The Humans by Matt Haig

Professor Andrew Martin is gone, and his body has been taken over by an alien.  This alien has been sent to earth by his planet because Professor Martin made an incredible mathematical discovery that could change the world and the alien race don’t believe humans can cope with the advances this will result in. After all, we are a selfish, greedy, violent species.

The Humans was published in 2013 and written by Matt Haig. Matt Haig is a British novelist who has written for both children and adult books, fiction and non-fiction (Reasons to Stay Alive is in my ‘to read’ pile). 

I’m really struggling to express how this book made me feel and what I thought of it. Not great for a book review really. When I started reading this book I expected a standard sci-fi book. Alien comes to earth and strange things happen. The end. This book is so much more. It’s been a week and I keep finding myself thinking about it. The Humans is an incredible novel exploring what it is to be human. It points out our failings, but also the good in us. With everything that is currently going on in the world, this is a beautiful novel that gave me hope in humanity and reminded me that there is good out there. 

It was strange reading a book where the narrator didn’t have his own identity or name, but it worked. I struggled to put it down and constantly wanted to read more. Exploring the different relationships Martin had, and other people’s perception of him made me reflect on my relationships and how I could be perceived. 

Of all the books out there asking what it is to be human and the meaning of life, I never expected a sci-fi book about an alien to be the one that came closest to answering those questions. 

This was beautifully written and I genuinely felt moved by it. I honestly think that this is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time and I’m sure it will be one that is re-read. 

First Man In by Anthony Middleton

I got introduced to Ant (as he is known) on the most reason series of SAS: Who Dares Wins. When I saw that he had a book coming out I was quite interested to read it and learn about his time in the military so I made sure to reserve it at my local library.

The front of the book states “Sniper. Soldier. Survivor” I was intrigued about what I was going read. Is he going to talk about his work as a sniper, what it was like to be a soldier or how he survived fighting in the military? I was slightly disappointed by what I found. Yes the book is an autobiography, yes Middleton talks about what it’s like to take a life (right at the beginning in fact), but the stories are all based around examples of leadership. There doesn’t appear to be any depth to the stories – I think I may have been spoilt by what I’ve read of Bravo Two Zero. 

Don’t get me wrong, the book is very good – it reads like Middleton is talking to you and giving advice, it’s about the qualities of a good leader and how to be one. But rather than be a ‘full’ autobiography, it’s just a handful of examples from Middleton’s life where he has shown good leadership skills, in fact each chapter ends with bullet points summarising the lessons in the chapter. This is less an autobiography and more a self help book for someone trying to learn how to lead – and even then some of the advice is… well, different to that given in other books (stand looking in a mirror and list every negative attribute you have, really tear yourself down etc…).

Middleton is honest and upfront about the mistakes that he has made in life, and shows that it is possible to turn your life around. I was quite surprised by a lot of what he’s gone through and he didn’t shy away from sharing incidents that paint him in a less than positive light. 

However I feel short changed. I don’t think this book should be advertised as an autobiography, it doesn’t feel like there is enough there. It is definitely a book for the self help section. It was easy to read and I read it quickly but it’s not a book that I feel compelled to buy so that I have my own copy, nor one I want to read again.