Saturday, 29 November 2014

Book #44 The Humans by Matt Haig

The Humans

In The Humans, an alien falls to Earth in order to inhabit the body of mathematician Andrew Martin who is on the verge of making a massive discovery which must be prevented at all costs. It strikes a whimisical, comedic tone as the alien tries to adjust to human life and understand its customs.

The problem here is I guess that I like Matt Haig, as a person. He posts often amusing writing tips on Twitter, interacts with followers in a positive way which is occasionally promotional but certainly not exclusively, and seems like a bloody nice bloke actually. He knows what depression is truly like and I'm massively looking forward to his forthcoming non-fiction Reasons To Stay Alive.

The Humans is massively popular on Amazon so it has its fans and people who really love it, but I'm sorry to say I'm not among them. I feel like this story has been done in many variations before with different types of outsider and so isn't that original, and is on occasion annoying, the whimsy becoming cloying. It literally loses the plot several times and once you understand that this novel is really about someone who operates on logic, learning about emotions and the brilliant things the human world has to offer like music, you can pretty much discern what will happen for yourself. 

Which is not at all to say that there was nothing I enjoyed. Like many, I really enjoyed his comments about mental health :

“Humans, as a rule, don't like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead. But the definition of mad, on Earth, seems to be very unclear and inconsistent. What is perfectly sane in one era turns out to be insane in another. The earliest humans walked around naked with no problem. Certain humans, in humid rainforests mainly, still do so. So, we must conclude that madness is sometimes a question of time, and sometimes of postcode."

I mean, this is brilliant, the accuracy of this statement is so razor sharp it made me take an in breath.
There are other examples too of really excellent writing :

"Civilised life, you know is based on a huge number of illusions in which we all collaborate willingly. The trouble is we forget after a while that they are illusions and are shocked when reality is torn down around us"

His Advice To Humans section is rather hit and miss, some of it much better than others. The other problem is that it interrupts the narrative with 97 bullet points, but that said, may be one of the bits I most enjoyed, preferring it to the narrative as a whole. And I really liked the use of Emily Dickinson.

So, it wasn't wholly a lost cause, it's just that the overall tone is generally not my "sort of thing" which is no disgrace to it, and besides, I appear to be massively in the minority here. I would compare it to authors like John O'Farrell or maybe even Jonas Jonasson these are also hugely successful writers but they just aren't particularly the sort of writers/writing that I get hugely, madly, excited over.

It's a shame because I really wanted to love it as much as everyone else appears to.


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