The Host: 04/16/09
In 1955 The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney was published. A year later Invasion of the Body Snatchers hit movie theaters. In 1978 Finney rewrote the novel and fleshed it out from novella length to a full length novel. There have been a number of film versions and homages. The most recent take on the story is The Host by Stephanie Meyer.
Finney's novel was set in the North Bay, in The Host the story is set in Arizona (except for a few scenes in Chicago and San Diego, though how they relate to each other is never adequately explained). Finney was writing about his home town and Meyer who lives in Arizona is doing the same thing. So far, no surprises. Science fiction often starts with the familiar and then tweaks it.
Where Finney's novel ends with the humans in the North Bay beating back the invaders and preventing a full scale invasion, The Host begins with the assumption that the heroes of Finney's novel failed. Melanie, a rebel human trying to fight the aliens, has been implanted with Wanderer (later known as Wanda) to discover where the human resistance cell is hiding and what their plans are.
In a bit of religious squickery, the invaders call themselves souls. To save humanity, the resistance wants to remain soulless. Where Finney's book was social commentary on the xenophobia of the 1950s, Meyer's seems to be trying to tackle atheism. The resistance believes life is better without the Souls and of course Wanda tries to argue just the opposite; senseless crimes have stopped, there is no more money because everyone shares, everyone is always together and happy, there is eternal life through the living in many different Hosts.
Wanda / Melanie (who refuses to give up her will to Wanda) manage to find the human outpost in the caves near Tucson. While all other infected humans who have found this remote location have been vivisected on the spot, for some reason they decide to keep Wanda alive because she was "belongs" to one of the men in the group. That's Meyer's way of being romantic. Personally, if my husband ever said I "belonged" to him, he'd be out the door and the locks would be changed. Anyway, lucky for Wanda, she's property and gets to live long enough to prove her good intentions.
There are some interesting pieces to the novel. Despite the weird happy-joy-joy Soul Society collective, there are glimpses at life on different planets and the structure of the Soul culture. There is a hierarchy to it but these are mere glimpses in between some very long and tedious scenes in the resistance caves.
There are three hundred pages of Wanda being a prisoner in the caves and learning how the uninfected humans live. It's basically three hundred mind numbing pages of playing house: cooking, eating, doing chores, walking around the caves and sleeping. No sex, no violence, no swearing, no danger except for a few small fist fights. Seriously, I wanted to claw my eyes out at the end of this section.
Basically there is a decent three hundred page Body Snatchers inspired novel hidden in a novel that has bloated to 650 pages. It has a pretty good start, an incredibly boring middle and a clever ending. The ending though isn't good enough to inspire me into wanting to re-read the novel or to read her better known Twilight series. If in the future she writes another stand-alone novel, I might give it a try.
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books | scifi | Stephanie Meyers | 2008