The premise for this novel, though not original, is skilfully, even lovingly pursued: an alien comes to Earth, disguises himself as a native, and struggles to work his way through the human condition. Along the way he makes many wry and insightful observations.
Taking the form of Professor Andrew Martin, mathematician at Cambridge University, the story opens with a very disoriented, cold and naked professor walking alongside a English motorway. Not surprisingly he is struck by a car. Question Number One for our alien: why are humans so preoccupied with clothing?
This is only the first of many baffling experiences. Soon after he experiences television news and reflects: "The term 'news' on Earth generally means 'news that directly affects humans'. There is, quite literally, nothing about the antelope, or the sea-horse or the red-eared slider turtle or the other nine million species on the planet." He goes on to bewail the peculiar prioritizing of news items. "There is nothing on new mathematical observations or still undiscovered polygons, but quite a bit about politics which on this planet is essentially all about war and money."
Fortunately the alien known as Andrew Martin begins to find redeeming features in humanity and looks for excuses to delay the executions. Initially he is repulsed by the human condition which includes pain, imperfection and death but gradually comes to realize that only from such restraints can love and beauty grow.
16. Tragedy is just comedy that hasn't come to fruition. One day we will laugh at this. We will laugh at everything.
33. You are not the most intelligent creature in the universe. You are not even the most intelligent creature on your planet. The tonal language in the song of the humpback whale displays more complexity than the entire works of Shakespeare. It is not a competion. Well, it is. But don't worry about it.
44. You have the power to stop time. You do it by kissing. Or listening to music. Music, by the way, is how you see things you can't otherwise see. It is the most advanced thing you have.
57. There are lots of idiots in your species. Lots and lots. You are not one of them. Hold your ground.
Oh, and one last thing: one of the novel's principal characters is a dog, named Newton. For some of you, this will be will be the deciding factor in making you read this book.
9/10 highly recommended