Confession time – When I saw the cover of ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig, for some reason my brain just assumed it was about a dog’s take on people. The cover has a canine sitting atop the earth’s diagram and some readers can be presumptuous idiots. Also, the original plan was to buy Haig’s more popular title ‘The Midnight Library’ (friend recommended it), but it was a little more expensive, so the other novel made it to the shopping cart on a whim.
Now, ‘The Humans’ is obviously not about a dog’s take on how amazing or stupid humans are. It’s actually about an alien from a far-off galaxy, who is sent on a mission to earth – to wipe out any evidence of a massive mathematical breakthrough by a Cambridge Professor Andrew Martin. Why? Because the Professor’s findings would lead to a staggering leap in technological innovations, which the aliens believe the human race isn’t prepared for. If that already sounds ridiculous to you, do not buy this book.
Look, even though the story wasn’t what I was expecting, Haig’s lucid writing style kept me invested in the tale, but the first 50 pages were tedious to read. The alien shape-shifts into Andrew Martin, while the real professor has been killed by his kind. He now needs to live in the professors house, find out who knows how much, and kill those who know too much. So Alien Andrew tries to learn the human ways and is constantly lamenting how inferior/primitive technology is. It’s not funny. It just gets repetitive and boring.
The biggest problem with the alien protagonist was the character inconsistency – he starts off as a logical creature from a race that worships mathematics, his planet is so technologically advanced that they’ve already achieved immortality and an asexual harmony in their world. He is repulsed by humans, their petty emotions and wants nothing to do with them. Yet, Alien Andrew rapidly falls in love with music, American poetry, Australian wine & Andrew’s wife. He even starts to quote Emily Dickinson.
Juxtaposing an alien with old-school-sentimental romance was awkward to read in most parts. The book turns into this soppy saga of how humans may have their flaws, but love makes them overcome it all. At some points, the novel feels like a plain parody of some other work. However, it’s easy to see how some (or even a lot) readers might love this book. Haig’s tale is like a paean to human flaws. Through Alien Andrew, he gives a third-person view of our species will look to an intelligent being from a different planet. And then there’s the dog, Newton, who is the first to melt the hostile alien’s heart.
In the end, Alien Andrew is more human and compassionate than most people. I rarely ever say this, but ‘The Humans’ could’ve used a few more pages of character development, because the transformation of the protagonist’s emotional state feels rushed. The climax is the ‘heartwarming’ kind, with an open-ended cliffhanger. We are to assumed it’s perhaps a happy ending. It’s a 3/5 from me.
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