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Stephenie Meyer

Dear Author

REVIEW: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Dear Ms. Meyer,

book review While I didn’t think it was perfect, I did enjoy your first young adult novel, Twilight. So when my fellow blogger Jia was unable to get too far into The Host, a genre-bending speculative romantic thriller and your first book for adults, I agreed to give it a try. The premise of The Host, that of an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” type story but told from the viewpoint of a body snatching alien, sounded interesting and different to me.

I must admit at the outset of this review that I almost never read books this long (600+ pages), because they can seem more like monumental tasks than like invitations for enjoyment. It took me around 120 pages to get caught up in The Host, and for those 120 I feared that a monumental task was what the book would turn out to be. Happily, The Host eventually revved up, and I enjoyed it more than I expected I would in the beginning.

The Host opens with a scene in which an alien known as Wanderer is inserted into the body of her host, a human woman named Melanie. At this point in the story, most of the people on Earth have been taken over by a parasitic alien species whose members refer to themselves as the souls. The souls inhabit the bodies of their hosts and take control of them. They have done so before on other planets and they believe they are making Earth a better, more harmonious place by doing so here.

Wanderer has asked to be placed in the body of an adult, but this presents a big problem for her because Melanie, her host, was one of the last surviving people captured by the seekers (a group of souls who devote themselves to searching out the remaining humans and capturing them so they can be hosts for other souls). Melanie attempted suicide in order to resist capture, and now that Wanderer occupies her body, Melanie’s consciousness refuses to go away. While Wanderer has physical control of the body, Melanie’s consciousness talks back to her and makes her life miserable.

In Melanie’s body Wanderer is bombarded by intense memories and dreams that center around a man named Jared, whom Melanie loved. It turns out that the souls are often drawn to other souls who occupy the bodies of the humans whom the people their own bodies belonged to once loved.

The seekers, and one of them most particularly, are interested in Wanderer’s new memories. It’s their job to capture the remaining humans who have formed a resistance and they believe that the memories Wanderer may have attained from Melanie may contain some knowledge of these humans’ whereabouts.

But when Wanderer attempts to access the information Melanie knew, which should now be available to her, she is blocked by walls that Melanie puts up to protect the humans she loved from the seekers. Wanderer’s inability to do as the seeker assigned to her has requested and provide the necessary information stymies and frustrates her, and she is so caught up in the struggle between Melanie and herself that she is unable to form friendships and relationships.

When the seeker suggests that Wanderer leave Melanie’s body for another human body, and allow the seeker to take over Melanie and mine her memories before killing Melanie, Wanderer is at first upset by the suggestion but eventually realizes she may have no other choice but to leave the body that resists her presence.

But before she takes that drastic step, Wanderer wants to visit the healer who inserted her into Melanie’s body, and see if he can help her. She decides to drive from California to Chicago in order to do so. While on her drive, Wanderer is again assailed by memories that belong to Melanie. She realizes that she may be near the humans’ sanctuary and close to the man she and Melanie both love.

With the help of Melanie, who does not want to die, Wanderer finds the human resistance. But what awaits her there isn’t exactly a warm welcome… and the man she remembers loving treats her as the enemy. Much of The Host is the story of how Wanderer eventually earns the humans’ trust and finds love and acceptance, and how the humans find hope. There is also a romantic tangle unlike any other I’ve encountered in the pages of a book, between Wanderer, Melanie and Jared… and eventually, another man who is thrown into the mix.

I liked that the story focused on the interpersonal relationships and on the moral and sociological issues resulting from the science fiction premise. Your website says that The Host is science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction. While I do like science fiction, I generally lose interest in the long explanations of fictional technologies that one sometimes finds in science fiction, and I appreciated the fact that The Host did not contain any of those. The fact that it was set in our own real world made for an interesting contrast with Wanderer’s alien viewpoint.

It takes about 120 pages for Wanderer to first encounter the human resistance members, and as mentioned before, those 120 pages went by rather slowly for me. My interest was not engaged in that section, and I almost gave up on the book. But after the first 120 or so pages, the plot tightens up and the book becomes quite engrossing. There is a lot of tension from the conflicts between the characters and the internal conflicts in Wanda’s heart. The moral dilemmas at the heart of the story are quite compelling, and in the middle section, the book kept me up until the wee hours of the morning.

There are some very interesting aspects to the souls’ background and the other lives that Wanderer, who is eventually nicknamed Wanda, has experienced. Even the names the souls give themselves and to some of things they’ve brought with them to earth fit the souls’ peaceful personalities, and I really liked these aspects of the worldbuilding.

But at the same time, other aspects of the worldbuilding are weak. For example, most of the souls are peace-loving, and it is not explained why enough of them would choose to be seekers and to hunt down the human fugitives. Nor were the explanations of how and why such a non-aggressive species had set out to conquer other worlds convincing to me.

There were also times, in the last quarter or so of the book, when I felt a little tired of reading about Wanderer/Wanda. All but a brief prologue is written in Wanderer/Wanda’s first person viewpoint, so I’m not sure if my Wanda fatigue was due to the fact that I rarely have the patience for spending so many pages in the POV of a single character (I almost never persist with series that follow the same main character past one or two books), or if it’s because of Wanda’s personality.

In the course of the story, Wanda ultimately becomes so self-sacrificing, sweet and sincere that at times I found her difficult to relate to. I don’t know if this would be a problem for other readers, but I prefer flawed characters and Wanda was almost too good to be true.

Also, though some of the humans initially wanted to kill Wanda, her eventual acceptance seemed too quick and too thorough to be entirely believable to me.

When the ending arrives, as heartwarming as it is (and it is very heartwarming), it is also a little like watching one of Cinderella’s stepsisters trying on the glass slipper — something doesn’t fit right. The problem is that because the body snatching premise is so dark, what I feel I know of how most human beings would respond to something like that seems to me to require a grittier tale and an ending that isn’t quite this sweet.

Combine this factor with the fact that Melanie and Wanda both seemed immature to me (albeit in very different ways), and The Host doesn’t always read like a book for adults — there is something of a YA feel to it.

Still, the concept of telling an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” story from a body snatcher’s POV is fresh, the plot takes some unpredictable twists, the romantic conflict makes the love story different from any other that I’ve read, and all of these factors make The Host compelling enough to make me feel that I don’t regret reading it. C+ for The Host.

Sincerely,

Janine

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Dear Author

REVIEW: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Dear Ms. Meyer:

book review My overriding thought when I was reading Breaking Dawn was that it was a good thing this wasn’t the first book because I wonder how many people would have glommed onto the series after reading this mess of a story.

I totally loved Twilight, was less than enthralled with New Moon, watched the wheels fall off the bus in Eclipse, and now have come to this sad and somewhat crazy conclusion.

I confess that when I first started reading this I wondered what fan had ghost written it because it reads like total fan fiction. The first section is told by Bella and relates her marriage in great detail. Of course Bella does not like pretty dresses or pretty decorations or being the center of attention. Despite that, we readers are treated to pages and pages of descriptions about the wedding. And some strange info dump in the beginning that is randomly inserted about immortal children and how turning them is a danger.

The first section was very difficult for me to follow. The transitions from one scene to another to a flashback weren’t clearly denoted and half the time I hadn’t realized that I was switching times and scenes until a quarter or half the way through. For example, in the first “chapter” Bella is in the present talking to her friend. Then she is thinking about telling Charlie about getting married which happened sometime in the past and this immediately segues into Bella telling her mother sometime after telling Charlie but sometime before the present time.

“But you have to tell your mom! I’m not saying one word to Renee! That’s all yours!” He busted into loud guffaws.

I paused with my hand on the doorknob, smiling. Sure, at the time, Charlie’s words had terrified me. The ultimate doom: telling Renee. Early marriage was higher up on her blacklist than boiling live puppies.

Who could have foreseen her response? Not me. Certainly not Charlie. Maybe Alice, but I hadn’t thought to ask her.

“Well, Bella,” Renee had said after I’d choked and stuttered out the impossible words: Mom, I’m marrying Edward. “I’m a little miffed that you waited so long to tell me. Plane tickets only get more expensive. Oooh,” she’d fretted. “Do you think Phil’s cast will be off by then? It will spoil the pictures if he’s not in a tux?”

The first section meanders from the wedding to the honeymoon where Bella begs for sex and I assume that Edward gives it to her. It’s very stream of consciousness storytelling. Oh, and in true romance style, the first time was fantastic. Utterly divine which is par for the course in the book. Even minor issues of pain and suffering are rewarded with perfection.

I talked to Robin about this and she pointed out that is Freud’s theory of omnipotence. Basically Bella wishes for things to come into fruition and they do. She has utter control over herself and her surroundings. There is no conflict, suspense or urgency because the reader knows that Bella’s wishes will ultimately triumph in her favor. The voices of the narrators and their actions are very immature. They show no forethought, planning or reasoning. It’s response, reaction, act. In fact, I thought the voice of the characters (their maturity level) is shown by the name of Bella’s daughter: Reneesme, a combo of both Bella and Edward’s mother’s names. Because Renee Esme Cullen is not as good as Reneesme. After all, who is going to mock a vampire on the playground, right?

There was an interesting theme that was brought up: Is it better to rule through free will or subjugation? There is no resolution to the theme, no showing that free will is better. There’s discussion but no action. Any resolution comes not because one concept is superior to the other but because Bella wishes that the resolution would end and it does.

I’m not even sure what the conflict was/is anymore. I think that Edward didn’t want to make Bella a vampire but agreed to do so if she married him. This was explained because Edward was old fashioned. (Apparently in the Victorian period, it was only okay to change someone after you married them. WTF?). During the honeymoon, Edward’s strength leaves bruises on Bella’s body and so he refuses to make love to her again until she is changed. But does he change her? Of course not because where would the artificial tension come from?

The faux conflicts were wall bangers in and of themselves but when Bella becomes pregnant (yes, this is just like fan fiction), the story really hits the wall. Any semblance of world building that was created in the past is just thrown out the window. Humans and vampires can mate! They can have children! You can see your old family! You can have more than one gift! Throw out the rules! We need conflict!

I think the most disappointing thing about this book was the lack of organic conflict. Everything seemed so manufactured from Edward not wanting to turn Bella into vampire which we know he ultimately will otherwise why the marriage, to Bella becoming pregnant, to the ultimate resolution to the baby issue. Some deem this a dark book? How so? She gets pregnant, lives forever with the most perfect man, everyone lives to serve her, she has uber riches, and suffers hardly at all. She has ultimate control over her vampire urges, as if she had been a vampire for centuries. Her child is the most perfect individual. Bella herself even has two gifts while every other vampire has one.

There were parts of the story that were interesting. I found Jacob’s section, the middle one, to be the best told. His struggle with his role in the Pack and his feelings for Bella and the concepts of free will and domination were probably the most compelling part of the story. In his eyes, through his voice, the story was the most authentic. But, the whole concept of free will is undermined by imprinting. Imprinting is when one shapeshifter finds its fated mate. Where’s the free will there?

I’m pretty sure I would have been better off stopping with Twilight as each book has successively gone down the hill for me. It’s entire purpose is to provide the most happy ending of all time for everyone. And I do mean everyone. D

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in hardcover from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.