Stephenie Meyer is a thoughtful, careful writer. The depth and subtlety of her plot is fantastically mirrored in the multi-layered facets of her characters, wherein the complexity of her thought is revealed. One is simultaneously unable to stop reading and also drawn to careful consideration of such things as community, prejudice, self sacrifice, dualism, the other, and the heartbreaking complexity of love.
But don’t look for any of this in her unfathomably popular Twilight series. You won’t find it.
Meyers’ most recent novel, The Host, puts to rest any speculations about Twilight’s possible veiled greatness. Readers may now rest assured, if they had any doubt, that Twilight is no work of genius. It is, however, the work of, if not a genius, at least a very quick learner. The Host is the work of a much improved and much matured writer whose clear prose and thoughtful execution reminds one more of Ender than of Edward. It bears little resemblance to Meyers’ more widely known Twilight saga, whose teenaged audience will neither fathom nor enjoy The Host.
The Host invites readers to inhabit an earth almost completely annexed by a parasitical alien race. The small silver aliens who attach themselves to the human nervous system subdue the earth with little effort, suppressing each human host’s personality, but not his memories. The “souls”, as they are called, are gentle, peaceful beings who abhor violence of all kinds and believe the earth has been much improved by their orderly and compassionate presence. Crime all but disappears, as most hosts cannot even bring themselves to break speed limit laws. Conflict of any kind is nearly unheard of, even in popular entertainment – a fact, we are reminded often, which makes for very bad television.
Then Wanderer comes. After living out the lives of species on nine other planets, Wanderer is implanted into a human host, a young woman named Melanie. As sometimes happens, Melanie’s personality is initially difficult to subdue: Melanie wants to live.
It’s not easy to write from the point of view of two simultaneous main characters, but Meyer does so gracefully. Her skillful depiction of the complex relationship that develops between the two beings which inhabit Melanie’s body successfully captures the constant tension between the two without exaggerating or overemphasizing it. The reader comes to sympathize with both characters – indeed, with all the characters in this book, both good and bad.
This is not to say that The Host is perfect. While many of the players (and there are many of them) are beautifully portrayed, others – especially the male love interests – are disappointingly one-dimensional through most of the book. Not everyone in a story needs to be interesting, but the love interest whose devotion drives much of the plot certainly should be. Also, for a race that can’t even bear to see common social awkwardness in its entertainment, the souls are just a little too good at dominating planets.
Then again, science fiction is typically not known and enjoyed for its plausibility.
Orson Scott Card fans will quickly note the Ender’s Game author’s influence on Meyer’s work. Indeed, The Host may well join the Ender books as a cult classic, cementing Meyer’s status as a great Mormon author long after Edward and Bella are forgotten. ‘