Monday, July 07, 2008


The Host, Stephenie Meyer, Little Brown and Company, 2008, 619 pp

In her first novel for adults, Stephenie Meyer, author of the wildly popular Twilight series, delves into sci fi. It is the sort of sci fi that anyone could like because it is about people and their interactions, something like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. In fact, I was amused to see a sci fi novel take #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks in a row.

Thank goodness that she is a good storyteller because the writing is just OK, as it was in Twilight. She repeats herself and draws out the tension too long. I had to gulp down all 600 pages in a weekend because I was assigned by my boss at the bookstore to read it and rule on whether we could sell it to our teenage customers. (We can. No explicit sex, no gratuitous violence, though as in Twilight, plenty of sexual tension and rough stuff and injuries. It is one of Meyer's feats that she can do sex and violence without upsetting the YA censors.)

A race of outer space beings, known as souls, has invaded earth. No war or weapons are involved. They take over human bodies, replacing the personality while using the body as a "host." The emotions, senses and memories of the original person are left intact but the humans naturally feel invaded and look on these souls as parasites.

Melanie is invaded by Wanderer but in this case, she fights back hard and the two female personalities just about equally share one mind and one body. Melanie had a brother and a lover before the invasion and she convinces Wanderer to search until they are found.

Some humans have escaped capture and live literally underground in caves. Wanderer/Melanie find Jamie (the brother) and Jared (the lover) in such a hideout. At this point in the story, events get more tense than ever. The souls' purpose in coming to Earth is to bring peace to a violent and warlike planet, but that's a dicey proposition since human beings don't like being told how to behave by an outside influence.

Stephenie Meyer has amazing powers of imagination in all this and in the way she moves the story through all the conflict. I liked how Melanie and Wanderer become best friends. Imagine if you had an imaginary friend in your mind who was a fully realized personality. The ideas here include honor, courage and sacrifice in dealing with love, loyalty and anger. The theme is that love conquers all and is handled without sentimentality or melodrama though with plenty of drama. Pretty impressive actually, if you can stick with it for over 600 pages.

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