Friday, October 24, 2008
Stephanie Meyer breaks away from her vampire romance juggernaut to introduce a new story involving alien parasites called "souls"- shiny centipede looking species, that invade planets around the universe, take over the dominant species and, in their altruistic view, make them better.
As they overtake Earth, and secretly begin invading the bodies of humans, relationships are torn apart as loved ones bodies remain in tact, but the person inside is replaced with a higher evolved and peace-loving soul - the only physical evidence of takeover being eyes that are now reflective. Humans struggling to remain human take desperate measures to hide and survive. Melanie Stryder and her younger brother, Jamie, both human, are discovered stealing food when another rogue human, Jared, discovers them. Jared and Melanie form an intense bond and the three become a tight-knit family. When Melanie is discovered by a Seeker, a member of this alien race whose main purpose is to discover, catch and transform any remaining humans, her body become inhabited by a soul who goes by the name of Wanderer. Wanderer struggles to control Melanie's being as flashes of Melanie's memories, feelings and urges all complicate the normally peaceful process. Eventually, Wanderer chooses to leave her peaceful peers and, using Melanie's memories, discovers where Jared and Jamie are now hiding with other human rebels.
First of all, this book should never have been given the title The Host. The host is Melanie and this is not Melanie's story. It is Wanda's (the name Wanderer is eventually shortened to). Melanie is a strong character and certainly influences the direction of the plot, but as Wanda is developed more and more, and establishes her own relationships with supporting characters, the conflict, climax and resolution all focus on Wanda and her journey. Call it The Wanderer. Or The Soul. Or The Beautiful Shiny Centipede-looking thing.
Secondly, the entire story was too long. Wanda, separate from Melanie, falls in love with another human, Ian. But she looks like Melanie and is influenced by Melanie's feelings so she's attracted to Jared. Jared hates Wanda, because she essentially killed the woman he loved. Except that she looks like Melanie. And he is attracted to Melanie. Ian falls in love with Wanda, and her gentle altruism, and becomes convinced he'd be attracted to Wanda regardless of what form she takes - even her shiny centipede form. I don't think so, but Ian was one of those good-all-the-time-guys so...I guess. Ergo conflict. Jared-Melanie-Ian. Jared-Wanda-Ian. Wanda-Melanie-Ian. Wanda- Melanie-Jared. I found this love triangle storyline interesting and complicated. Unfortunately, it was too drawn out alongside several other different story lines, including Wanda's life being in danger from angry humans, Wanda's realization that her species was wrong to eradicate human beings, descriptions of Wanda sleeping on hard dirt (again and again), the angry Seeker who inexplicably won't go away, the plot to get medicine, the plot to get food, the plot to recover other humans, the plot give Melanie her body back and on and on and on. By its end, I was tired. Overloaded with perhaps interesting, but too much, information. The idea of sequels makes me shudder.
If it sounds like I'm Stephanie Meyer bashing, I'm not. I think she comes up with unbelievably original ideas. I simply don't like how she tells them. I think her stories are better suited for movies, or - if she would really, really try - shorter books. There should be a really good reason to justify publishing over 600 pages and this doesn't seem to have one. Except that all parties involved must have known that based on the Twilight series success, this book would sell like hotcakes. Why not make it heavy and charge more?
In the end, this is an average book. Not awful but not great. For me, the ride ends here.