by Matt Haig
4 out of 5
The critically acclaimed author of The Radleys shares a clever, heartwarming, and darkly insightful novel about an alien who comes to Earth to save humans from themselves.
“I was not Professor Andrew Martin. That is the first thing I should say. He was just a role. A disguise. Someone I needed to be in order to complete a task.”
The narrator of this tale is no ordinary human—in fact, he’s not human at all. Before he was sent away from the distant planet he calls home, precision and perfection governed his life. He lived in a utopian society where mathematics transformed a people, creating limitless knowledge and immortality.
But all of this is suddenly threatened when an earthly being opens the doorway to the same technology that the alien planet possesses. Cambridge University professor Andrew Martin cracks the Reimann Hypothesis and unknowingly puts himself and his family in grave danger when the narrator is sent to Earth to erase all evidence of the solution and kill anyone who has seen the proof. The only catch: the alien has no idea what he’s up against.
Disgusted by the excess of disease, violence, and family strife he encounters, the narrator struggles to pass undetected long enough to gain access to Andrew’s research. But in picking up the pieces of the professor’s shattered personal life, the narrator sees hope and redemption in the humans’ imperfections and begins to question the very mission that brought him there.
This is the story of a superior race interfering with a mathematical discovery on Earth to halt human progress. Because humans should remain shackled to their own little planet and leave the rest of space in peace.
So they infiltrate the human world by sending one of their own in the disguise of a Cambridge professor. He has a simple task - to destroy all information of the discovery, whether it lies in the files of a computer, the pages of a notebook, or the brains of the professor's loved ones.
But another mission raises it's head unexpectedly - it is the perfect opportunity to observe these un-evolved humans, to learn there patterns and was, and why they cluster together in families. Why there is beauty in music, and why peanut butter tastes good.
This is a very sweet story at heart. Oh, it is surrounded by plots and murder, lies and betrayal. But at the centre of it is an outsider that considers himself superior to humans, discovering that the value of human life is not always in the mathematical and scientific discoveries that are news-worthy on a galactic scale. It is love, compassion and connection. It is helping overcome bullies; it is taking the time to enjoy life, and notice the smaller things.
"The Humans" is a very easy book to read, a little too easy sometimes - I did often wonder if the numerous chapter breaks and page-long chapters were there to bulk out the book. It often felt like there was filler and spaces, where the book could have been condensed down to a much thinner copy.
Which was evidenced in a very long list: "Advice for a human" that our main character writes to his son. And all 97 points are written down. But you know what, at least 95 of them made me smile.
Definitely a feel-good book.