For this week’s pupil book review, Sami (Lower Fifth) reviews The Humans by Matt Haig:
“The Humans is unlike any other book I have read. It is initially confusing, but things become clearer as the characters develop. It is a science-fiction novel, telling the story of the overworked Cambridge maths professor Andrew Martin who, after years of labour, has managed to solve an incredibly difficult mathematics problem (the Riemann Hypothesis). However, this success comes at the cost of his marriage disintegrating and the relationship between him and his son failing as a result of his arrogance, his late nights spent at work, and his overbearing and obsessive nature. That is when the alien arrives. The alien is the un-named narrator, who comes from an unmentioned planet far away, and has been sent to Earth to kill Professor Andrew Martin as his newly found knowledge of solving the Riemann Hypothesis threatens the future of mankind. The alien assumes the life of the Professor and is instructed to kill anyone who knows about the Professor solving the Riemann Hypothesis. While originally the alien seems completely oblivious to the guilt humans would normally associate with killing someone, he gradually forms feelings of empathy and an understanding of ethics as the novel progresses. Also, at the start of the novel, he has no grasp on the social functions of humans – such as wearing clothes, using money, navigating relationships between family and friends etc., but slowly he begins to understand them. He becomes a better husband, father and friend than the original Andrew Martin, growing closer to his wife and son than ever before.
This is a book about what it means to be human. The planet that this alien comes from is impersonal and cold, and focuses on knowledge alone, with no concept of anything beyond that. As the alien spends time on Earth, he becomes more ‘human’, comprehending complex emotions that do not exist on his planet, while continuing to struggle to understand the meaning of human life – which he describes as “very amusing, in a painful kind of way”. The alien describes this book as “being about the meaning of life and nothing at all. It’s about what it takes to kill somebody and save them. It’s about love and dead poets and whole-nut peanut butter. It’s about matter and antimatter, everything and nothing, hope and hate. It is, in short, about how to become a human.””