Matt Haig (A&U Canongate) 2015, 154pp, RRP $12.99

Supposedly a phrase book, a dictionary and a guide to the strange life form that is the human, and apparently written to aid Vonnadorians who are to come to Earth for reasons never entirely made clear, this runs through common words used by the human to describe the mysterious things found on their small blue planet and the decidedly odd way in which they choose to run the place. Humans An A-Z - Matt Haig - A and U Canongate - The Clothesline

With a satirical, curiously compassionate and even romantic tone that suggests that Vonnadorians like humans, but remain puzzled and pretty grossed-out by them too, this offers definitions of key terms including:

boredom: A condition that rises in line with the development of the entertainment industry”

cat: Like a dog, but smaller, and without the self-esteem issues”

charity: A useful by-product of guilt”

disappointment A default setting”

gym: Torture chamber with willing volunteers”

joke: A side-effect of mortality”

neurosis: A prerequisite for artistic talent”

And, weirdly, “Leonardo da Vinci Vonnadorian Citizen 4362. Spent time on Earth during the Italian Renaissance”

Noting that humans have an inexplicably overpowering need to kill each other and hate themselves, their bodies and their desires, Haig’s sometimes bitingly funny book ultimately leaves you wondering if Vonnadorians will be so put off at the bizarre customs and behaviours of the human that they’ll stop coming here to study us, or preparing for invasion, or whatever. And fair enough if they did.

Dave Bradley

This title is available through Allen & Unwin. Click here to purchase your copy.

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