The Humans by Matt Haig is a small but perfectly formed novel. The plot begins with an alien taking the place of a maths professor in order to wipe out all traces of the professors work.
Narrated from the viewpoint of the alien interloper this book starts of as pithy look at human, particularly British, customs and society. The alien finds our obsession with clothes baffling, the news he thinks should be renamed the ‘war and money show’ and magazines convince him that everything we do is in search of an orgasm. At this stage of the novel many readers may find these perceptions not particularly witty or original.
Persevere. Matt Haig uses these observations as a starting point to show the alien’s growth from a callous imposter into a being worthy of happiness. And as the character develops so does the quality of his insights.
While this has all the ingredients for an unpleasantly saccharine work, the author handles serious issues deftly without breaking from the books lightness of tone. This helps bring the reader to a point where the mawkish seems natural and necessary to the story.
Possibly the most illuminating insights in the book concern numbers. And it’s impressive that the writer is capable of making a mathematically challenged idiot like me find beauty in prime numbers.
While on the surface this book may seem a more sugary than a bag of Haribo, the themes it covers are serious. By the end I’m sure many readers will find themselves thinking about their own place in society without even realising it.
If you are still looking for a science fiction novel, why not take a look at our ultimate list of sci-fi books?