Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Host — Stephenie Meyer

Leave it to Stephenie Meyer to write something that forces me out of my book review slump. It's been months, and around ten books have gone uncriticized. Hopefully, with summer approaching, this will change.

But back to business. Meyer's first book outside of her unfathomably successful (and addicting) Twilight saga, as well as her first novel geared toward adults, has immediately found what I assume will be a lasting home on the New York Times bestseller list. People are unabashedly drawn to this Mormon housewife's thrilling narratives, and it's getting less and less embarrassing to admit it. Stephenie Meyer is taking over the world.

The Host
branches away from mere fantasy fluff and into the more socially relevant realm of science fiction: aliens, space ships, a struggle for humans to survive. What sounds like regular, run-of-the-mill 60's Sci-Fi movie plot devices are actually a basis for one of the most interesting and emotional stories about love and loyalty that I've ever come across in modern fiction—fantasy or otherwise.

The plot is as such: An alien race known as Souls come to Earth and take over the human race, using the bodies as hosts. The human minds are extinguished while the Souls—an entirely "non-violent" race—live to rid the world of all violence and sickness. Wanderer, a Soul living her 9th life, but first one on Earth, finds that her host, Melanie Stryder, is unwilling to fade away; Melanie remains as a voice in Wanderer's head, reliving her memories and emotions, forcing Wanderer to develop passionate and unnerving feelings about a past that was never hers. She "remembers" Jamie, Melanie's younger brother, and Jared, the love of of Melanie's life. Wanderer and Melanie become unwilling allies, yearning for the same man, and inevitably Wanderer consents to allow Melanie to lead her in a search for the family she knows are still in hiding.

And that's just the first 100 pages or so. And that is a simplified explanation. The next 500 pages reveal more remarkable characters, along with painfully conflicting kinds of love and loss that make this an intensely thought-provoking book. The Host, essentially, is an ode to the complexity of the human condition. The power of emotions, the strength of family bonds, and the irony of a fight for peace.

The strength of Stephenie Meyer's writing, aside from her ability to tell damn good stories, is how she enables the reader to feel exactly how the narrator does, every step of the way. When Wanderer is in pain, in love, feeling sadness or joy, we are right there along with her, and the confusion in her heart is reflected in ours.

And if you are a woman and you can actually read the last line of page 605 without shedding a single tear, you may not be human. I'm just warning you. I cried, and in the best way possible.

The first part of the novel is a bit slow, as Wanderer and Melanie spend most of the time "alone." And if you're an obsessive fan of Twilight and Bella and Edward, you may be a little anxious for a devotion of that same magnitude to creep out of the pages. Rest assured, it will come, but in a much more profound and human way. The writing really is pretty spectacular throughout—far more advanced than her previous three books, which were clearly aimed towards young and new readers—so I urge you to barrel on through the exposition. As Meyer has said, she "can't tell a short story." This is evident here, but well worth the time. After 200 pages, you won't put it down.

I loved this book. It shows love in a different, more complicated, less black-and-white light than Twilight does (though Eclipse comes close). Read this book and, like me, you'll begin an eager wait for the sequels.


No comments:

Post a Comment