Tag Archives: Matt Haig

How To Stop Time

How To Stop Time

by Matt Haig

by Matt Haig

This is my third venture into the rather off-centre world of Matt Haig and it was every bit as enjoyable as the previous books. Whilst deeply entrenched in the realms of science fiction and fantasy, this book (as well as the other two I have read) don’t really fit in the genre at all.

It is not uncommon for Sci-Fi writers to delve into the workings of the human psyche, they usually reserve most of their time for the mechanics and “big question” stuff. Not Matt Haig. His books concentrate on what it is to be human, the frailties and strengths that make us what we are. They just happen to have a fantasy or Sci-Fi theme to hold it together.

In How To Stop Time, Matt Haig introduces us to time travel, but not as you might expect. Tom Hazard has a rare condition that slows down the ageing process. He looks 41 but he is actually over 400 hundred years old. He is not unique, there are others like him, but they work very hard to keep their existence a secret. After all, when people come across something they don’t understand, they inevitably want to destroy it. Trying to survive against the superstitions of 16th century England is not going to be easy.

The book wanders about a little, with continual flashbacks to various points during Tom’s life. To keep his secret Tom has had to keep moving, and over the centuries he has travelled a lot and seen more than any one person should. Needless to say, I really love this approach. There is something tongue in cheek about the whole thing that just adds another level to the story.

The book raises the question about life and longevity. Would any of us really want to live forever? How would we cope with watching everyone and everything we love grow old and die before us? How can you possibly hope to love, knowing that it will inevitably break your heart? Seeking eternal life is nothing new, it features in the mythology of almost every race and civilisation. It is a subject that has fascinated mankind since time immemorial. For Tom, it takes four centuries to come to terms with the grief of losing the people he held most dear – his mother and his wife, Rosie. His entanglement with the mysterious Albatros Society appears to offer him a reason for living and a distraction, but even there, all is not as it seems.

Matt Haig has a unique way of viewing the world and I was as intrigued by this book I was the previous three. I look forward to reading more in the future.

 

 

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

by Matt Haig

It is difficult to know where to start with this book. Not that The Midnight Library is a bad book; far from it. Matt Haig is one of those writers who is able to take the most absurd sounding premise and turn it into something a little magical. 

Despite the story being about a young woman who decides to kill herself, The Midnight Library is full of humour and compassion. There is a serious thread that runs through the book, with Matt Haig drawing our attention to the absurdities and pressures of modern life.

Nora Seed is a troubled soul. Her life is littered with unfulfilled ambitions and abandoned dreams. Now in her mid-thirties, with her life going nowhere, Nora is determined to end it all.

With her body lying prone across her bed, Nora finds herself in a strange library, overseen by her old school Librarian, Mrs Elm, who is her guide through the mysteries of this between-world place. The books that line the endless shelves are windows into the different realities that could have been her life. It seems that Nora has been given an opportunity to undo past regrets and to see how life might have been if she had made different choices. 

As she experiences different versions of herself and her life, it becomes clear that not all her dreams were without price. For every new path she takes, unforeseen consequences lead her to question when she really wants from life.

An much like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Nora Seed slowly becomes aware of her own worth and the true impact of her life on those around her. 

The Midnight Library is a funny and enlightening look at human frailties. I love the way Matt Haig makes the reader stop and think about themselves and their own actions and interactions. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to my next. 

The Humans

by Matt Haig

The Humans opens with Professor Andrew Martin walking naked through the wet streets of Cambridge. To say he is not feeling himself at that moment is something of an understatement. In more ways than one, he really isn’t himself.

The Andrew Martin that his family and friends know is no more. In his place is a very different Professor Martin for whom clothes are a mystery and food and drink sickening. Even his lovely wife and teenage son he finds repulsive.

For Andrew Martin is literally not of this world. He has been replaced by an alien sent to Earth with a simple mission – to prevent the dissemination of Professor Martin’s recent discovery by whatever means necessary. 

As a life-long reader of science fiction, I am quite at home with the concept of alien abductions, body snatchers and close encounters. They are de rigueur as far as sci-fi goes. What I am not used to is coming across these plots in a book that is very clearly not of that genre. “Humans” is not a science fiction story, just a thought-provoking and witty tale whose narrator just happens to come from another galaxy.

I have read plenty of books where we see alien life from the human perspective, but never before have I been asked to view humans from the alien point-of-view, at least not si directly.

Matt Haig’s unique approach is both funny and profound. As out unnamed alien discovers for itself, humans are much more complicated than a quick glance at our history or new headlines might imply. Certainly, there is more to humanity than conflict and greed. You just need to get up close to see it.

Although I was a little uncertain at first I very quickly realised that the odd nature of the book was one of it’s most compelling attractions. The inner conflict between the new Andrew Martin’s mission and his newly discovered humanity give the story its impetus. It is well written, very funny and ultimately revealing about human nature.

This book may not be for everyone – I know many people may find the concept of an alien amongst us difficult to deal with – but I found it very engaging and enjoyable.