Title: The Humans
Author: Matt Haig
“Body-snatching has never been so heartwarming …
The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable novel about alien abduction, mathematics, and that most interesting subject of all: ourselves. Combine Douglas Adams’s irreverent take on life, the universe, and everything with a genuinely moving love story, and you have some idea of the humor, originality, and poignancy of Matt Haig’s latest novel.
Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man–as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son–who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew–the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.”
This book came to me as a spontaneous purchase of the ‘People Who Bought X Also Bought Y’ variety. I had never read anything by Matt Haig before but I am delighted to have found him.
Some would (and have) accused this story of being overly sentimental and predictable. And I wholeheartedly agree but that is why I loved it.
This story was an antidote that I sorely needed. In his acknowledgments, Matt Haig references his personal experience with severe depression and panic as a starting point for this novel. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my life, I find myself drawn to books such as this one to pick me up and set me back on my feet. I often liken the feelings I experience to being like an oncoming storm. The dark clouds are gathering overhead, dense and foreboding, and the only way to through is to try and sit through the storm. Books like this help start the downpour for me, in the very best of ways. I might swing from laughter to all out sobbing in the space of a few sentences, but there is a safety and comfort in the predictability of this narrative and a great joy that comes when you realise the sunshine has broken through and you are left with its message of hope, love and joie de vivre.
Haig presents a simple but beautiful story that is as light-hearted and funny as it is poignant and philosophical. Here we have humanity and all its peculiarities celebrated through alien eyes. The superior and matter-of-fact voice of the alien gives us a new perspective on our anthropological quirks, moving from being repulsed to ultimately charmed by our absurdities. We are presented with a journey that allows us to subjectively examine the best and worst of ourselves as a species and consider the human condition.
This story joined a few others in my armoury that I know I can turn to at times when the weight of life seems a little too heavy to bear. As such, it seems only fitting to conclude with a few words of wisdom from the extra-terrestrial protagonist;
“Dark matter is needed to hold galaxies together. Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile…
Which is to say: don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. You are moving through the galaxy. Wait for the stars.”
If you like this, you might like: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon