T.K's Review: The Humans by Matt Haig

Published 1st November 2021

T.K's Rating - 5/5

Professor Andrew Martin -a renowned mathematician, has recently fulfilled his lifelong ambition of solving the `Reimann Hypothesis’ -a study pertaining to the distribution of prime numbers. Unknown to himself, it has caused frenetic activity on the planet Vonnadoria; the Vonnadorians fear the humans’ capability of managing such complex learning and what impact their actions may have on the stability of more intelligent entities in the cosmos.

Thus, they transport an alien to Earth whose sole pursuit is to annihilate the professor, his family and associates who have become privy to it; to accomplish his task, the alien must assume the identity of the now deceased professor and merge seamlessly into his personal and professional life. A simple enough quest perhaps for one familiar with the etiquette of human society but for a Vonnadorian it is peppered with difficulties. Technology rules supreme on the austere planet of Vonnadoria where knowledge is “consumed in a capsule”; it is a kingdom bereft of feeling and emotion -a barren home. Surely, with this experience, our visiting alien will easily withstand the silent tendrils of attachments on earth.

Haig’s second sentence sets the pace and style; it acts as a lure, seducing the reader to surrender to the forthcoming enchantment of discovery about Earth and oneself. In an instant, I actually found myself thinking like a newly arrived alien! My experience was authenticated by his quotation from Emily Dickinson: “I dwell in possibility”.

This is my initial foray into Matt Haig’s work and twenty first century science fiction and I am not disappointed! ‘The Humans’ is not for the cynical reader who instantly ridicules the very thought of extra-terrestrial intelligence, but I found it riveting, thought provoking and most insightful. He proffers an open invitation to reflect upon the meaning of Life – “… the true value of human life”. It is an entreaty to reflect upon the trials and joys of being human with its complexities of attachments and emotions.

It is a light-hearted and yet intensely absorbing read; it is incredulous but perhaps not beyond the realms of possibility; it is humorous but brimming with a multitude of tendrils that invite the curious mind to search still further for solutions to the eternal unanswered questions about the cosmos. It is, in brief, a musical masterpiece -appreciated in its entirety only when one considers the chords, melody, rhythm and bass line of this philosophical entreaty bathed within a gentle hue of irony and humour. Within and without, this mature humour prompts a dedicated excursion into the idiosyncrasies of mankind; it encourages us to laugh at ourselves, our ritualistic routines, and beliefs. However, it is far from being a comedy; rather, it is a passionate and exquisitely detailed portrait of that inner journey that not all have the privilege to endure; it is -if one gently absorbs the hidden agenda, a discovery of the author’s true self.

As the narrative progresses, we become more intensely aware of the gradual process of the alien’s changing perspective; it is not presented as contrived or predictable and thus creates authenticity and credibility. Without warning, Haig’s style is deftly and seamlessly changed too; the light-hearted humour has dissipated somewhat as the narrative takes on a gentler and more human, empathic style.

Haig does not preach but weaves fable-like morals into his narrative; he writes of everyday trials and tribulations as he encourages further reflection from the reader. He lays bare brutal realities such as the pressure to achieve academically, regardless of the mental and emotional strain cast upon the individual and his development. Yes indeed, he offers a stark and unbiased perspective of the dictates of human culture and societal expectation.

What a courageous man!! It was obvious from the outset that this would be more than a science fiction novel to entertain; a myriad of clues along the way revealed that this was indeed a personal story -a beautiful and honest story of a human at his weakest point, in his darkest moments … a human who endeavoured to find himself again. Haig, like the Vonnadorians, has assimilated the correlation between physical and mental health. I feel privileged to have read such a sincere novel.

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