Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Title:  The Host
Author:  Stephenie Meyer
Genre:  Sci-fi/ young adult
Pages:  619

Rating:  A-

Synopsis (from  Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.  As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.  Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

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First thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book, and I stayed up way too late to finish it last night, so I apologize in advance if my thoughts aren't coherent.  I had about a fourth of the book left around midnight and decided to finish it, even if it meant I'd be a zombie at work today.

I don't know why I like them so much, but I heart stories with love triangles.  Especially interesting love triangles like this one, because this one involved three bodies but four people.  It's kind of more like a weird love square.  I loved the Ian/Wanda relationship; I was rooting for them the whole book.  Ian is sweet and kind and caring, but he's also strong and forceful.  He's also probably the most rational of the love "triangle."  At first, Jared reminded me so much of Gale from The Hunger Games (Team Peeta!) that I wasn't sure if I was going to like him at all, but fortunately he turned out to be a better guy than Gale.

The Wanda/Mel character was incredibly interesting.  Wanda's the "soul" controlling Mel's body and doing all the talking and interacting with people; the story's told from her point of view so you get to know her best of all.  She's strong and self-sacrificing and smart.  Mel, who's consciousness speaks to Wanda in her mind, is also strong, but with a different kind of strength from Wanda, as well as stubborn and resilient.  They're both very loving and caring, and their internal conversations help them find a balance to their strange relationship.  I thought this idea, of having two personalities existing simultaneously within one body, was original (to me) and thought-provoking.

My favorite character of the whole book isn't any of those four involved in the "triangle".  It's actually Mel's brother Jamie.  He's a sweet kid who's had to face some tough times, but he never loses a little of his innocence.  He's such a refreshing change from the seriousness around him.

The story itself is not action-filled; it's mostly character and relationship development.  There are moments of action and excitement, but that's it.  Just moments.  But I never felt like the story lagged due to lack of adventure.  I did keep waiting for some huge climactic battle, but it never happened, and I honestly didn't mind.

Second thoughts:  While getting ready for work and driving and even writing my first thoughts, I've been thinking over the book more.  And I have to throw in something that bugs me.

In the book, Wanda describes her alien kind to the humans she's staying with, and she says that when her kind are born, they can't exist without a host.  Even the grown "souls" live in cryotanks until they can be put into a new body.  So my question is - what was the first species they occupied?  They never explain how these frail creatures that need other beings to survive are able to build spaceships to take over other worlds.  Is there another creature on their origin planet that they never mention?  Is it only on planets outside their own that they can't survive without a host?  And if they have to be surgically inserted into their hosts, how did they accomplish that on planets where they were "seaweed" or "flowers" or "bats"?

I would have liked it if Meyer had added more of the science to her science fiction.  I know that wasn't the main point of the story; it was supposed to be a romance and a look into humanity.  Maybe she's going to fill in the blanks in the next two books, because apparently this is going to be a trilogy.  Whether she does or not, I think if you're going to write any type of science fiction, you should have all the scientific details straight and mostly laid out in the first book, as second & third books are usually entirely action and adventure, once the first book's finished introducing the characters and story.  A-

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