'The Humans' is an excellent book to remind us of the wonderful fallacy of humans. Through the sweat and the tears there is a lot to celebrate as well as bemoan about our species. Matt Haig's heroic, humorous examination of us through the eyes of an alien is spot on. And for this reason I couldn't help but burst out laughing on the train, to the bemusement of all those sour-faced human people. As the alien declares in his list of advice to us all: 'Laugh. It suits you.'
'The Humans' certainly suited me (which sounds quite odd if you forget the inverted commas.) The opening is one of the best I have read in a long time. It just crackles with wit and invention. The premise of an alien landing butt-naked by a road near Cambridge is funny enough. But the fact the alien has taken the form of a distinguished professor makes this funnier still. I couldn't help but be reminded of the scene in Terminator when Arnie appears naked in a ball of electric blue. Haig, though, takes the consequences of such a bizarre incident to extremes of insight. Imposing as a professor, this alien has a serious mission to accomplish, though he becomes distracted by everything human, including noses, music, a dog and peanut butter.
What made this book more enjoyable for me was that it was meditative, truthful and ultimately uplifting about the human condition. It is an anti-depressant in book form. Like the author, I once suffered panics and bouts of anxiety. Heading down to town felt like an ordeal into the unknown. With so much chaos and uncertainty in the world it is easy for anyone to feel this way. 'The Humans' would have been good for me then, as much as it is now. It steers you through all the mess and confusion of human life, and brings you to the understanding that we could, in all the wide universe, be the most loving and beautifully complex creatures around. This book is such a creature too.
Thank you, human Haig.
P.S Watch Matt Haig's video on 'How to Be A Writer' on his website.