Reviews: The Host
I thought Twilight was garbage, but The Host pleasantly surprised me. Most of the things I hated about Twilight were notably absent: no whining, Romanticized Abuse, or blatant misogyny, and Wanderer/Melody were both protagonists I actually liked, sympathetic and decently well-rounded. Even Seeker, the closest thing the book has a villain, isn't just a cardboard cut-out. And the characters actually do things. Lots of things. There's a level of energy in The Host that's entirely absent in Twilight. I think there's an advantage to it being set in a location Meyer knows, too. When she wants to be, she can be pretty good at describing the scenery, and in this it's pretty obvious she's describing something she loves. This book largely limits the Purple Prose to that, where it actually works. I kind of get the feeling many of the characters are at least partly based off people she knows, because they actually feel like people, unlike the flat avatars of Twilight. In prying herself away from sparkly vampires, she's made me think that she does in fact actually know how to tell a story. The backstory to the alien invasion is solid, and while the concept has been done before, The Host actually manages to do its own thing with it. It's not perfect. The Love Triangle is tedious and unnecessary (and feels weirdly shoehorned in, like Meyer felt that she just had to have one), and Wanderer can stray close to Purity Sue at times — but she never actually crosses the line. Even when she irritated me, she always managed to retain my sympathy, which I wouldn't have thought possible in a Meyer novel. God knows I wanted to beat Bella Swan to death with a shovel, but I cared about Wanderer, and what was going to happen to her. Screw all the Twilight crap — where's the sequel to this book?
Surprisingly Good Sci-Fi!
I've never read the Twilight series, so until I read this book I've known of the author mostly from (generally unkind) jokes and various Internet memes. The premise of the novel sounded interesting, and I felt curious, so I gave it a try. And... I'm really glad I did. I would consider myself to be a pretty big science fiction fan, and from that perspective I can honestly say that The Host holds up pretty dang well as a legit sci-fi work. There are, unfortunately, a few clichés from trashy romance novels thrown in as well, a few disappointingly flat characters, and a couple of "fridge logic"-type plotholes in the later parts of the book — but the overall plot, the main character (the alien Wanderer herself), and even the way the novel explores complicated themes like identity, "otherness", etc., all work surprisingly well, and make the book quite enjoyable. By the end I found myself genuinely caring about Wanderer, and genuinely involved with the characters' struggles and conflicts. I'm still not exactly eager to read the Twilight books, but now I'm thinking, "hey, this Stephanie Meyer person can't really be all *that* bad a writer." So yeah, if you are a fan of sci-fi books, and in particular sci-fi stories that explore non-human perspectives and questions about the nature of identity and the mind, this is actually a pretty good read — give it a shot. It has its flaws, but at the end of the day there's definitely enough good stuff in there to make working through those flaws worthwhile.
Excellent Book, Dud of a Movie
"The Host" is actually a good book, and, after reading the book for a second time, I stand by that statement. Stephenie Meyer is not the best writer that the world has seen, but she's improved from "Twilight." The plot is interesting; while romance does play a huge factor, the world she develops is detailed and explored instead of being shoved to the side for romance. Most of the characters are well-rounded: Wanda and Melanie are not Mary Sues, and Ian O'Shea is a much better romantic interest than Edward Cullen or Jacob Black will ever be. Jared Howe is the largest red flag for me; he still comes off as a jerk even when he realizes Wanderer's worth and treats her as more than just an alien. Otherwise, some of the prose is quite nice, and at times Meyer does shine as a writer. There are a few hiccups, but nothing too blaring to disrupt the flow or make a reader question what's happening. I'm sad that the stigma of "Twilight" casts a negative shadow on this book, and that it received a poor film adaptation. The acting is, for the most part, pretty good. Jake Abel as Ian is incredible, another statement I will defend. Saoirse Ronan, whom I have been a fan of since "Atonement," does make a great Wanderer, except her Melanie was lacking (I chalk this up more to Max Irons as Jared and their lack of chemistry, though). It's the screenplay that really hinders the movie: it focuses too much on the Seeker, and makes significant changes to important events that made the book all the more fascinating.
Interesting and full of potential
This is a clever deconstruction of alien flicks. I want more about this books's world. The characters were interesting and attained normal depth, there is a true Action Girl and the aliens were fascinating. I hope she'll write a sequel, I am serious.
Better But Still Bad
As a former fan of Meyer's books, I know how terrible the writing is. And it is terrible. But while the beginning is slow (props to the movie for shortening it) and the ending is terrible (the entire Aesop being negated), the premise is remarkably well-explored. The part that stuck out to me were the divisions: trying to balance two opposing ideals. Yes, the Souls bring a paradise, but is it worth it if it means losing your humanity? Are humans violent or passionate? How much of us is our body and how much is our mind? I particularly loved the part where Wanda kisses Jared and Ian in turn: with Jared, her body reacts, but with Ian, her soul does. Mostly I wish it had been in the hands of a more competent writer. It was much better than Twilight, but the beginning and the ending ruined it for me, and frankly I found Wanda to be a very annoying narrator, almost to Bella Swan levels of Suedom.
Surprisingly Good (to the best of my recollection)
Stephenie Meyer still writes from the point of view of a young woman, but she does so much better than in Twilight. I think the reason for this is that Wanderer has to adjust to being a young woman, rather than just wallowing around in it. In this way, we get to examine human emotion and all its irrationalities. We also get to see some much more nuanced character interaction. For example: While Wanderer does get a separate love interest, it develops organically, rather than instantly. I'd call it fantasy, rather than Sci-fi, because anything remotely scientific is never explored in detail. Sure, there are aliens, other planets, and advanced medicine, but they're treated more like supernatural entities, other worlds, and magic. Helpfully, it's not too light on action or suspense, which I actually think Stehpenie Meyer is pretty good at. (but to be fair, I don't recall if it had Twilight-style punctuation abuse). Overall, it's not a bad read.