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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

Who?
Algis Budrys
Alliance In Blood
Ariel Tachna
Progress: 86/210 pages
To Say Nothing of the Dog: Or How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last
Connie Willis, Recorded Books LLC, Steven Crossley
The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality
Julie Sondra Decker
The Mystic Marriage
Heather Rose Jones
Progress: 302/426 pages
Ichi-F: A Worker's Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
Kazuto Tatsuta
Progress: 448/553 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages

The Host: A Novel

The Host - Stephenie Meyer Despite its length (slightly over 600 pages), I read this book in two and a half days, which is a good general indication that I enjoyed it. I'm not sure how well all the alien worlds Meyer writes about would hold up to scientific examination, by they are at least fun to read about. The love story (stories?) is a bit awkward but also interesting. Meyer does an excellent job of making Wanderer and other souls sympathetic, which has the unfortunate side effect of making humans seem like violent, nearly irredeemable monsters. True, the human hosts are taken unwillingly, but I couldn't help but think that the souls were doing a better job with their human bodies than humans themselves do. One of the ways humans finally noticed they'd been invaded: lots of humans suddenly became kinder. Pedophiles, drug dealers, and others who harmed people and broke the law began turning themselves in. Oh, the horror.Overall, I actually found myself liking the aliens more than the humans. When Mel turned up among the souls, they chased after her so that she could be implanted with a soul. She was badly hurt, but only because she tried to kill herself in an attempt to avoid getting taken over. The souls healed her body, implanted Wanderer into her, and sent Wanderer off to her new job (as a teacher of soul history) and new life in the nearly perfect human world - no one ever has to pay for anything, all injuries can be healed, all illnesses can be cured, everyone trusts each other, no one lies if they can help it, and the only negative emotions anyone feels come from their human hosts.Aside from the Seekers, souls aren't capable of violence, and even most of the Seekers would probably prefer not to hurt anyone. The souls really have more to fear from humans. When Wanderer turns up among the human community, they, for the most part, try to hurt her. They make their hatred of her clear and, even though she has never once lifted a hand even to defend herself, they fear her. I can understand their fear that she might tell the Seekers about them - after the way they treated her, it was crazy of her not to want to. However, you'd think they'd eventually realize that, on an individual, physical level, they have nothing to fear from her, that all the violence in their interactions with her comes solely from themselves.Well, enough about that - time to write about my gripes. In short, they are the book's length, the ending, the way Meyer writes about love, and the whole "humans are so unique" thing.The Length: Meyer's editor seems to be afraid to force her to tighten up her word count, since book length has been a frequent problem for her. No, I don't think the only good book is a short book - I like plenty of long books. However, I believe that there should be a purpose to all those words. As I read The Host, I found myself thinking that, although I was mostly enjoying myself and certainly making good time reading the book (the check out period of this book was only a week, so I had to finish it quickly regardless), the book didn't really need to be this long. There are many, many pages spent on Mel longing for Jared, Wanderer lamenting how much she is hated, and Wanderer trying to win people's trust like an eager puppy. A better writer, or better editor, could have condensed all these things and more without, I think, the quality of the book suffering. Heck, it might even have become better, and maybe I wouldn't have wanted to smack Mel so much.The Ending: Usually, when someone complains about a book or movie's happy ending, I'm the one wondering what's wrong with that person. I don't like it when my entertainment depresses me, so I tend to like happy endings. I liked Wanderer a lot and was happy that things turned out well for her, but Meyer's determination to make this a happy ending for everyone, absolutely everyone, was difficult for even me to swallow. Wanderer lives, and humankind will eventually be freed from its alien invasion (one person at a time, but I suppose Doc could teach others how to do it). The alien invaders, who aren't actually all that bad, won't be killed. The truly nice souls, the ones willing to do just about anything for their human friends, will be able to stick around, inhabiting mindless bodies. Ian's brother magically becomes a decent guy. Everybody's happy. Well, everyone except the beings the souls use as hosts on other planets, but who cares about a bunch of non-humanoid aliens? The humans are saved!To my mind, it's a happy ending that's only happy because Meyer allows her characters to just forget all the things that can't be fixed. The souls will continue to take over hosts, because that's what they must do to survive, and the humans (or, at least, Wanderer's humans) won't be killing the souls they remove. What about the souls who lovingly care for their unimplanted human children? Will they remove the souls from those human bodies, even though those souls would then have to leave behind the children they've grown to love?I can imagine Wanderer and Ian eventually having children, but they would be human children only. I'm sure Wanderer would continue to hate what she is too much to spawn millions of little host-needing parasites. From a soul perspective, this is kind of sad. Wanderer may have found herself some friends and someone to love, but she can only keep all of that if she doesn't let herself truly be what she is. When Wanderer's host is ready to die of old age, I suspect she'll just let herself die. It probably won't even occur to her to have children the way souls do.Love in Meyer's Books: I suppose I could just write about love in The Host, but what I have to say really applies to all of Meyer's books. Love, in Meyer's worlds, has a tendency to be disturbingly masochistic. In Meyer's Twilight books, Bella and Edward would just die without each other - in fact, when Edward thinks Bella is dead, he tries to commit suicide. Bella realizes that Edward craves her blood and could possibly kill her at any moment, but she loves him unconditionally (I guess having survival instincts would make her love less pure?) and doesn't care. Plus, she'd love it if he would turn her into a vampire - who cares about the friends and family she'd have to leave behind, after all?The Host has similar problems, plus some readers may take issue with Meyer's love of large physical age gaps. Mel is 17 when she meets 26-year-old Jared - he kisses her the first time they meet, but, because of her age, refuses to have sex with her. How gentlemanly! (You can't see me, but I'm rolling my eyes.) When Wanderer is put into her final human body, she lies about its age (almost 17), so that Ian won't go all gentlemanly on her. That one threw me a little because, it seemed somewhat unnecessary. After all, while Wanderer's new body may be disturbingly child-like (she looks smaller and younger than her actual physical age of 16-nearly-17), Wanderer herself is a few thousand years old. I can't help but wonder what Meyer was trying to do. Why not make Wanderer's new body a sweet-looking, cute, petite 20-year-old or something?Ok, I got a little sidetracked there. Back to what I really wanted to write about - love in The Host. Mel loves Jared, so much so that she can't possibly believe he would hurt her when she comes back to him implanted with Wanderer. She doesn't think she could have harmed him if he had been in the same situation - her love would be too great!! Oh, I swoon. Ahem. Well, as far as Jared not harming her is concerned, Mel is so very, very wrong. Jared wants to kill her. He tries to kill her. Several times. The only reason he stops is because it upsets Jamie so much. Mel wants to throw herself at Jared even though it's practically guaranteed that he would break her face if she tried it.Apparently, only one person in Mel's body can have survival instincts at a time. When crazy Mel wants to throw herself at Jared, sane Wanderer holds them both back and tells Mel to get a grip. When Wanderer starts to love everyone so much that she begins to hate her existence as a parasite, Mel tries to stop her from having herself removed and allowed to die. Again, a character's love is so great that she is prompted to express it in ways that cause her pain/death - at least in Wanderer's case, one could see her actions as part of her species makeup, since soul Mothers must give up their lives for their children to live. Both characters lose there sanity where Jamie is concerned, although I found this much easier to swallow. Mel and Wanderer both viewed themselves as something like Jamie's mother, and mothers will sometimes do crazy things to protect their young. I can buy that and even be ok with it. Plus, Jamie never once tried to kill Mel/Wanderer. I still can't believe Mel was hardly even phased by Jared's reaction to her. The more I think about it, the more I hate Jared. Or maybe Mel. Or both of them. Ian, at least, only tried to kill Wanderer when they first met - perfectly understandable, since she was the enemy and he had never known Mel pre-implantation. I also appreciated that he didn't like how willing Wanderer was to harm herself and overlook her own needs/wants in order to help others. That gives him several points over Jared."Humans Are Unique": This cropped up a lot at the beginning of the book, and it annoyed me. Wanderer had been implanted in 7 or 8 extremely diverse hosts prior to being implanted in Mel. Readers are told that humans are so very unique. Their emotions are stronger, more erratic, and harder to control than the emotions of any other beings the souls have used as hosts before. One thing Wanderer notes is that Mel is her first host to have a sense of smell.Saying "humans are unique" makes me think too much of all those sci-fi shows in which some alien, in a tone filled with awe and/or respect, notes that some "uniquely human" characteristic makes humans one of the strongest/most frightening/most whatever species he/she/it has ever encountered. Even shows I love, like Babylon 5, have engaged in that sort of thing. I really dislike it, because it implies that humans are special. Why do we have to be special?It helped, I guess, that Wanderer loved the characteristics of some of her other hosts' bodies almost as much as the emotions she gets when she's in a human body, but I still could have done with a little less focusing on the ways humans are different from any other host she's known. Aside from the bit where Wanderer talks about previous hosts that are most physiologically similar to humans, Meyer writes very little about the similarities between humans and other hosts Wanderer has been in.Well, I should wrap this up. Again, I liked this book. If the Wikipedia article I read is correct, there will be a second book (unless of course Meyer decides not to publish it, just as she decided to "indefinitely delay" her leaked book), and possibly even a third. Personally, I think The Host stands well enough on its own. I'll read the sequel, when and if it comes out, but I do hope it's not just an attempt to milk another potential cash cow.By the way, try reading the blurbs on the book jacket. Meyer is called "a hybrid combination of Stephen King and Isaac Asimov" (by author Ridley Pearson). Umm... I wonder if Stephen King read that - it reminded me of his "Meyer can't write" comment. Maybe the blurb was set up to mess with him. Also, just in general, the blurbs are kind of funny. I mean, they practically glow. It's like a madlib of fawning.(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)