Friday, October 21, 2016

The Humans

I loved The Humans. I really loved it. The unnamed alien narrator was brilliant. I thought every bit of his comments about life on Earth were spot on and hilarious. Some observations from the narrator (who is Andrew, but not really Andrew), are just funny: "unfathomably pointless eyebrows"; but also true: "The manners and social customs too are a baffling enigma at first. Their conversation topics are very rarely the things they want to be talking about." Matt Haig created a compelling, interesting, complex character, who has to deal with our complex world.

Many of the quotes really hit me, especially in the currently global and political state. Or societal state. Or feminism: "I could write ninety-seven books on body shame and clothing etiquette before you would get even close to understanding them."

Matt Haig wrote The Humans from the perspective of an alien visitor, who has taken on human form, and is trying to fit in, though he also has a pretty awful mission. In his trying to fulfill his mission, we the see the world from the outside, in. I wonder if The Humans might contain everything that has ever made Haig frustrated about life in our world.

"Oh, and let’s not forget The Things They Do To Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable. This is an infinite list. It includes – shopping, watching TV, taking the better job, getting the bigger house, writing a semi-autobiographical novel, educating their young, making their skin look mildly less old, and harbouring a vague desire to believe there might be a meaning to it all."

There are just so many quotes. I have not highlighted so much from a novel since University (not that I highlighted the actual novel). Most of these are from the beginning of the novel when the alien is trying to figure out human life.  With the idea that they are being said by an alien impersonating a human, they are just so insightful. They are blunt and honest. It is the main character's honesty and innocence (ignorance?) that had me from the beginning. I also couldn't help but think, this super advanced civilization sending an alien to live among us, they couldn't have coached him better? Or given him clothes? The beginning would have been less funny, though.

The journey that not-Andrew goes through though, is just amazing. He knows nothing, but also everything. He learns so much, he moves beyond the numbers. Not-Andrew is amazed with what he is capable of. The Humans is really one of the best books I've read this year (so far). It's funny, but layered with emotion. I really didn't know what was going to happen at the end.

So here are way more quotes than I think I've ever included in a post before, but I just love them. I also tried not to include anything spoilery.

"Once there, I had several immediate reactions. First, what was with the weather? I was not really used to weather you had to think about. But this was England, a part of Earth where thinking about the weather was the chief human activity."

(I'm sure the English really appreciated this one. Also, weather is also a hot topic in Canada.)

"This was, I would later realise, a planet of things wrapped inside things. Food inside wrappers. Bodies inside clothes. Contempt inside smiles."

"Understandably, a human needs to know what kind of book they are about to read. They need to know if it is a love story. Or a murder story. Or a story about aliens. There are other questions, too, that humans have in bookstores. Such as, is it one of those books they read to feel clever, or one of those they will pretend never to have read in order to stay looking clever? Will it make them laugh, or cry? Or will it simply force them to stare out of the window watching the tracks of raindrops? Is it a true story? Or is it a false one? Is it the kind of story that will work on their brain or one which aims for lower organs? Is it one of those books that ends up acquiring religious followers or getting burned by them? Is it a book about mathematics or – like everything else in the universe – simply because of it?"

"Yes, there are lots of questions. And even more books. So, so many. Humans in their typical human way have written far too many to get through. Reading is added to that great pile of things – work, love, sexual prowess, the words they didn’t say when they really needed to say them – that they are bound to feel a bit dissatisfied about."

(I love the quotes about books!)

"Humans, as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead. But the definition of mad, on Earth, seems to be very unclear and inconsistent. What is perfectly sane in one era turns out to be insane in another. The earliest humans walked around naked with no problem. Certain humans, in humid rainforests mainly, still do so. So, we must conclude that madness is sometimes a question of time, and sometimes of postcode."

"Basically, the key rule is, if you want to appear sane on Earth you have to be in the right place, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and only stepping on the right kind of grass."

"She came to see me in my room, while a nurse watched. It was, of course, another test. Everything in human life was a test. That was why they all looked so stressed out."

"Remember, during your mission, never to become influenced or corrupted. The humans are an arrogant species, defined by violence and greed. They have taken their home planet, the only one they currently have access to, and placed it on the road to destruction. They have created a world of divisions and categories and have continually failed to see the similarities between themselves. They have developed technology at a rate too fast for human psychology to keep up with, and yet they still pursue advancement for advancement’s sake, and for the pursuit of the money and fame they all crave so much."

"As well as religion, human history is full of depressing things like colonisation, disease, racism, sexism, homophobia, class snobbery, environmental destruction, slavery, totalitarianism, military dictatorships, inventions of things which they have no idea how to handle (the atomic bomb, the Internet, the semi-colon), the victimisation of clever people, the worshipping of idiotic people, boredom, despair, periodic collapses, and catastrophes within the psychic landscape. And through it all there has always been some truly awful food."

"Where we are from there are no comforting delusions, no religions, no impossible fiction."

"A human life is on average 80 Earth years or around 30,000 Earth days. Which means they are born, they make some friends, eat a few meals, they get married, or they don’t get married, have a child or two, or not, drink a few thousand glasses of wine, have sexual intercourse a few times, discover a lump somewhere, feel a bit of regret, wonder where all the time went, know they should have done it differently, realise they would have done it the same, and then they die. Into the great black nothing. Out of space. Out of time."

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