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Book Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

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The Host, by number-one New York Times bestselling author Stephenie Meyer, is a riveting page-turner that was nearly impossible to put down. It is the kind of book that keeps me up reading late into the night, and when I turned the final 619th page, I still wished for more. To describe it simply as a science fiction tale about body snatchers invading earth would not do it justice. It is so much more.

The premise of the book is as follows:

Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts
for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain
intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity
has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans, is captured,
she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has
been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living
inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the
too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't
expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish
possession of her mind.

Reminiscent of Orson Scott Card or Ursula K. Le Guin, Meyer is able to create an alternative world in which we ponder the philosophical definition of humanity. Her twists on the questions of what makes us human and what causes an individual to love another person are sociological in nature, yet through it all, she combines a compelling blend of suspense mixed with an underlying romance that is sure to draw in readers of all genres.

Here is an excerpt, expressed from the viewpoint of the main character, Wanderer, one of the invading "souls" who has recently woken up after taking a human host body:

"I blinked away the unwelcome moisture in my eyes. I didn't know how much more of this I could stand. How did anyone survive this world, with these bodies whose memories wouldn't stay in the past where they should? With these emotions that were so strong I couldn't tell what I felt anymore?"

The alien creatures who call themselves souls are portrayed as a homogenous group who are essentially nonviolent and concerned with the greater good, with the exception being, of course, that they invade other planets and take over the species who live there. I always enjoy tales that call into question our views of good and evil as not being quite so black and white. Should we distinguish between the actions themselves versus the understanding of the intentions behind the actions?

I also love to read books that make me think, that raise intriguing questions and then do not always provide definitive answers. In The Host, Meyer attempts to shine light on a few of the more mysterious corners of humanity, both positive and negative. She explores the topic of love being both a mental and a physical bond, and she provides a framework for discussion of what it means to be violent versus peaceful in nature. Rather than neatly tie up every loose end, the story forces the readers to decide for themselves where they may stand on various issues.

Since I announced that I was reading The Host for review, a few readers have emailed me asking if I would recommend this book as appropriate reading material for Meyer's teenage fan base. Though it is a story that deals with the theme of love, there are no adult situations in the book that I would describe as sex scenes. This is Meyer's first novel geared towards a mature adult audience, yet she seems to be intentionally sensitive to the fact that her work draws a broad range of age groups.

Stephenie Meyer is the author of a bestselling young adult vampire romance series, the Twilight saga. Though I have not yet read them myself, you can be rest assured that I intend to run right out and buy the entire series, now that I have been introduced to Meyer's imaginative work. I rarely offer such effusive praise in a book review without some accompanying critical observations, but the fact of the matter is that when I consider my favorite books of 2008 thus far, The Host is at the top of my list.

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About Lisa Damian

  • Jenn

    I couldn’t agree more. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it down but I found myself trying to ration it to make it last longer. Its a beautiful examination of the best and worst of what it means to be human, but from a unique point of view. I am very impressed, and although I did read and enjoy the Twilight series, it was nothing compared to this.

  • Desiree

    I agree, I couldn’t put this one down either! I will be reading it again very very soon. I have to admit I was skeptical at first, as it took me 60 pages or so to even gain full interest in the book (not like her twilight saga). However, once I gained interest, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning indulging myself into the pages. My only two complaints would be that first, the novel took off to a very slow start and second, this is suppose to be an adult novel, yet the romance felt too young for my taste, like the characters were very young teens. Im 24 and I was at least expecting more depth to the romance(s) and yes, excuse me for being honest but maybe a little more passion and jucier details?! Can’t wait for her to release the sequel!

  • Lisa Damian

    You’re right. I think that she is just not the type of author who writes passionate love scenes. She appears to be sensitive to the fact that she has a large teenage fan base, and I suspect that she made a deliberate decision to avoid sex scenes, even when writing her first novel targetted towards a more mature audience.

    The concept for this book was very original, and I believe that her writing style has matured with this novel. I enjoyed the Twilight series, but I feel that “The Host” is her best work to date.

    I will be looking forward to reading what Stephenie Meyer will publish next.