Title: The Humans
Author: Matt Haig
Narrator: Mark Meadows
Audiobook Length: 8 hours, 11 minutes
Genre: Science Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 2 July 2013
Bottom Line: Witty, charming
“I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist. For those that don’t know, a human is a real bipedal life form of midrange intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.”
“The bestselling, award-winning author of The Radleys is back with what may be his best, funniest, and most devastating dark comedy yet. When an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth, his first impressions of the human species are less than positive. Taking the form of Professor Andrew Martin, a prominent mathematician at Cambridge University, the visitor is eager to complete the gruesome task assigned him and hurry back home to the utopian world of his own planet, where everyone enjoys immortality and infinite knowledge.”
Thoughts: In The Humans, Mr. Haig uses Andrew Martin to show human arrogance towards what we love to consider lower forms of life. Except, in The Humans, it is the humans themselves who are the lower life forms. For in Andrew’s world, humans are little more than dogs, with mild intelligence and laughable technological prowess and still suffering from finite lifespans and limited knowledge. His race feels it necessary to protect humanity from itself by destroying knowledge of a scientific breakthrough that will change mankind forever. As with so many things in life, however, the picture of Earthlings is incomplete, as Andrew discovers while completing his mission. The crisis of faith that occurs within Andrew is both expected and yet still profound in its intensity.
Andrew’s commentary on life on Earth is spot-on as it encompasses the silly with the profound. Our insistence on clothing is ridiculous when one truly thinks about it in the grand scheme of things, while our capacity for love and affection is utterly unique and one of humanity’s best assets. Mr. Haig presents the good, the bad, and the ugly all the while celebrating this crazy world of ours. Of particular significance are his observations about human/canine interaction. The scenes with Newton, the Martin’s family dog, are especially moving as Andrew recognizes the absurdity of the canine relationship as well as its special position within human relationships.
Mark Meadows is a most excellent narrator, balancing the wide-eyed shock at Earth’s antiquated practices with the sense of superiority that comes with immortality and unlimited knowledge of everything with Andrew’s growing appreciation and fondness for humans. The lack of humor in his delivery is a perfect foil for the more humorous observations Andrew makes. In fact, without Mr. Meadows’ dry performance, one might easily miss the wry satire. This is definitely an audiobook performance not to be missed.
There is much to love about Mr. Haig’s The Humans. Andrew Martin’s growth from superior alien to human-phile is simultaneously funny, dark, and poignant. Andrew’s commentary about human characteristics is sharp and all too true, making it the type of novel that amuses and unsettles as it holds up an unflinching mirror to humanity’s hypocrisy. However, as Andrew grows to love Earth and humans, he reminds readers of the truly important things in life, making it a surprisingly feel-good novel about what it means to be human.