Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Host - Stephanie Meyer

I just finished reading this book and while it’s not quite as brain eating as the Twilight series, it’s technically better written and it’s still a good read. What I particularly like about all Stephanie Meyer’s books is that they tell a good story without all of the suspense and violence that seems to permeate most of today’s society. Actually telling a good story is becoming a bit of a lost art nowadays as everything becomes Hollywoodised, yet she manages to keep you reading without a car crash or murder every 5 pages.

I also like that the both the general theme and the actions within the story throw up interesting points of view and give the reader something to think about. The Host takes place at the end of an alien invasion of Earth which the aliens have effectively already won. The aliens themselves are small creatures, called Souls, inserted into humans who then take over the human body as their own. Normally, the human mind/soul is extinguished in the process, but some of the humans fight back and refuse to let themselves be vanquished from their own minds. The story follows one such alien/human combination in which the Soul who cannot vanquish her human host begins to see things from a human standpoint with human emotions. The situation is neither comfortable nor desirable for either Host or Body. This puts both of them in a precarious situation as it’s impossible for them to exist in such a manner, yet seeking help is just as impossible. On the one hand, the aliens would remove the Soul and insert it into a more pliant body while killing off the old body, which goes against the Soul’s own beliefs. On the other hand, the few true humans left (who have not undergone the insertion and are in hiding) wouldn’t believe the Soul’s story and would most likely kill both human and Soul in the interest of self preservation. This increases the alliance and reliance of both human and Soul on each other and causes their relationship to take on new dimensions.

Each change in situation forces the characters to re-examine things they have in the past considered a given. Just as the characters, and the reader, become comfortable with the situation, Meyer shifts the viewpoint and causes another re-evaluation of beliefs on all sides. The characters start to see things from different viewpoints instead of just their own and their lives become more and more entangled in a web which is seemingly impossible to unravel. Some of the solutions are obvious and some are not, but all of them force the reader to reconsider his feelings just as the characters do. At the end of the book, you find yourself looking back and wondering whatever happened to what you believed was right at the beginning of the book.

Frankly I think it would do a lot of people good to read this book. Not because the subject matter is real, obviously, but because it challenges you to think about preconceptions, their origins and how right and wrong they may or may not be, yet does so without haranguing.

However, if you don’t like fantasy / sci fi, you might find the story a little difficult to get through. Also, like her other books, Meyer tends to spend a lot of time on detail and emotions, which could put readers off. Normally this would be a big negative in my book, but she still managed to keep me interested, so thumbs up for the book anyway.

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