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.