What we thought: This is a tough one to get right. Too practical and it becomes geeky. Too sentimental and it becomes mawkish. Matt Haig’s tale of the alien who comes to Earth to smother certain information treads that line with near-perfect balance.
Our narrator, an alien sent on this mission as a punishment, observes the Humans in a similar tone to Mork and Mindy. He’s assumed the form of a middle-aged maths professor and with the body comes a wife, son, job and dog. Like all aliens to another culture, at first he is repulsed and yearns to complete his duty and return home.
Yet as he grows to understand this ugly race with their facial protruberances, he begins to see nuance and his clinical observations gain a philosophical note.
Some great comic moments with shades of darkness and touching insight combine to convey a sinister premise in a light tone. Imagine The Terminator directed by Richard Curtis.
It’s touching and likeable and provokes some put-down-the-book-and-think moments.
You’ll enjoy this if you liked: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, the work of Matt Haig
Avoid if you don’t like: Philosophical insights on the human condition, some swearing and mathematics
Ideal accompaniments: Peanut butter sandwiches, a glass of Pimms and Holst’s The Planets in the background
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Available on Amazon