Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Host - Stephenie Meyer

I don’t normally like to post mean reviews, but at this point I think Stephenie Meyer is rather too rich to
care, and is probably quite used to receiving hate mail as well as the locks of hair and used underpants belonging to overexcited and slightly confused young women who think she keeps Edward Cullen somewhere on her person.

Admittedly, The Host is better than Twilight. Significantly better, in fact. The plot actually sounds promising: an alien invasion by parasitic creatures that attach to the spines of their hosts and continue to live their lives as normal until virtually the whole planet is taken over, leaving only tiny pockets of still-human resistance. The narrative is told by one of the alien consciousnesses themselves, which is also an interesting concept.

However, it’s at this point that promising sci-fi originality goes out of the window and Meyer’s compulsion to turn everything into a vapid teen romance steps in. Instead of choosing one of the many interesting potential avenues, Meyer focuses on our alien protagonist Wanda and her human host Mel’s inner girlish arguments, and on the fact that Wanda appears to have inherited Mel’s love interest in her boyfriend Jared.

Wanda decides to search for Jared and her brother Jamie, who are sheltering in a cave in the desert. She’s taken prisoner by the community Jared and Jamie have joined, and, now that Mel’s been taken over by the enemy, Jared is full of hatred for her and immediately proclaims that she should be killed. Although Wanda and Mel manage to gradually win over the trust of most of the community, Jared is staunch in his opinion, and even hits her several times, giving her noticeable injuries and facial scarring. She continues to try and gain his trust by putting herself last in everything and generally acting like a doormat, refusing to stand up for herself even to save her own life. Just as women should do in the face of domestic violence, apparently. Thanks for that, Meyer.

Despite the advances of attractive nice guy Ian, who has come to like Wanda for who she is now rather than Mel as she was previously and acts as protector and comforter to her, both Wanda and Mel cling to their desperate love for the man who quite literally wants to murder them for the majority of the novel. I was worried, given the fact that virtually the same situation happens in Twilight (ie. Edward literally wanting to kill Bella most of the time, and I’m-your-totally-platonic-friend Jacob doing everything for her and being off-handedly rejected for not being her true love), that the Wanda-Mel composite would end up somehow living happily ever after with the violent unpleasant Jared.

However, after telling her that, “You are the noblest, purest creature I've ever met. The universe will be a darker place without you,” (a compliment she was clearly fishing for from the very beginning of the novel), her friends collude to transplant her consciousness into a vacant body (another young, attractive female, obviously), conveniently saving her the trouble of going through with her difficult decision to leave Mel her own body back at Wanda’s expense. Wanda and Ian can live happily ever after, and Mel is lucky enough to have her boyfriend back – the one who weeks ago beat her repeatedly and wanted to kill her. Lucky, lucky Mel. But apparently he’s hot, so that’s what matters.

So, um, yes. Always submit meekly to your one true love, even if he beats you and threatens to kill you, and everything will be ok, until you… get transplanted into someone else and can have the nice guy? I’m still quite confused about the message I’m getting from this one.

Next up: Heartstone, by C J Sansom

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