish and wakes up as a cat, and a take on Hamlet featuring an 11 year old boy. The Humans continues his tendency toward quirky characters and situations with an alien taking over the body of a mathematician who has been killed before he can release a newly proven hypothesis on the world, something the Vonnadorians feel the humans aren’t ready for.
The story is narrated by the alien, who has been assigned this job that no one else wants, as humans are emotional, illogical creatures, very different from his own Vonnadorians. As he adjusts to life as a human, posing as Andrew Martin, learning for example that clothes are more necessary than they appear, and that humans do not fight each other all day long, he begins to question his mission. His view on humans is also changed by his interactions with Andrew’s wife, Isobel, and their son Gulliver. Andrew has spent so much time at work that both feel neglected, and Gulliver’s difficulties in school are not helped by his father’s appearance in his birthday suit, wandering around one of Cambridge’s colleges.
As the imposter carries out his mission to kill anyone who knows about Andrew’s discover, he begins to enjoy food, music, and interacting with the humans. It’s clear the real Andrew Martin wasn’t a very likable guy, and his replacement is a big improvement in the eyes of Isobel, and eventually, Gulliver.
The Humans is an interesting take on human nature with quite a bit of humor thrown in. The end of the book features advice to live by that the imposter has made for Gulliver and many of them are words to live by. My favorites are “You are human, you will care about money. But realize it can’t make you happy because happiness is not for sale,” and “a paradox: the things you don’t need to live: books, art, cinema, wine and so on, are the things you need to live.”
This was my first book by Matt Haig but I’ve added several others to my to read list.
Notes on the audiobook: The narrator’s take on the alien posing as Andrew Martin is spot on, bringing to life his nuances and reactions to his surroundings. However, there’s quite a bit of math included, and listening to mathematical equations read aloud was at times monotonous.
You can listen to an excerpt at the Simon & Schuster Audio page.