Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

Science fiction for people who don't understand science fiction.

I managed to finish this book, though it was a near-run thing. I'd heard that it was better than Twilight, and that is true, I suppose. Twilight was terribly painful, but the fact that this was "science fiction" meant that I could focus on the SFnal elements, as opposed to the incredibly boring characters.

So, let me tell you about these characters. The narrator for most of the book is a parasitic alien who has gone throughout the universe, and has now arrived on Earth, which has mostly been assimilated by the aliens, aside from a few pockets of renegade humans. The problem I have with the aliens, as opposed to other parasitic aliens, like, say, the Yeerks from the Animorphs series or the Goa'uld from Stargate, is that these aliens don't seem like tough opponents. They don't seem like the sort of species that would accumulate a space empire. They don't seem threatening as antagonists. Anyhoo, everyone talks about how strong the narrator is, but she runs away from her problems rather than face them, and when she can't run away from them, she just finds some dude who is strong enough to protect her, which is INFURIATING.

The second main character is Melanie Stryder, the girl whose body the narrator inhabits. At first she seems more interesting than the narrator, since she survived the apocalypse that swallowed up most of humanity, but when she and the narrator find her lost True Wuv, she melts into this babbling useless mess which is ALSO INFURIATING.

Then there are the survivors, who are quite a cast of characters, if by "cast" you mean "interchangeable bunch of ciphers", for the most part. There's crazy Uncle Jeb, who made the surprisingly large complex of lava tube caves, the adamantly anti-alien Kyle, and Ian, who falls in love with the narrator for some reason.

At any rate, as you might imagine, if you know Stephenie Meyer's books, the climax is resolved too easily and all the heroes end up paired off in heterosexual True Wuv relationships. If you have the opportunity to read this book, find something better. Something like, say, Charlie Stross's Laundry series (which has a new book coming out this summer) or Daniel O'Malley's recently published urban fantasy The Rook, both of which take place in Britain and are much more interesting.

Verdict: The tagline on Stephenie Meyer's website for this book is "Science fiction for people who don't like science fiction," but it's more like "Science fiction for people who don't understand science fiction."

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