If you haven't already guessed, my favorite annual literature awards are the Edgar Allen Poe Awards. affectionately known as the Edgars. Presented annually by the Mystery Writers of America in New York City, the Edgars seek to acknowledge the very best in mystery fiction and non-fiction writing. They have been doing so since the 1940s and when a book wins an Edgar, you can be sure it is some damned fine reading. There are at least a dozen different Edgar categories, from best novel to young adult to best first novel. Reading every Edgar nominee in any given year would require a dedication beyond this blogger's capabilities. But I do try to read the books nominated for Best Novel.
The 2014 Edgar Awards Ceremony is slated for May 1, and since no one invited me to the real thing this year (what the hell? I'm sure my tickets just got lost in the mail, right?) I'm holding my own Personal Edgar Awards for Best Novel right here this week.
This year, there were six nominees in the Best Novel category. Two of the nominees, Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin and How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny were books in a series and - for my purposes - off the table. Because you know how I feel about reading a series of books out of order. It simply is not done. That left four books for me to read.
The Humans explores a premise most of us have probably day-dreamed about at some point or another: if alien races really do exist, what would humans seem like to them? In Haig's novel, we find out. And it isn't flattering. When an alien arrives on Earth, taking over the body of mathematician Professor Andrew Martin, his mission is to prevent the good professor from completing a mathematical proof that would change the course of our world and provide mankind with technology that we clearly are not ready or capable of using responsibly. Our alien visitor recounts his mission here, in Haig's novel, and the reader is treated to a glimpse of mankind from an extraterrestrial viewpoint.
Often amusing, but just as often heartbreaking and poignant, The Humans brutally exposes humanity's worst weaknesses but also our greatest strengths. And as "Professor Martin" discovers that being human fundamentally means having a capacity for love, his mission on Earth is compromised and the choices he must make could be fatal - even for an immortal extraterrestrial.
What the "Professor" learns during his time on Earth is, of course, what makes this novel worth reading.....
“Human life, I realized, got progressively worse as you got older, by the sound of things. You arrived, with baby feet and hands and infinite happiness, and then the happiness slowly evaporated as your feet and hands grew bigger. And then, from the teenage years onward, happiness was something you could lose your grip of, and once it started to slip, it gained mass. It was as if the knowledge that it could slip was the thing that made it more difficult to hold, no matter how big your feet and hands were.”So while I very much enjoyed the book, ultimately my question was this: what in the hell was it doing here in the Edgar nominee list? There was no mystery here. Not really much of a thriller element either. I'm still scratching my head.
The Humans is a great novel and I'd recommend it, but for my own Personal Edgar Awards going on here, it's coming in dead last place in the Best Novel Category. (Who nominated this book anyway?)
Tune in tomorrow for a closer look at another Edgar nominee. Hopefully the next one will actually be a mystery novel.