The Humans

By Matt Haig

65,189 ratings - 4.08* vote

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 Mat Body-snatching has never been so heartwarming . . .The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable novel about alien

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Book details

Hardcover, 285 pages
July 2nd 2013 by Simon Schuster

(first published May 9th 2013)

Original Title
The Humans
ISBN
1476727910 (ISBN13: 9781476727912)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Karen Cole

In August 2012 my brother committed suicide. In the dark days and weeks immediately after his death I read almost incessantly. I couldn't sleep because when I closed my eyes all I could see was his body (I had to go to the mortuary with my father to formally identify his body.) When I was awake I read so I could bear the raw grief ripping at my heart. I believe that it's thanks to books I survived those days, I'm not sure how I'd have coped without books giving me a respite from my at times overwhelming reality.

The Humans wasn't published then but I wish it had been. It tells the story of an alien sent from the planet Vonnadoria to remove all evidence of the solving of the Riemann hypothesis (the key to prime numbers which guarantee a huge technological leap for mankind) by eminent Cambridge professor Andrew Martin. The Vonnadorians are horrified by this breakthrough as they see humans as a primitive, violent race not ready for the advancements the solving of the hypothesis will bring. An unnamed alien is therefore sent to Earth on a mission to ensure humankind remains unaware that this secret has been solved. He kills Martin then inhabits his body in order to infiltrate his life and erase all traces of his discovery, by removing all technological evidence and by killing anybody he may have told.
The first part of the book has several comic moments, the alien arrives knowing nothing of human life and finds himself naked and without language on a motorway. Matt Haig has held a magnifying glass to humans here and through the eyes of the alien Andrew we see our often irrational absurdity.
As the book progresses it becomes more poignant, Martin learns more about what it means to be human, thanks partly to a dog, peanut butter and Emily Dickinson. The 97 point list that features in the book is perhaps the book's shining moment, Matt's skillful blending of the emotional with the humorous means he avoids this list becoming saccharine and it is genuinely moving, my favourite point being "It's not the length of life that matters. It's the depth. But while burrowing, keep the sun above you."
The Humans is a beautifully written insight into what it means to be a human and how pain, sorrow and fear are a necessary part of that. With my grief not being a linear process there are days when I am hit again with an almost unbearable sadness. I know that on those days I will turn once more to The Humans. I don't ever feel suicidal but there are times when I question what it means to live. When I read The Humans I am given an answer.

Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

4.5? This book totally surprised me!

DON'T READ THIS IN PUBLIC THOUGH

I started reading this on the bus and couldn't stop giggling like a madwoman! In this book, you're following an alien sent to stop human mathematical progress. He steals the body of the human he's sent to kill and we get to discover humans through his eyes. His mission is to kill anyone that might know about the mathematical equation but things don't go as planned...

It quickly becomes more than just a funny book and I don't want to say more except... there's a dog. So yeah, needless to say, if you're in a sci-fi/literary fiction mood, you just need to give it a shot!

PS Get the edition with the dog on it... not the one with that ugly thing humans have in the middle of their face!

B Schrodinger

Firstly, I could not finish this. Although I did not hate the book there were too many aspects of the story that just annoyed me no end.

"The Humans" is the story of an alien who is sent to Earth to eliminate all traces of the newly found proof of the Reimann hypothesis, which is said to be too powerful and dangerous knowledge for an immature species as us. The alien possesses the mathematician who proves the hypothesis, a professor at a prestigious university, who is also having a lot of family problems. Good premise, but you can see where it is heading.

My main problems with this book come down to the suspension of disbelief and the constant attempts at being witty and quirky. The plot is only a facade for looking at humanity from a differing perspective, and despite what many would say in other reviews, it's not unique and it's not a revelation.

In my previous edit, I had a large pick at the scientific inaccuracies. And while they are quite valid and something that the author could have rectified easily, each is not much of a problem. There are plenty of books with wildly bad science that get away with it. It's just the pure number of them (and a little bit of me felt the author was trying to be clever by attempting to use science too) constantly jarred me. When you are rolling your eyes at the book you are reading every few pages, suspension of disbelief goes out the window.

On one page the alien was a naive blank slate, the next he had some prior knowledge suddenly, the next he was using keys with no problem. The alien main character only seemed to be naive or uninformed at the convenience of the author to make some glib observation, not to drive the plot and not in a consistent manner with the premise.

With all these inconsistencies and problems, I found it hard to read this clichéd and predictable story. I found the that the humour and wit of this book came down to the same inane memes that your aunt will share on Facebook: I hate Mondays humour, only my dog understands me humour, kids these days humour. The philosophical, worldly observations were as deep as those given on a motivational calendar.
It's a Hallmark book.

EDIT: I edited this review because a lot of other reviewers were critical of it. And while they'll always feel a need to write a remark about how I didn't understand some crucial plot point in the book, I do agree that my original review was much snarkier and less constructive than it should be. And I have the image of Matt Haig reading this and I want it to be as constructive as possible.

Riku Sayuj


“I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist. For those that don’t know, a human is a real bipedal life form of midrange intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.”


Encountering the Alien

This must be one of the most muted and personal alien invasion stories that you will come across. As the narrator admits, this is more magical realism than science fiction in many ways.

Haig displays a wise understanding of the human condition and exploits to the hilt the vantage point that he has given his narrator. Many anthropological, sociological and evolutionary texts often invite the reader to view the world as if it is being viewed from an alien sociologist/scientist’s perspective. Haig converts that into a novel length observation about the humans, and adds a twist: instead of observing only from a constant alien perspective, he makes the vantage point an ever shifting one - that of a continually evolving perspective that is moving closer and closer to that of the human.

So we are given a picture of how alien the human race is at first glance, and how familiarity is the only way to reconcile with the many contradictions of the human condition, and how when you then look back, it is impossible to identify what exact elements turned you off in the beginning. While this is in an alien-human context in this book, this process is also applicable to any new encounter with an ‘alien’ culture among us humans too. And as many other sci-fi books demonstrate, this is a fully two-way street. You cannot meet an alien culture that you cannot love - if you don't, the fault must be more in you than in the culture.

I have made this sound more philosophical than it is. And I am not doing the novel justice. Haig does all this with a very light touch, keeping a steady dose of unassuming British humor. The plot is kept entertaining though its overall nature is very predictable, but as Haig takes pains to show, the beauty is in the small details. That is what makes the human species worth preserving. At first glance no alien race would be able to resist the temptation to exterminate a dangerous, almost rabid, species like ours. Given time, we just might charm them though.

Disclaimer: The novel makes a good case for the humans. I am not entirely convinced.



Post Script: Advice From a Distance

The narrator decides to give some advice to fellow humans and comes up with some cliched (yet wise) gems. A selection:

1. Shame is a shackle. Free yourself.
2. Don’t worry about your abilities. You have the ability to love. That is enough.
3. Be nice to other people. At the universal level, they are you.
4. Technology won’t save humankind. Humans will.
6. Be curious. Question everything. A present fact is just a future fiction.
7. Irony is fine, but not as fine as feeling.
8. Peanut butter sandwiches go perfectly well with a glass of white wine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
9. Sometimes, to be yourself you will have to forget yourself and become something else. Your character is not a fixed thing. You will sometimes have to move to keep up with it.
10. History is a branch of mathematics. So is literature. Economics is a branch of religion.
11. Sex can damage love but love can’t damage sex.
12. The news should start with mathematics, then poetry, and move down from there.
13. You shouldn’t have been born. Your existence is as close to impossible as can be. To dismiss the impossible is to dismiss yourself.
14. Your life will have 25,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them.
15. The road to snobbery is the road to misery. And vice versa.
16. Tragedy is just comedy that hasn’t come to fruition. One day we will laugh at this. We will laugh at everything.
17. Wear clothes, by all means, but remember they are clothes.
18. One life form’s gold is another life form’s tin can.
19. Read poetry. Especially poetry by Emily Dickinson. It might save you. Anne Sexton knows the mind, Walt Whitman knows grass, but Emily Dickinson knows everything.
22. Don’t worry about being angry. Worry when being angry becomes impossible. Because then you have been consumed.
23. Happiness is not out here. It is in there.
24. New technology, on Earth, just means something you will laugh at in five years. Value the stuff you won’t laugh at in five years. Like love. Or a good poem. Or a song. Or the sky.
25. There is only one genre in fiction. The genre is called ‘book’.
28. Your mother should write a novel. Encourage her.
29. If there is a sunset, stop and look at it. Knowledge is finite. Wonder is infinite.
30. Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happen through mistakes.
31. Failure is a trick of the light.
32. You are human. You will care about money. But realise it can’t make you happy because happiness is not for sale.
33. You are not the most intelligent creature in the universe. You are not even the most intelligent creature on your planet. The tonal language in the song of a humpback whale displays more complexity than the entire works of Shakespeare. It is not a competition. Well, it is. But don’t worry about it.
36. One day humans will live on Mars. But nothing there will be more exciting than a single overcast morning on Earth.
38. Walt Whitman was right about at least one thing. You will contradict yourself. You are large. You contain multitudes.
39. No one is ever completely right about anything. Anywhere.
40. Everyone is a comedy. If people are laughing at you they just don’t quite understand the joke that is themselves.
42. In a thousand years, if humans survive that long, everything you know will have been disproved. And replaced by even bigger myths.
43. Everything matters.
44. You have the power to stop time. You do it by kissing. Or listening to music. Music, by the way, is how you see things you can’t otherwise see. It is the most advanced thing you have. It is a superpower. Keep up with the bass guitar. You are good at it. Join a band.
46. A paradox. The things you don’t need to live – books, art, cinema, wine and so on – are the things you need to live.
47. A cow is a cow even if you call it beef.
48. No two moralities match. Accept different shapes, so long as they aren’t sharp enough to hurt.
50. At some point, bad things are going to happen. Have someone to hold on to.
52. If you are laughing, check that you don’t really want to cry. And vice versa.
53. Don’t ever be afraid of telling someone you love them. There are things wrong with your world, but an excess of love is not one.
55. You are not the only species on Earth with technology. Look at ants. Really. Look. What they do with twigs and leaves is quite amazing.
57. There are a lot of idiots in your species. Lots and lots. You are not one of them. Hold your ground.
60. Obey your head. Obey your heart. Obey your gut. In fact, obey everything except commands.
61. One day, if you get into a position of power, tell people this: just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. There is a power and a beauty in unproved conjectures, unkissed lips and unpicked flowers.
63. It’s not the technique, it’s the method. It’s not the words, it’s the melody.
64. Be alive. That is your supreme duty to the world.
65. Don’t think you know. Know you think.
66. As a black hole forms it creates an immense gamma-ray burst, blinding whole galaxies with light and destroying millions of worlds. You could disappear at any second. This one. Or this one. Or this one. Make sure, as often as possible, you are doing something you’d be happy to die doing.
67. War is the answer. To the wrong question.
73. No one will understand you. It is not, ultimately, that important. What is important is that you understand you.
74. A quark is not the smallest thing. The wish you have on your death-bed – to have worked harder – that is the smallest thing. Because it won’t be there.
75. Politeness is often fear. Kindness is always courage. But caring is what makes you human. Care more, become more human.
76. In your mind, change the name of every day to Saturday. And change the name of work to play.
77. When you watch the news and see members of your species in turmoil, do not think there is nothing you can do. But know it is not done by watching news.
78. You get up. You put on your clothes. And then you put on your personality. Choose wisely.
80. Language is euphemism. Love is truth.
81. You can’t find happiness looking for the meaning of life. Meaning is only the third most important thing. It comes after loving and being.
82. If you think something is ugly, look harder. Ugliness is just a failure of seeing.
83. A watched pot never boils. That is all you need to know about quantum physics.
85. The Dark Ages never ended.
86. To like something is to insult it. Love it or hate it. Be passionate. As civilisation advances, so does indifference. It is a disease. Immunise yourself with art. And love.
89. At the sub-atomic level, everything is complex. But you do not live at the sub-atomic level. You have the right to simplify. If you don’t, you will go insane.
90. But know this. Men are not from Mars. Women are not from Venus. Do not fall for categories. Everyone is everything. Every ingredient inside a star is inside you, and every personality that ever existed competes in the theatre of your mind for the main role.
91. You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life’s wonders. Never take so much as a single petal of a single flower for granted.
92. If you have children and love one more than another, work at it. They will know, even if it’s by a single atom less. A single atom is all you need to make a very big explosion.
93. School is a joke. But go along with it, because you are very near to the punchline.
94. You don’t have to be an academic. You don’t have to be anything. Don’t force it. Feel your way, and don’t stop feeling your way until something fits. Maybe nothing will. Maybe you are a road, not a destination. That is fine. Be a road. But make sure it’s one with something to look at out of the window.

Annet

Peanut butter sandwiches go perfectly well with a glass of white wine. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise...

Funny, hilarious, sad, loving and wise story with a message. An alien comes to earth to destroy evidence of Professor Andrew Martin who has supposedly solved a major mathematical problem. Martin is killed and the alien takes his place. At first he looks with disdain and surprise at the 'weak' and 'unwise' 'Humans'. But then he starts liking and loving his wife, gets involved in the strained life of his growingup son to help him, and he likes the dog :-) And then he finds out life on earth is not so bad, although 'the humans' could learn a lot.... There are some hilarious but also very wise philosophical statements and scenes in this book, which I will share later this weekend. I've read a couple of books from Matt Haig and he writes out-of-the-box, unusual stories, not typically to be arranged in some category. I like him!

Regina

(Earmuffs, family members.)

You know how you think your family is pretty normal until you bring someone over to meet them and you see everything and everyone anew through his eyes? And suddenly you realize not only is your family not normal but in fact populated by circus monkeys? But they’re YOUR circus monkeys, so even if that outsider has a point or two about their weirdness he better keep his big trap shut?

That’s pretty much what happens in Matt Haig’s humorous yet heartwarming novel, The Humans, though in this case your family is the human race and the outsider is an alien. He astutely observes things like, “Let’s not forget The Things They Do to Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable. This is an infinite list. It includes shopping, watching TV, taking the better job, getting the bigger house, educating their young, making their skin look mildly less old, and harboring a vague desire to believe there might be a meaning to it all.”

While science fiction isn’t my go-to genre, I found The Humans to be very accessible given its present-day Earth setting. This is a sleeper of a novel that will continue to gain status as a modern classic as the years go by. Matt Haig is a must-read author for me, as his books make me feel understood, uplifted, and - you guessed it - human.

Blog: www.confettibookshelf.com
IG: @confettibookshelf

Phrynne

Matt Haig is now up there in my list of favourite authors. Each time I read one of his books I am so impressed by its originality and his amazing imagination.

The Humans is told from the point of view of an alien sent to Earth to dispose of new mathematical understandings which could help the human race to make significant scientific advances. The fun in the book is due to this alien's opinions of us, the way we look and the way we live.

Problems occur when our friendly alien finds he cannot carry out his mission in the way his superiors wish. He falls in love, discovers peanut butter sandwiches, befriends the family dog, and discovers that being human is not such a bad thing.

I loved every moment of this book!

Farrah

⭐ 5 Is A Prime Number Stars ⭐

? ????? ???? ????! ?? ????!

Wanna laugh out loud while simultaneously crying? This book can make that happen!

Andrew Martin is a brilliant mathematician who solves the Riemann hypothesis which will change the world as we know it.
But the universe decides we aren't ready for such massive knowledge and sends an alien to kill, then inhabit the body of Andrew, with the mission to remove any evidence of his findings.

But this alien doesn't know anything about us, or our customs, or our emotions.

The Humans gives a very clever, humorous and detached look at why we are the way we are, why we're such a beautiful mess of a species.

Then the alien, who's never experienced an emotion begins bonding with the family dog. Discovers music and poetry. Develops a fondness for Andrew's wife and son.....

This book shows how the universe can send in their best, most logical, most clinical and advanced soldier but it's no match for us wonderful humans.

Helene Jeppesen

4.5/5 stars.
I. Loved. This. Book.
Granted, the plot is somewhat unrealistic and silly - it is after all about an alien who is put on Earth to complete a mission - but said alien’s observations on humans are spot on and very interesting as well as hilarious. We humans do weird things all the time without thinking about it, and it’s books like this one that make you realise that and make you stop to wonder why.
I found this novel to be very clever, observant, and highly thought-provoking. Matt Haig is a clever author to have written it, and I loved how he - together with his multiple observations on the human race - was able to provide us with some truths on life and how we live it that you don’t often think about in everyday life. It didn’t at any point become to clichéd in my eyes - instead, it turned into an honest and heart-warming story that I truly appreciated.
Don’t go into this book with too high expectations. Take it for what it is, and maybe you’ll end up liking it as much as I did. I know that I’m for sure going to read more books of Matt Haig’s now, because he’s simply too good an author to not be further explored.

April (Aprilius Maximus)

I think Matt Haig is going to be one of my new favourite authors.

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