Monday, July 14, 2008

The Host

After reading "The Host" by Stephenie Meyer, I have hope that the "Twilight" series might not actually end up making my brain explode from pure frustration and malice. The synopsis is that a species of alien invades Earth, takes over human bodies and makes them their own. The aliens cannot live outside of host bodies and they see the human race as perfect for the picking. After all, they're so violent and unstable, they're bound to kill each other off within a few decades anyway. These aliens, calling themselves "souls", are inherently peaceful, non-confrontational, law-abiding citizens. Everything is done for the common good. They don't see what they've done as murder, just furthering their own population on a very nice planet. There are a few stray humans here and there that fight against the occupation, but that's what they have Seekers for, to capture the humans and pacify them by inserting a soul.

The story is told from the viewpoint of a soul having been put inside the body of a 20-ish year old woman who's been running from the aliens for years. What the soul, called Wanderer, experiences is Melanie, the human, having no desire to have her body snatched and fighting back with her mind. Melanie is making Wanderer think she's going to have to switch bodies and in her desperation to take control, decides to do just that. Discard this body and get a new one. But Melanie has other plans. She wants Wanderer to find her younger brother and the love of her life, who she hopes are still on the run. Through a series of vague instructions Melanie remembers her uncle giving her, she convinces Wanderer to go in the Arizona desert and look for them.

Okay, here are the things Stephenie Meyer is good at in her books:
1. Lots of action.
2. Compelling the reader to keep reading.
3. Impossible love-triangles.
4. Fits of overdramatic self-sacrificing in her lead characters.
5. Hot guys.
6. Moments of ridiculousness.
7. Cool creatures.

"The Host" contains all these, but Meyer gets points from me because:
1. It's not a series.
2. The impossible love-triangle is actually resolved sensibly.
3. I don't hate her main characters.
4. The overdramatic self-sacrificing moment is at least believable from the character.
5. I couldn't put it down.
6. The aliens are very cool.

If Meyer can write more books like "The Host", and less like "Twilight", I'll be glad to read more of them. I am getting more excited to read the last book in the series because of "The Host", but since Bella is so flawed and impossible to like, I'm not getting my hopes up too high. And honestly, in future books she has to drop the love triangle story line. Move on, woman.


  1. "These aliens, calling themselves 'souls', are inherently peaceful, non-confrontational, law-abiding citizens. Everything is done for the common good. They don't see what they've done as murder........the human, having no desire to have her body snatched and fighting back with her mind....." Sounds like every day at the office to me. Resistance is futile......

  2. I'm still putting off reading twilight because you (and my SIL) hate Bella so much!

  3. Amen, Jenny! I liked it for the same reasons. I thought it was so much better than the Twilight series. (We've discussed this in depth, but I had to make a comment here anyway.) I was also grateful that The Host is a self-contained, RESOLVED book with likeable characters. What a difference! Maybe Stephenie Meyer is learning some things from all her writing experiences. Let's hope for something surprising in Breaking Dawn, right?

  4. I'm so glad somebody agrees with me about the Twilight books, Rachel. There are far too many Twilight-ites (say that 10 times fast) in the world.

  5. I was pleasantly surprised that Meyer was able to pull this off. It reminded me that she does indeed have talent when she isn't manipulating her characters to pander to her fans. I got tired of the Bella-esque debilitating overeaction to perceived danger that went on far too long after she arrived in the caves, but other than that I was very engrossed. She brings up some interesting themes about mortality -- agency, the role our bodies play in defining our identities, opposition in all things, the worth of the flawed individual, etc. And I especially enjoyed the ending. Instead of wrapping everything up nice and neat with a bow on top, it was a far more realistic (if that term can be applied to aliens taking over the world) and yet hopeful conclusion.

    Now, having said that (get your own blog, you're thinking) I have to add my two cents about "Twilight". I thought "Twilight" was great -- the tension, the characters, the creativity, the action.... I still liked "New Moon", but I had major issues with "Eclipse". The things I liked about Bella in the past had disappeared and instead she had turned into a whiny, immature wimp who likes to play the martyr when she thinks it'll earn her brownie points but otherwise is selfishly pushing her own agenda (which happens to be a stupid agenda, I might add). One of the things I enjoyed about her in "Twilight" was her strength and maturity, but that was lost in "Eclipse" as Meyer instead warped her to be a vehicle of answering her fans' most pressing questions instead of being satisfied with the FAQ's page on her website. Jacob drove me crazy and even Edward (whom I loved in "Twilight") got on my nerves. I thought that any important themes that were addressed (resolving the love triangle and the Victoria threat) could have been condensed to a couple of chapters. Instead we had to plow through a whole book that had a strong sense of being forced and therefore false.

    But, bringing it back to "The Host" :), after being reminded that she DOES know how to write compelling stories with likeable characters, I have the first stirrings of hope that the Twilight series may end well after all. We'll see in a couple of weeks, I guess!

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  7. Sorry, I've been up all night with Mathias so my grammar and punctuation are suffering. This is the comment I meant to leave:

    Okay, I just read your reviews on "Twilight" and "New Moon" and was reminded of how much time Bella spends swooning and how Edward can't do anything without a full paragraph describing his hotness. How could I have forgotten?! Yeah, that totally bugged. But I like to think that (in "Twilight", at least) their relationship was based on more than just mutual attraction. I don't know WHY Edward loves Bella, necessarily, but I can see why she'd love him. Not just his beauty, but his complete and utter devotion to her -- how could you NOT love him? So if you suspend disbelief (and come on, they're vampires) and assume that they really are soulmates, it's easier to swallow the rest. (Until "Eclipse", that is, when anything once redeeming about their relationship is lost.) Okay, I'll stop cluttering your comments with "Twilight" talk, I promise! :)

  8. Caren, I did enjoy "Twilight" quite a bit because it was so action-packed and her take on vampires was so much fun. Not to mention how incredibly scary the bad vampires were. But I got so tired of Bella's non-functioning existence in "New Moon" and her insistence on being such a martyr. Bella was just so unlikable. And really, why do Edward and Jacob love her? I think it's a savior complex right there. For Jacob, at least. He wants to save her from the vampires. I agree that Edward is very lovable because of his devotion to her, but why is he so devoted, other than the fact that Bella smells so luscious? You get no development of them being soulmates or whatever other than the fact they are attracted to each other. Bugs the heck out of me.

    So, yeah, "The Host" was awesome. Especially the ending. Made me happy.

  9. Jenny, I got the feeling in Twilight that Edward was drawn to her because she was so different from other girls. She's witty and interesting, she was brave (at least in that book), she wasn't wrapped up in the trivial things that other girls her age were, and she showed a level of maturity beyond her years. (Think of her relationship with both of her parents.) Now, whether that's enough to lead to sincere love is hard to say -- the forces that create love in one relationship when it's absent in another are so complex anyway -- but for the sake of an action romance about vampires, it's good enough for me. :)

    Unfortunately, Bella's redeeming characteristics get lost as the books go along, which makes me wonder -- how can their relationship be a good thing when she loses her identity and personality the more wrapped up she gets? I think that the spontaneity and sincerity that spawned the characters in the first book is lost as Stephenie Meyer tries to figure out ways to drag the story out for three more books.

    As far as why Jacob loves her.....the savior complex is an interesting idea, and is definitely most evident in Eclipse. I always attributed his initial fascination with her to the fact that she was older, and then over time the competition factor becomes his strongest motivation. Interestingly enough, I think we see Bella at her best in her relationship with pre-werewolf Jacob in New Moon. And in the real world, that would be the relationship that leads to lasting happiness.

    Here's one more thought on the Edward-Bella relationship (in Twilight, at least). I think another reason we don't understand why Edward would be so devoted to Bella is because SHE doesn't understand it. Like any typical girl who struggles with self-esteem, it makes no sense that someone so wonderful would love her, especially when no one has ever cared for her that way before. I like her well enough in Twilight that I can accept that Edward loves her (while marveling at her good fortune right along with her). But by Eclipse I can't help but think, "All right, Edward, you can do SOOO much better!" So I do hope Meyer does some serious relationship redemption in the last book!

    And speaking of love triangles, by the end of The Host, did you get the sense that Wanderer was completely over Jared? I did, but talking to my sister she got a different feeling. I keep meaning to go back and reread it again, but I'm curious what you thought.

  10. Caren, good points that I have let my dislike of Bella overshadow. I guess my big beef is that I can't help but think of my own girls in this position. Some hunk sweeps them off their feet and suddenly, they lose all sense of their own identity for the sake of a boy. I can't help but read it as a mother of girls and it makes me sick to see Bella being self-destructive, stupid and selfish. What happened to her making friends? Being brave and witty, all those things she was before she met Edward? If she was so confident and fun before meeting Edward, why couldn't she believe that he would be interested in her? I would hate for my girls to have such non-existent self-esteem that this could happen to them. Minus the vampire part, of course. Zombies okay, but no vampires for my kids. I think pre-werewolf Jacob was her best bet at happiness. Criminy. This last book better be good so I can quit griping about it.

    As far as the ending of "The Host", I don't think Wanderer is completely over Jared. She still feels pangs of jealousy, but I think it would be like any former crush/love that you have to see regularly. At first painful, then just weird.

  11. Jenny, I completely agree with you about how scary the Bella-Edward relationship would be if it existed in real life. Sadly, a lot of girls do lose their identities when they get into relationships (especially first relationships). At worst it's a sign of abuse; at best it's a sign of immaturity and inexperience. In any case, it's not the sign of true love that Stephenie Meyer wants their relationship to be. Which makes me wonder what she's thinking, especially considering her young adult audience may not know any better. So I definitely agree that when you translate it into real life, I would be the mom saying, "Get the heck away from this guy! I don't care how great he is, you are not right for each other!"

    Also, I reread the ending of The Host. Okay, I don't know how I missed that but I'll blame it on sleep deprivation. Yeah, she makes it very clear that she isn't over Jared, and there's that awkwardness you mentioned. I do like that she also makes it clear that she's trying (and capable) of putting him behind her and focusing on her new relationship. I don't know why the conflicted love triangle plays such a role in her books, but this was certainly a unique way of developing one!