Hum: A Novel (Hardcover)

Hum: A Novel By Helen Phillips Cover Image

Hum: A Novel (Hardcover)


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From the National Book Award–longlisted author of The Need comes an extraordinary novel about a wife and mother who—after losing her job to AI—undergoes a procedure that renders her undetectable to surveillance…but at what cost?

In a city addled by climate change and populated by intelligent robots called “hums,” May loses her job to artificial intelligence. In a desperate bid to resolve her family’s debt and secure their future for another few months, she becomes a guinea pig in an experiment that alters her face so it cannot be recognized by surveillance.

Seeking some reprieve from her recent hardships and from her family’s addiction to their devices, she splurges on passes that allow them three nights’ respite inside the Botanical Garden: a rare green refuge where forests, streams, and animals flourish. But her insistence that her son, daughter, and husband leave their devices at home proves far more fraught than she anticipated, and the lush beauty of the Botanical Garden is not the balm she hoped it would be. When her children come under threat, May is forced to put her trust in a hum of uncertain motives as she works to restore the life of her family.

Written in taut, urgent prose, Hum is a work of speculative fiction that unflinchingly explores marriage, motherhood, and selfhood in a world compromised by global warming and dizzying technological advancement, a world of both dystopian and utopian possibilities. As New York Times bestselling author Jeff VanderMeer says, “Helen Phillips, in typical bravura fashion, has found a way to make visible uncomfortable truths about our present by interrogating the near-future.”
Helen Phillips is the author of five books, including the novel The Need, a National Book Award nominee and a New York Times Notable Book of 2019. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, and the Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction. Her collection Some Possible Solutions received the John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Her novel The Beautiful Bureaucrat, a New York Times Notable Book, was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her debut collection, And Yet They Were Happy, was named a notable collection by The Story Prize. An associate professor at Brooklyn College, she lives in Brooklyn with artist/cartoonist Adam Douglas Thompson and their children. Visit
Product Details ISBN: 9781668008836
ISBN-10: 1668008831
Publisher: S&S/ Marysue Rucci Books
Publication Date: August 6th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English
“An indelible family portrait and a narrative tour de force, Hum generates almost unbearable tension and unease from start to end. Stunning, strangely beautiful, and written from a place of deep compassion but also a clear and analytical eye. Helen Phillips, in typical bravura fashion, has found a way to make visible uncomfortable truths about our present by interrogating the near-future. I loved it.”

—Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times-bestselling author of Hummingbird Salamander



“Like parenthood itself, The Need is frightening and maddening and full of dark comedy…Phillips, as careful with language as she is bold with structure, captures many small sharp truths. She is very good on drudgery and tiredness and marital resentment... With forensic precision Phillips identifies the price a parent will pay for tuning out just for a second, because that will certainly be the second when someone rolls off the bed or gets a finger trapped in the door…Everyday life, here, is both tedious and fascinating, grotesque and lovely, familiar and tremendously strange.” NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (EDITORS’ CHOICE)

“Brilliant...It’s not hard to see why high-wattage contemporaries like Lauren Groff and Emily St. John Mandel have lavished praise…a sort of narrative nesting doll, a story infused with both essential home truths and a wild, almost unhinged sense of unreality....What Helen Phillips (The Beautiful Bureaucrat) builds from the first paragraphs is too clever, and moves too quickly, to be easily ground down in a review. Even the vaguely unfinished ending, less a full stop than a sort of pregnant pause, feels somehow right; a fitting coda to her spare, eerie marvel of novel, both beautifully familiar and profoundly strange. (A–)”—ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“If the challenges of parenting young children have ever driven you to the brink, you’ll recognize what’s happening to Molly Nye—for about 10 pages. This fever dream of a novel starts like a thriller (someone’s in the living room), morphs into speculative sci-fi (the intruder is from a separate universe) and ends up like nothing you’ve ever read before. In a good way.”—PEOPLE

“Molly’s struggle to remain her full self while giving so much of herself away is electrifying...Mothers will recognize so much in this fresh novel — but they aren’t the only ones who should read it. Phillips has found a way to make these experiences universal, acknowledging the importance of the other — the creature without whom none of us would exist.”—WASHINGTON POST

"A taut thriller…Between chills, readers will notice the pleasures of Phillips’s prose. Her style combines the sensibility of a poet with the forward drive of a thriller…Phillips’s crystalline style vividly evokes her characters. She draws them so precisely that before we know it, we’re deep inside their lives...[A] bewitching, fiercely original novel.”—BOSTON GLOBE

“Hyponotically eerie…An ode to motherhood and a nightmarish rendering of its ‘pleasures’ and pains…Phillips structures her astonishing fifth book in edge-of-your-seat mini-chapters that infuse domesticity with a horror-movie level of foreboding, reminding us that the maternal instinct is indeed a primal one.” —LEIGH HABER, O MAGAZINE

"The Need is a taut, thrilling rendering of motherhood at its most psychologically terrifying."VANITY FAIR