The Humans by Matt Haig is one of those books that gets bracketed in with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and The Rosie Project, all being told from the point of view of an outsider who doesn’t quite “get” society. In The Curious Incident and The Rosie Project, outsider status is bestowed by Asperger’s.
The Humans, follows an alien who has journeyed to Earth from a far off, mathematically advanced world, who has been sent to Earth on a mission. His first task is to killing and impersonate Cambridge Professor of Mathematics, Andrew Martin. But by becoming “Andrew”, our alien (the book is told from the first person, so he has no name) becomes gradually more and more affected by his life on earth among humans, especially now that he he has acquired a sweet wife and a troubled but well intentioned son, causing him to question the emotional detachment he has been brought up with.
I had a similar reaction to this book as I did with the Rosie project – I found the alien/autistic viewpoint a little slow to get into, as it’s necessarily distancing, but I subsequently found the gradual acclimatisation of the protagonist to his new life both amusing and touching.
It’s not a deep or a serious read in either a mathematical or a literary sense, but is very enjoyable in both. I was very taken by the mathematical jokes and had to read them out to the other two mathematicians in our data crunching office. And I was going to offer it round, but one of our exam invigilators got there first – we all stick pictures of the cover and the blurb from the book we are reading on our doors, and this has a very appealing cover and blurb.
As well as enjoying the maths, I have to say that I also identify with the idea of being an alien, of not understanding what people desire from life. Although it makes for a funny read, I also felt for “Andrew” as he went around saying and doing the wrong thing and unintentionally hurting people :-/
Thanks to Eva for the recommendation!