Review by Cathy White
Star rating: 5/5
An alien from the planet Vonnadoria inhabits Professor Andrew Martin’s body. Finding himself walking naked down the motorway, ignorant of all things human (including clothes, evidently), he learns to read by perusing a copy of Cosmopolitan in a service station.
Professor Martin - a mathematical genius at Cambridge University - has solved the Riemann Hypothesis; the secret of prime numbers. Vonnadorians, convinced this is the key to space travel, for which they don’t believe humans are responsible enough, sent one of their own to replace Professor Martin and destroy all traces of the solution, including anyone who knows the puzzle’s been solved.
Eventually getting ‘home’ to Professor Martin’s wife and teenage son, their ‘inside out’ appearance initially repulses the unnamed alien. However, as time goes on, an emotional attachment and fondness for them is developed, to the extent a note is written to Professor Martin’s son containing ninety-seven pieces of advice ranging from ‘You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life’s wonders’, to ‘Peanut butter sandwiches go perfectly well with a glass of white wine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise’.
Don’t let the prime numbers and aliens put you off – this isn’t a mathematical sci-fi novel; this is a hilariously wry, observational look at human behaviour: ‘They placed me inside a small room that was, in perfect accord with all human rooms, a shrine to the rectangle’, ‘… human history is full of inventions of things of which they have no idea how to handle (the atomic bomb, the Internet, the semi-colon)’.
This insightful, heartwarming and funny novel teeters between those lightbulb-flashing ‘oh yeah!’ moments to those ‘oh no!’ ones. It certainly makes you think about what it means to be human.
Cathy White was born in London and in a previous life held a variety of jobs including legal secretary and literary agent’s assistant. In 2009, she left the city for the sticks, emigrating to the Kent countryside where she lives in an 18th century ex-bakery with her boyfriend and cat. She blogs at www.cathywhite.co.uk, www.jog-blog.co.uk and www.planetveggie.co.uk.