Sunday, 11 January 2015

Book Review: The Humans by Matt Haig 👽

My second read of the year has been a wonderful novel by Matt Haig called The Humans. I picked it up as part of the three for ten pounds offer Amazon has on at the moment, not really paying too much attention to what it was about, but trusting the glowing user reviews.

In short, The Humans is the hilarious and touching story of an alien who has come to Earth in the body of a Cambridge University professor, in order to destroy information about an important mathematical discovery. Living as a human, the narrator experiences first hand new and strange things such as emotion, clothes and peanut butter sandwiches. In a sense, it's a coming-of-age novel turned on its head. You follow his account as he weighs up actually quite liking the humans with the destructive mission he has been sent on by his own kind. Fantastically written, it's a nod to the remarkable thoughtfulness insight Matt Haig himself must have on what it is like be human, particularly in modern England.

I'm always fond of books and films set in England, to be honest. I love the familiarity, even more so when it comes to witty novels such as this. It's full of true and humbling observations on science, religion, modern life and the human condition. Haig gets to grips with life from an alien perspective on things; the beauty of it, the rigidity of modern routine and the truth that Emily Dickinson knows everything. There's so many gems within the covers of this book, it's hard to resist getting the highlighters out. One of my favourites must be this; "Catholicism, I discovered, was a type of Christianity for humans who like gold leaf, Latin and guilt."

I really did love reading this book. It's Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy meets Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - it's charming, poignant, wonderfully funny and a fantastic journey of personal discovery I couldn't help but become immersed in. Often I had to stifle my laugh into my scarf as I read it on the way to work. It's also one of those narratives which effects your world view as you read it - I found myself thinking about the strangeness of some human habits we all have, particularly the 'state the obvious' nature of language and the subtleties of expression. There's a focus here too, as I mentioned before, on the rigidity of modern life. It's something I've been thinking about a fair bit about anyway lately. As a 21 year old, you have people pushing you this way and that, usually along the lines of "CAREER, CAREER, CAREER" or "give up everything and go travelling forever". The best idea seems to be ignore everyone and find your own balance, but there's certainly a fear instilled in me about spending my life doing things that I don't find meaningful. So, not only is this book touching, it's also very relatable and fairly philosophical, in a laugh-and-cry sort of way. I enjoyed it, a lot.

At the end, I was saddened. No spoilers, of course, but I really never wanted it to finish. I wanted follow the narrator along in his life and see how it all panned out. Despite never learning his name, the honest narrative of the storyteller is quite enamouring. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to fans of Curious Incident. This review is also a personal reminder to make sure I give my copy to my former housemate Amy, as it has her written all over it.

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