A Story About Humans by an Alien

I read maybe 10 or 12 books a year. (I wish I had time for more, but I’m a slow reader.) Every year there’s usually one story that I find especially delightful, such as Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, The Martian by Andy Weir, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zuzak.

Most recently, that standout book was The Humans by Matt Haig. It’s about a super-advanced being from another galaxy who comes to earth and disguises himself as a human to stop mankind from destroying the universe. He assumes the identity of a Cambridge professor who’s on the verge of solving the mystery of prime numbers, giving humans the ability to exponentially expand their understanding of science, including space travel and the ability to avoid death.

It’s funny as heck. The story starts with the alien taking over the body of the math professor, Andrew Martin, who finds himself naked in the middle of the highway. As he tries to find his way back to Cambridge, he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about over him not wearing any clothes.

The alien (who remains nameless throughout the book) struggles mightily (and hilariously) in his efforts to understand humanity. He’s also under constant pressure from his superiors back on his home planet to finish his task as quickly as possible, which means having to kill several of the people who might have heard about the professor’s success in solving the math problem.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a story that tries to understand humanity from an alien’s perspective, but it is the most clever, most humorous, and even deepest effort yet. It feels like an important book — something that may end up as required reading in high schools.

I feel like a better human for reading it. I feel like I understand humans at least a little bit better. While our faults are glaring, our potential for good is extraordinary.

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