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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

"The humans" by Matt Haig

A human has successfully proved the Riemann Hypothesis. An extra-terrestrial alien is sent to Earth, to assume the form of the successful Professor, and to destroy any evidence that the Hypothesis has been proved, or even that it can be proved. To do this he has to kill anyone to whom the Professor might have told.

But even aliens take some time to learn how to behave like humans. And it is from this that the book derives a great deal of humour. But also, the 'man from Mars' perspective, enables Matt Haig to make some wonderful observations about the human condition.

So this book has it all: a clever plot, some wonderful characters, a lot of laughs and some piercing insights into what life is all about.

There are good descriptions:

  • She took a deep breath, as if the question was something she had to swim under.” (p 53)
  • It was a smile on top of something else.” (p 82)
  • "He was almost devoid of neck and his eyes were so close together he was borderline cyclopic." (p 189)

There are moments of satire:

  • Magazines: “their chief purpose is to generate a sense of inferiority in the reader that consequently leads them needing to buy something, which they do, and then feel even worse, and so need to buy another magazine to see what they can buy next. It is an eternal and unhappy spiral that goes by the name of capitalism.” (p 14)
  • I like violent men. I don't know why. It's a kind of self-harm thing. I go to Peterborough a lot. Rich pickings.” (p 42)
  • Luckily for Professor Andrew Martin, the football team he supported was Cambridge United, one of those which successfully avoided the perils and existential trauma of victory.” (p 142)
  • "Catholicism, I discovered, was a type of Christianity for humans who like gold leaf, Latin and guilt." (p 217)

But most of all there are moments of wonderful perception:

  • On Earth you have to spend a lot of time travelling in between places, be it on roads or on rail-tracks or in careers or relationships.” (p 7)
  • This was, I would later realise, a planet of things wrapped inside things. Food inside wrappers. Bodies inside clothes. Contempt inside smiles. Everything was hidden away.” (p 13)
  • By the time they had read enough books to actually reach a state of knowledge where they can do anything with it they are dead.” (p 18)
  • Humans, as a rule, don't like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead.” (p 32)
  • He wrote me a prescription for more diazepam and advised I take things ‘one day at a time’, as if there were another way for days to be experienced.” (p 45)
  • To be a human is to state the obvious. Repeatedly, over and over, until the end of time.” (p 78)
  • Listening to music, I realised, was simply the pleasure of counting without realising you were counting.” (p 99)
  • For her being a parent is standing on a shore and watching her child in a vulnerable craft, heading out over deeper and deeper water, hoping but not knowing there will be land somewhere ahead.” (p 138)
  • I saw him, this messed-up, sensitive boy and felt, for a moment, the exhausted wonder of his father.” (p 173)
  • "I have to admit that humans waste a lot of their time - almost all of it - with hypothetical stuff. I could be rich. I could be famous. ... They must exercise the conditional tense more than any other known life form." (p 179)
  • "Just as dogs were thwarted wolves, parks were thwarted forests. Humans loved both, possibly because humans were, well, thwarted." (p 185)
  • "Some humans not only liked violence but craved it, I realised. Not because they wanted pain, but because they already had pain and wanted to be distracted away from that kind of pain with a lesser kind." (p 190)
  • "If getting drunk was how people forgot they were mortal, then hangovers were how they remembered." (p 204)
  • "Two mirrors, opposite and facing each other at perfectly parallel angles, viewing themselves through the other, the view as deep as infinity. Yes, that was what love was for." (p 209)
  • Fruit machines are "aimed at men whose fascination with flashing squares of light was coupled with a poor grasp of probability theory." (p 229)
  • "That is how humans grow old. That is ultimately what creases their faces and curves their backs and shrinks their mouths and ambitions." (p 259)
  • "That was part of being human, I discovered. It was about knowing which lies to tell, and when to tell them. To love someone is to lie to them." (p 261)
  • "Lies were everywhere on this planet, but true love had its name for a reason." (p 263)
  • "You had to stay consistent to life's delusions. All you had was your perspective, so objective truth was meaningless. You had to choose a dream and stick with it." (p 264)
  • "History is a branch of mathematics. So is literature. But economics is a branch of religion." (p 271)
  • "Your life will have 25,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them." (p 271)
  • "Wear clothes by all means, but remember they are clothes." (p 272)
  • "If there is a sunset, stop and look at it. Knowledge is finite. Wonder is infinite." (p 272)
  • "Everyone is a comedy. If people are laughing at you they just don't quite understand that the joke is themselves." (p 273)
  • "That girl you are on the phone to. There will be others. But I hope she is nice." (p 274)
  • "If you think something is ugly, look harder. Ugliness is just a failure of seeing." (p 276)
  • "Do not fall for categories. Everyone is everything. Every ingredient inside a star is inside you, and every personality that ever existed competes in the theatre of your mind for the main role." (p 276)

Wow! September 2018; 291 pages

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