The Humans - Matt Haig
Ok - let's dive headfirst into The Humans by Matt Haig. Once you've started you won't want to put down this fantastically quirky tale and for my money it's the best read so far this year. So much so I just revisited the story and found it even more enjoyable second time around. (This blog's a great excuse for a bit of self-indulgence.)
Anyway, the picture should give you some idea where I'm coming from. In an attempt to be conscientious I thought I'd mark lines and passages which made me guffaw, brought a tear to the eye, whacked me over the head with moments of self-recognition or simply gave pause for thought. As you can see there were many, so many in fact I ran out of those luminous sticky things and took to folding pages instead.
I am scared.
Without giving too much away the central character Andrew Martin is a Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. He's a self-obsessed genius. He solves one of the thorniest problems in Maths - the Reimann hypothesis. It's a step too far for humanity (after all we're destructive and dangerous enough already) so in a Galaxy far, far away the decision is made to eliminate Martin before he can spill the mathematical beans. Once that's done anyone he may have told of his breakthrough must also be eradicated. Who better to perform the task than Martin himself? An alien kills the Professor and inhabits his body.
Advice for a human
There's an ambiguity throughout I really like. I was never terribly sure if Andrew Martin had simply suffered a catastrophic nervous breakdown. He's a workaholic egomaniac so it's not beyond the realms of possibility. He's just achieved his lifetime's goal - perhaps it pushed him over the edge. The point is that it doesn't matter. Here we have a case of the unreliable narrator and it works a treat. Through the eyes of Andrew Martin 'Mk2' human vanity, ambition, delusion, compassion and passion are placed under the microscope in equal measure and laid bare. However none of this is done in a lecturing didactic manner. On the contrary, Matt Haig manages to capture the conflicting nature of our complicated species with great humour, enviable ease, rare understanding and remarkable insight.
Advice for a human
Seemingly diverse subjects such as Applied Mathematics, Physics, Poetry (specifically Emily Dickenson), Pop and Classical Music, Architecture, Alienation, Infidelity, Love, Mortality and how Man's Best Friend (in this case a superb Springer Spaniel named Newton) should really be treated are tackled with an intelligent sensitive touch. The interconnected nature of our improbable world and the incalculable dilemma of the human condition lies at the heart of the book.
Terrific story-telling holds a mirror up to us all. When a novel truly captivates we don't merely empathise or sympathise with the characters, for a time we inhabit their skin. When the tale is done something of them remains. They are us and we are them. The Humans will stay with me and I know I'll take great pleasure in revisiting it time and time again. Well, we're all human and in it together after all. Do yourself a favour - read the The Humans.
Bookworm Rating (Max 5): 5
So many books - so little time. Oddly enough here I'll be posting about books. Feel free to agree, disagree but hopefully not remain ambivalent.