Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Host

I am firmly in the anti-Twilight camp. The first book was, at best, on the level of an amusing beach read, and the second book was one that I very nearly hurled across my bedroom. I didn't even touch the latter two books, and everything I've read about them assures me that I made the right choice. But I'd heard good things about Stephenie Meyer's book The Host, and so a couple weeks ago I asked my cousin if she had a copy I could borrow. It sat on my to-read shelf for a while before I picked it up on a whim today. It's a little over six hundred pages; I finished it in six hours. Basically, this book is surprisingly good.

Okay, so a little bit about it. Imagine that someone wrote up a one paragraph summary of the Animorphs series, ran it through Babelfish a couple of times, then posted it as an unattributed writing prompt to a romance writers' group. Basically, there are these aliens, called "souls", that have taken over Earth. They're pretty peaceful and conquered by subtle assimilation, but it still sucks for humans because they basically disappear. Seriously, just think Yeerk. ... Actually, I did that a little too much while reading because I would occasionally think, why don't they just morph? Anyway. Our heroine is a soul named Wanderer, who's had a ton of hosts in the past but is now stuck in Melanie, a rebellious host whose consciousness hasn't faded away. Wanderer wants to fit into her new life on Earth, but Melanie's memories interfere, and eventually the two of them band together to look for the other free humans that Melanie left behind. From there, the novel explores what it means to be human and the sacrifices that it takes to earn freedom.

I think my favorite feature of the book was that it was not focused on romance to the exclusion of everything else. There's just as much importance placed on friendship and trust (think nakama), and the relationship between Wanderer and Melanie is especially well-done. And even the romance aspect is well-done. The love interests are flawed without being repulsive, and the complex feelings of all the characters involved are handled adeptly. I think this novel was helped by having something larger at stake than just the romantic feelings of the characters. The whole matter of souls and freedom allowed for the drama quotient to be upped in a way that felt natural. The book is really freaking long, but the pacing is fine, so while a lot happens, the book never seems to drag. The basic writing style is good, too. No adjective abuse, just nice and descriptive prose. I particularly liked the worldbuilding and the imagination that went into the development of the souls and the other aliens and worlds that were described. There might be stuff to nitpick in this book, but it was overall a good enough read that I don't feel compelled to go searching for flaws. Basically, this book is surprisingly good, and even if you wrote Meyer off after suffering through Twilight, The Host is definitely worth checking out. It's above average, with some moments that really shine.


Alexis said...

I would leave a comment, but I'm too busy on tvtropes. Maybe in a few hours. (though the nakama page reminded me to start CLANNAD)

Maybe I'll check out The Host. Her writing wouldn't totally suck if she would shut up about Bella and Edward in Twilight, so maybe in a book with some actual plot, I might like it. I know how much you dislike Twilight, so if you said this was good, that's saying something.
Also, it's a good thing you already won Ham Sandwich and we're not in the same year, or this would be perfect fodder. XD "Amy Lynn read a Stephanie Meyer novel and LIKED it!"

Amy Lynn said...

Yessssss, Clannad is awesome, do it.

And on the Twilight comparison front, I only counted one use of "chagrined," so that's an improvement right there. =P