B Schrodinger's Reviews > The Humans

The Humans by Matt Haig
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did not like it
bookshelves: science-fiction

** spoiler alert ** Firstly, I could not finish this. Although I did not hate the book there were too many aspects of the story that just annoyed me no end.

"The Humans" is the story of an alien who is sent to Earth to eliminate all traces of the newly found proof of the Reimann hypothesis, which is said to be too powerful and dangerous knowledge for an immature species as us. The alien possesses the mathematician who proves the hypothesis, a professor at a prestigious university, who is also having a lot of family problems. Good premise, but you can see where it is heading.

My main problems with this book come down to the suspension of disbelief and the constant attempts at being witty and quirky. The plot is only a facade for looking at humanity from a differing perspective, and despite what many would say in other reviews, it's not unique and it's not a revelation.

In my previous edit, I had a large pick at the scientific inaccuracies. And while they are quite valid and something that the author could have rectified easily, each is not much of a problem. There are plenty of books with wildly bad science that get away with it. It's just the pure number of them (and a little bit of me felt the author was trying to be clever by attempting to use science too) constantly jarred me. When you are rolling your eyes at the book you are reading every few pages, suspension of disbelief goes out the window.

On one page the alien was a naive blank slate, the next he had some prior knowledge suddenly, the next he was using keys with no problem. The alien main character only seemed to be naive or uninformed at the convenience of the author to make some glib observation, not to drive the plot and not in a consistent manner with the premise.

With all these inconsistencies and problems, I found it hard to read this clichéd and predictable story. I found the that the humour and wit of this book came down to the same inane memes that your aunt will share on Facebook: I hate Mondays humour, only my dog understands me humour, kids these days humour. The philosophical, worldly observations were as deep as those given on a motivational calendar.
It's a Hallmark book.

EDIT: I edited this review because a lot of other reviewers were critical of it. And while they'll always feel a need to write a remark about how I didn't understand some crucial plot point in the book, I do agree that my original review was much snarkier and less constructive than it should be. And I have the image of Matt Haig reading this and I want it to be as constructive as possible.
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Reading Progress

March 22, 2014 – Started Reading
March 22, 2014 – Shelved
March 24, 2014 –
page 200
65.79% "I don't know if I can finish this. It has irked me so much."
March 24, 2014 – Finished Reading
April 6, 2014 – Shelved as: science-fiction

Comments Showing 1-50 of 66 (66 new)

message 1: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Oh, the humanity!!! :P Just kidding!

Great review. Bummer that the book wasn't something that you enjoyed.

message 2: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Thanks Alejandro. I thought I was onto a winner looking at all the other reviews.

message 3: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Well, two people never read the same book. I am sure that all those other readers really enjoy the book. But it's evident that the book wasn't tuned in your channel. Too bad. At least you tried it.

message 4: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Very true Alejandro.

message 5: by Lynda (new)

Lynda Great rant. Hope you feel better for getting it out of your system! ha ha

I don't know what urks me more in situations such as this (aside from content); the act of giving up on the book, or the investment I actually gave to it to try to make it work for me.

message 6: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger I guess it's a set of scales where the effort overlook what annoys you is greater than wading through the rest of the book.

message 7: by Sara (new)

Sara I enjoyed your review. (I haven't read this book and I probably won't after your commentary.) Then, at the end, it got me thinking. I've got nieces! Oh my gosh, what am I posting on FB? Begone all you inane memes! Well, it looks like I only posted some bad beat poetry and a bread recipe. Whew.

message 8: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Sara wrote: "Then, at the end, it got me thinking. I've got nieces! Oh my gosh, what am I posting on FB?"

LOL Sara I'm sure you are fine with your FB posts.

Also a lot of people liked this book, don't just take my word for it. I guess I wasn't able to get over what I saw as flaws, but I'm sure others would glance right over and not think twice about.

message 9: by Sara (new)

Sara Thanks. We will see!

message 10: by Lee (new)

Lee Best review of the day. Loved it. I am now almost tempted to read it just to see how bad those inconsistencies are. How much of the scientific stuff get past someone with less scientific know how? But then the thing with the keys would have me rolling my eyes. One of my pet peeves is crappy research, where the author just expects you to roll with it, even though it is ridiculous, that and tacking on a genre. (changing the Thames in London to The river Fydll in Logoria and calling it fantasy).

Really enjoyed reading your review Brendon.

message 11: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Thanks a lot Lee, the compliment is appreciated. I think some of the science stuff would pass most people by, but I would hope that most people would question some of the inconsistencies and assumptions. I realise that it is just a story and I would forgive a lot of hand waving and technobabble, but it seemed like these tactics were underutilised in most instances and in others where the author had done some research the science was regurgitated in a ham fisted way.

If the premise of the tabula rasa alien was replaced by an alien who had been briefed somewhat, the whole problem of him knowing the equivalent math would have been addressed and every funny encounter that was in the book could have been a countered for with culture shock. It could have even been funnier to play on the misunderstanding of the briefing to reality.

message 12: by Lee (new)

Lee I realise that it is just a story

Sure but you need to feel like you want to believe in it. Even my 6 yo asks me why? why? why? when I read him a story with inconsistencies or somewhat random events that don't make sense.

I am sure that we will see more of this issue (well an issue for you and I, as other people have no problem with it) as independents and self publishing becomes more prevalent, which I am all for. The need of a good editor who knows what they are talking about, I would imagine is not easy to find.

message 13: by Lee (last edited Mar 27, 2014 05:08PM) (new)

Lee Who will probably love it and call you up saying

"OMG Louisa, that book was freaking amazing. Can you believe he killed the mathematician? What about the dog? awww that was so cute.....we should get together and talk about the book, maybe we should read the second one together and discuss each chapter."


message 14: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Lee wrote: "OMG Louisa, that book was freaking amazing. Can you believe he killed the mathematician? What about the dog? awww that was so cute.....we should ..."


I'm glad I'm not the only one Louisa. And I hate to be so snobby but I really do think it appeals more to the 'only my dog understands me' crowd.

And I agree Lee. At least with a professionally published work you get some kind of guarantee that other people, and people who do this for a job, have looked this thing over and fixed up some mistakes. It's one of the main reasons why I also steer clear of self-publishing.

message 15: by Lee (new)

Lee why I also steer clear of self-publishing

I think there are some pretty good reads to be found there, look at Wool but generally .....yeah....

message 16: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Lee wrote:I think there are some pretty good reads to be found there, look at Wool but generally .....yeah...."

Yeah definitely 'Wool', and I guess it does make you wonder and hope that much more of this type of success comes from it. But in reality when you have limited time and so much to read you have to hedge your bets with the process with quality control.

message 17: by Lee (new)

Lee you have to hedge your bets with the process with quality control.

or read good quality reviews like this one :)

message 18: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Alex wrote: "I've seen lots of buzz for this on social media (mainly from the author, whom I had to stop following because all he did was promote himself). Nice review, glad to know I can skip it."

Thankful for the compliment Alex.

I wish the guy all the success, but despite it sounding so, it wasn't my type of book. It definitely was not without merit.

message 19: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Gulley Thanks for a great review. My problems with books like this is that there isn't a new and imaginative idea around anymore. Same old, same old human nonsense of what humans believe aliens will be: semi-human. Thanks again.

message 20: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger You're welcome Patricia. And while I agree, I can forgive the author in that respect. After all the whole alien thing was just a construct to try and put across clever observations about humanity.

Authors like Robert Sawyer have done way better jobs at alien contact.

message 21: by Vera (new) - rated it 2 stars

Vera I found myself asking several times "But how did he know how to do that?". The character was not a tabula rasa at all, and only seemed to be so at the convenience of the author to make some glib observation.

My thoughts exactly!!! I'm still reading the book (page 75), but I wondered several times why the alien seems to know some things and others not. Like you say, the author has searched for a way to look at humans from another perspective, apparently thought it should be some species more intelligent than humans themselves so he picked an alien, but didn't work it out all too well.

I got some other problems with the book but I will save those for my own review ;)

message 22: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger I'm glad I'm not the only one Vera. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

message 23: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Braine I must be a pessimist or something similar. I always trust the single 1-star review more than the fifty 5-star reviews.

message 24: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Well it's always worth hearing the contrary view before declaring it bullshit.

message 25: by Maria (new)

Maria So definitely a NO!!! .. I see you cant leave your scientific side out, that happens to me a lot! haha.. :)

message 26: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Actually I feel I can to a certain degree, just not in this instance.

I'm fine with hand waving, it was used well for the science in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Broad terms, no jargon, good research.

It's when jargon and specifics are used when we start to see flaws and the cracks start appearing.

Erling Grotle I agree.

Vanessa Excellent review - I was asking myself pretty much the same things as I read it. More research, less sentiment, and a less compressed versin of the alien actually having to learn about human life would have worked better. Oh - and the alien deciding to stay "human"? Puhleeese !!!!

message 29: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Thanks Vanessa. That remaining human was the last straw, and had it not been an e-book it probably would have flown across the room.

Margaret You are right. He didn't ask nobody about science matters because if he did ,lots of problems in the plot could have been easily solved. But the main thing here is not about the childish approach of science but the totally inexcusable approach of feelings. I mean, what annoyed me the most was the fact that he "fell in love". Why ??? What behavior coming from the wife made him evaluate her character or her soul's greatness ? Because surely it wasn't her looks. I read the story easily and with no big effort, but in the end I was furious about the complete disrespect of "love".

Donald Crislip You're not alone. I found this book to be "meh" for similar and different reasons. But like you, I feel like we're in the minority.

message 32: by Nick (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nick Flanagan Good review. Exactly what I felt. Its like the author has maybe kept a notepad for a year or so jotted down every little thing he's found quirky and then tried to squash it all into a book of fiction. The first third of the book is full of these musings, by the time the story gets going you realise the story is quite unoriginal/obvious and then once the author has chucked in enough Emily Dickenson, David Bowie, band and other modern culture references it becomes pretty pretentious too. Think Matt Haig was confused to what he wanted this book to be. That being said there was enough humour and great one liners, ideas to keep me interested. 2/5.

message 33: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Thanks Nick.

Nigel I tend to agree with the John's of this world, but there are an awful lot of five star reviews....I'm sorely tempted.

message 35: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger It's obviously most people's cups of tea. And it isn't a bad book. It's just got flaws that I could not overlook.

I'd say give it a try!

Joseph It's science fiction, it can suspend reality and remember that as we have become more advanced we often prove previous scientific theories or even scientific laws to be incorrect or slightly errored. You had no problem that he could teleport but the elements he consumed and how it was consumed was a deal breaker for you? I do sincerely appreciate your detailed review and do not mean to cause conflict but rather just discuss in more detail why these particular things are so irritating. Also, I gave only been reading sci fi for about a year. What books do you find to be well written as well as well researched? Thank you again for your comprehensive and informative review.

Nicole I'm reading this book now and can't help but think to myself "Stranger in a Strange Land" did it SO much better.

message 38: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Ah, I'm yet to read that Nicole. I have only read 2 Heinleins; one I loved the other I hated.

message 39: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda I saw your review and read it, obviously, and at first thought, oh GOD. Its one of THOSE people. But I kept reading and while it seemed like "bitch, bitch, bitch," there was always a logical point behind it and your presentation made me laugh.

It made me think of the unexpectedly impassioned fight over iodized table salt, base elements, and ions that resulted in a week of nasty, though educational emails. Yes, I was right, you refused to believe I knew what I was talking about, and you just wouldn't let it go. It was so stupid. So I responded by one-upping the stubborn by dusting of old textbooks. Yoy hit a nerve, then kept poking it. No longer just annoyed, I was pissed off and had a lot of spare time on my hands. So I dusted off the old textbooks and commenced the writing of my essays "You had to be a dick about it so I'll match it with my bitch: This is how wrong you are."

So I went ahead and read the responses to your critique and the overwhelming support and empathy with your frustrations. And that's when I knew I hit gold and had to get my hands on this book, because a book eliciting this kind of reaction must be so bad it had to painfully funny. And so far (at page 8) that assumption has been painfully accurate.

So I get it now. I understand. Its the iodized salt and that movie "the forgotten" all over again.

I don't expect I will ever finish this book, but I think these 8 pages have been worth it because this review was the real treat to read, and I couldn't fully appreciate it until familiarizing myself with the source material.

So thanks for the fun read! I had fun. :)

message 40: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Amanda, now I feel a little guilty. Give the book more of a go. 8 pages! Sheesh.

Looking back, I did get rather annoyed at the scientific inaccuracies, but really the most annoying aspects was the inconsistencies within his own 'experiment'. If you create a situation and then choose to apply it in some ways yet completely ignore it in others, it's going to undermine the whole premise.

message 41: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda You're right. I'm looking at the table of contents of the "record" the character puts together containing what it seems to deem the relevant data on humanity. With subjects like "texaco", "the distribution of prime numbers", "Emily Dickinson", "heaven is a place where nothing ever happens", and "teenagers" I can't help but bite on this book a little more. Standard Readership Guidelines are clear. Since I did in fact LOL I'm obligated to give it more of a look. And if there's one thing I've learned from reading its that if Alice had not been curious, she would have never of gone through a looking glass.

message 42: by B (new) - rated it 1 star

B Schrodinger Great. Go forth and I look forward to your opinion.

Kiley Your review was interesting to me because I read the book and noticed the scientific inconsistencies but was able to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the parts that weren't so heavy-handed. I just wanted to address the question of why the alien understands some things and seems perfectly alright with others. I thought this was largely explained by the fact that he was writing retrospectively, and chose to focus on the things which continued to baffle him rather than the things he came to understand. The example you gave, locks, he probably quickly accepted once he learned what they were for. I know this means the narrative must skip over lots of periods of learning by observation, but to avoid the reader dying of annoyance because everything is incomprehensible to the narrator, I can see why the choices were made.

AudreyLovesParis Well, I find that I have to greatly suspend my disbelief while reading the Bible, which might be the reason I cannot enjoy it. But I loved The Humans.

Anthony B I just finished it, I enjoyed it. I thought he said the person (Andrew Martin) was killed by those who abducted him due to his discovery. If the alien would have left, it would have been a waste of a perfectly good meat suit. I understood it as the true Andrew Martin would not have been able to come back had the alien been able to leave the body/earth.

Alyse Yep. 96 pages in and I'm thinking, "what the hell"? Absolutely no scientific research went into this. I will finish it. It was recommended to me and I think I should at least finish it before deciding to hate it. But thank you for confirming my suspicions!

Helen King Ah well, each to their own. I loved it - I could tell it wasn't flawless (not that I have the scientific background that many of you have) but it was heartfelt, and to me, wasn't soppy but a genuine attempt to understand humans (whether the alien approach works is up to individuals). But then, I don't generally like science fiction, etc - couldn't stand Wool (gave up after 3 chapters) which I see many of you did, so I guess horses for courses (throwing in a cliche, a la the book!)

Bella You've actually got something wrong.
In the beginning of the book, the alien does not POSSESS the professor, he kills him and copies the body of the professor onto himself. The the professor is dead for the whole book. Also, does it REALLY matter if not all the details are perfect-can you not enjoy the book for what it is? I love this book-it's witty, heartbreaking, and gives you an insight into what someone else might think about human life, and all the weird little things we do.

David It was a weak book. Music, poetry, explain some mundane everyday task, music, poetry, repeat over. I thought it was excessively twee and quite poorly written.

message 50: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Yes.. My aunts do post some awful memes. I didn't know what a meme(s?) was until they were absolutely everywhere. Your biting kind of humor is funny though, perhaps you will write a book.

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