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Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: Stephenie Meyer's The Host

Reading Stephenie Meyer’s book The Host is one of those “oh-crap-I-stayed-up-till-four-in-the-morning” experiences.

Her premise is a refreshing take on the alien body snatchers idea. The Host is about an alien named The Wanderer who comes to earth to be implanted in the body of a human host and live out a lifetime on our bucolic ball of blue.

Most human hosts hit the road into oblivion after being taken over, but The Wanderer’s host, Melanie, is not willing to give up the ghost, so to speak. Melanie’s influence is so strong, she infects her alien body thief with love for her former boyfriend and younger brother. As a result, they set off in a dangerous search for their lost family.

Meyers tells the story effectively in the alien’s perspective, and she does make her sympathetic. But call me crazy, I was rooting more for the humans. My view of the ending was more cynical than my daughter’s. I was looking for some cosmic payback that didn’t happen.

My fourteen-year-old loved the book. She cried several times and adored the ending. But it’s quite different from the Twilight series, so don’t go looking for Edward here. This book is aimed more at an older audience than the tween and teen acolytes.

I wanted more discussion of why humans weren’t “worthy.” Yeah, I get that we are violent sumsabitches. But a little more reminding of things like the holocaust and Indian massacres would have made me accept The Wanderers blithe willingness to take over the bodies of other creatures in the name of stopping the madness.

I also wanted to see the humans make more fun of the alien’s oh-so-civilized behavior. There’s only a passing mention in a few examples, like a sporting event where the players politely discuss a penalty and try to blame it on themselves rather than the opposing player. The Stepford behavior was ripe for the picking in terms of satire.

Still, I’d read a sequel, and I love how us insidious humans alter the aliens until their more a hybrid of us and them. Our human feelings are too strong to fade away like our minds do, so the earthlings triumph in the end. If you don’t count the having your body taken over part.


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