The Humans by Matt Haig

the-humansThe Humans sounded like a heart warming, entertaining read and something a little different to what I normally read. I chose it because it appeared to have something heart warming and yet humorous about humanity. It did, the perfect light read for those periods when you can’t handle anything too demanding.

Professor Andrew Martin is a mathematician who has just discovered the secret theory to prime numbers, he has solved the Riemann hypothesis, something that appears to have caused major concern to the population of advanced beings on a planet called Vonnarian, many light years from Earth. To halt the negative consequences of proving this theory (humans can’t be trusted with it, with their destructive tendencies), they’ve sent one of their beings to Earth to eliminate those who have knowledge of what the professor discovered.

Apart from this fact, that Professor Martin’s body has been taken over by a being from elsewhere (and he initially has a few unhuman-like gifts), everything else happens in the earthly reality of the small town of Cambridge, England in the modern day.

It begins with the awakening of this being inside the body of the Professor, standing naked in the middle of the road in the early morning. He has very little knowledge of humans, how to behave or what is expected of or from a human, but he is a fast learner. Inevitably he finds himself in trouble as he tries to navigate his way forward, to keep unwanted attention away from him and to impose himself into the day-to-day  life of the man whose body he has possessed.

“Humans, I was discovering, believed they were in control of their own lives, and so they were in awe of questions and tests, as these made them feel they had a certain mastery over other people, who had failed in their choices, and who had not worked hard enough on the right answers.”

prime-number-theoryEliminating those in the know proves an easier task than winning over the wife and son, however he perseveres and begins to understand and even value what it means to be human, developing an attraction to its quirks and foibles, despite the many bizarre acts they indulge.

It is a humorous reflection on the oddities and nuances of the human race and a bittersweet reminder of the need for love, art, freedom of expression – things not necessary for survival, but necessary to LIVE any kind of fulfilling life and the dangers of what we risk becoming if we ignore those things and the people close to us.

I really enjoyed it, it was funny to read how this alien inside the body of a professor analyses humans and their way of behaving and doing things, all so familiar and yet made to seem so irrational and bizarre. Very cleverly done, zipped through it quickly.

“We are all lonely for something we don’t know we are lonely for.” David Foster Wallace

Click here to Buy a copy of The Humans via Book Depository


19 thoughts on “The Humans by Matt Haig

    • Well I chose it for it’s commentary on humanity, it’s really just a light, humorous read, the character just happens to be a mathematician and while it is supposed to be a being inside his body, it’s the same as if the man woke up with amnesia, except he regains his intelligence very quickly. So, kind of a holiday light read, but I did deliberately go out and purchase this looking for an intelligent light, humorous read and it certainly is that.


  1. Great this one isn’t it. As you say it’s just a nice, refreshingly light read that I think can be looked at a little more seriously if you’re in that kind of mood. The alien reminded me so much of my friend in Greece I bought a copy and posted it to him 🙂

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        • I think you’ll like Patrick Ness, he’s got a special gift and ability to write in a realist/fable-like way without being sentimental. A Monster Calls is beyond incredible, a book he wrote that was an idea of the YA/children’s author Siobhan Dowd, one she was unable to realise before her premature death. As he says in the opening pages: “She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.” So he wrote the book for her. Prepare to be moved, to be devastated, to be completely in awe of what he has channelled. And then there is his novel The Crane Wife and a wonderful song by the Decemberists…

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  2. Loved your review, Claire! I love Reimann – he is my favourite mathematician – and his hypothesis and a novel based on that with an alien inhabiting a human body – how can one resist that? 🙂 I will look for this book. And did you know that there is a one million dollar prize waiting for anyone who can solve the Reimann hypothesis?

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