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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.
Comment #1: Sunday, April, 19, 2009 at 10:34:04
I enjoyed it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the Twilight series.
I don't read or watch sci-fi, though, so it could be that this type of story line was fresh for me.
Comment #2: Monday, March, 23, 2009 at 21:41:33
You should try Invasion of the Body Snatchers just to see where The Host comes from. The book is about 1/3 the length of Meyer's novel. Or you can just watch the movie. I prefer the black and white one to the remake from the early 1970s.
Comment #3: Sunday, April, 26, 2009 at 20:46:54
I completely agree with you - the Host was an awful book. Whatever that was here that might have been done half-well, such as the morality debates or the like, was done far better elsewhere. It's hard not to chalk this one up as a missed opportunity, and like you, I am not enticed to read her Twilight series based on this novel.
Comment #4: Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 20:09:45
I can't call it awful because I actually enjoyed the beginning and end. The only truly awful part for me is the middle. Take out the middle and a long mediocre book would become a short good book.
Comment #5: Saturday, May, 16, 2009 at 03:29:41
The problem is, I wouldn't be able to slog my way through the mindnumbing middle to get to the "clever" ending. Boo...She's determined to be taken seriously as an author, but she can't write beyond YA length.
Comment #6: Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 18:20:14
Host is about the same page length of her Twilight books. What she needs is a ruthless editor who is willing to cut out all the repetition and get her books down to a tight 250 - 300 pages from the bloated things they currently are.