Tuesday, 28 January 2014
The Humans by Matt Haig
(An illogical hope in the face of overwhelming adversity)
I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist.
This preface is meant to establish the fact that this is partly sci-fi. Obviously, if the narrator is talking about humans as if they are aliens to aliens, that then means...yes, the narrator must be an alien to humans! The satire, I mean preface, continues for another page and reminds me of The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human, though not as funny. If this premise was new and fresh and had never been done before then this opening line would be powerful, direct, shocking even. I don't know, but to begin with irony like this doesn't bode well. It feels forced.
I took my power in my hand
Chapter 1 [Not identified as such]
The man I was not
So, what is this?
So this is what we can expect from this book: tone and mood, man. Attitude. The priority of this writer is to get the narrator's tone down, man, before establishing character and conflict. Maybe the thinking was that the premise would be enough to keep the reader reading? Unfortunately, we don't read book blurbs at this blog. Next line:
What's with all the questions? I thought the reader was the one who was supposed to be asking the questions that a good beginning with a hook raises. Next line:
Okay, got it. Next line:
Okay, inhaling - though I don't need to be told. On the plus side, this little build up to god knows what is amusing. And the next line:
I will tell you.
I exhale with a few milligrams of annoyance. This line equals preamble and more tone and mood, man.
The premise might hook some people, hell even most people, but taking the premise on it's own - an alien anthropologist/traveler/whatever to Earth etc.- doesn't hook me. This has been done before - a lot. So it has to have something else. Perhaps a murder that the alien is forced to solve as he gets the hang of human ways? That would be cool, but there is no such plot line in the opening pages, only preamble and set up.
So I move on to the next book. I just don't want to waste my time reading X number of pages before it actually gets interesting with character and conflict. (Actually the narrator wonders where to start the story at the end of chapter 1 and then announces that he is starting the story in chapter 2) So, if you want the story, the book starts at chapter 2. If you want tone and mood, man, you can begin at the beginning, though that is so passé nowadays.
There is only so much tone and mood and setting and premise a reader can take, before it starts to taste funny, like eating a concoction of spices without any meat, fruit or vegetables.
But to be fair, the narrator isn't telling the story to humans on Earth, but to aliens of his own kind. So maybe they like their story beginnings oozing with tone and mood and setting and preamble and think character and conflict (things happening to people - or aliens) is way overrated. If that was the intended effect, it's clever. The next story I write I will write for aliens so if anyone says that it sucks I can say. "Ha, but it isn't intended for you. Only my very own fictional aliens can appreciate my work!"
First thing said:
"It's a miracle."
Yes, that I actually got this far. The end.