Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Host: A Novel

By Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer and I, we have a complicated relationship. The minute I pick up one of her books, I simply cannot put it down. The kids fry their brains on TV and subsist on cold cereal. The husband, dismayed, comes home to hastily thrown-together dinners of boxed mac-and-cheese and tortilla chips. The housework is neglected to an embarrassing extent.

It is only after I finish the books and emerge from the Meyer’s hormone-fueled fantasy worlds that I regain the capacity for rational thought. It is only then that the flaws in her books start to nag at me, and I start to feel ever-so-slightly sheepish for having been so obsessed. Apparently, reading a Stephenie Meyer book is like a drug trip for me…not that I’ve ever been on one.

That pretty much describes my experience with The Host, Meyer’s book about an alien parasite. Wanderer is that parasite, and she has been placed in the body of one of the few remaining uninfested humans in hopes that Wanderer might be able to winnow from her host’s mind the secret of the rebels’ hideout. Instead, Wanderer finds herself becoming enthralled by her host Melanie’s memories of love and humanity, and before she knows it, Wanderer is on her way to join the humans.

Now for the flaws, as I see them. Meyer’s descriptions can be quite repetitive; for example, every time Wanderer/Melanie touches their true love Jared, she is on fire, or enflamed, or engulfed in heat, you get the idea (kind of like pale/alabaster/white in Twilight). The book keeps telling us that Wanderer is a strong character, but her actions and thoughts seldom came across as strong to me. Then, too, by tackling alien parasites, Meyer is inviting comparisons to some classics. Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters and Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (yes, I know, not technically parasites, but close enough) come to mind. In their company, The Host, unfortunately, comes across as kind of cheesy.

And thus my quandary: so it’s not great literature, but getting swept up in a book is something special. Don’t we all read to recapture that thrill we had when we first read Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings or [insert favorite book here]? And so I’ll compromise, giving The Host a solid three stars.

I only wish that I could put my finger on what exactly makes Meyer’s books so readable. If I could, I’d be writing my own books and rolling around in money at this very minute.


Ben and Christina said...

I found the idea of The Host quite entertaining, but the execution of the plot quite lacking. I thought about 25 chapters could have been taken out- it seemed to just drag on and on and on. And, I really did not like the end- it was as if she put in three epilogues, which were completely unneeded and should have been cut, simply because she wanted to set the book up for a sequel.
But, like you, I find there is something in her simple writing style that makes for an entertaining read, even if in the end I come away disappointed.

Lula O said...

Are hastily thrown together dinners allowed even when you're not reading an enthralling book...gasp? I so totally agree. Our husbands should form a support group for when their wives cannot be torn from the page. But hey, it's better than a soap opera right? Oh....some books are soap operas..hmm..well, I don't know then.

Great review! Don't know if I'm going to read it, but still, funny stuff.

The Bradfords said...

Stephanie, you're hysterical. I love the last paragraph of your review. Let me know if you figure that out, because I want some of that money, as well.

Stephanie said...

Yes, yes, yes! I was itching to take a red pen to some of the longer passages, too!

Support group, yes. As long as I don't have to join Readers' Anonymous. My name is Stephanie, and I have a problem...

And when I figure out The Secret of Writing Best-Sellers, all of you may be in my entourage. :)

Tanja said...

This book was harder for me to read than Meyer's other books,but she obviously has talent if you can't help but read it. I see it as a person who tries to diet, but someone lays chocolate chip cookies in fromt of them. You can't help but like her books. Even if you don't want to admit it or if she has cheesy lines.