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Book Review – The Host by Stephenie Meyer

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I have to start out by saying that I’m a little ashamed of myself for reading a Stephenie Meyer book, let alone enjoying it. Part of me can’t forgive her for the damage she did to the world of dark fantasy by taking vampires from a subtle metaphor for deviant behavior and turned them into some sort of analogy for white male supremacy. That’s a rant for another day, though.

I decided to give The Host a chance because I was threatened with violence and fire if I did not. It is a friend of mine’s favorite book, and during a particularly mean spirited anti-Meyer rant I had one evening, she decided to let me know that I was not allowed to judge her based on the Twilight series (which in all fairness I’ve read 1 page of, unless you count the Reasoning with Vampires Tublr). I can be quick to judge an author based on how atrocious the opening of a book is, and then compound that with how horrid the inevitable crap movie based on the book is. If I was unfair to Stephenie Meyer, then I should probably be locked away for a hate crime committed against Christopher Paolini (although, in fairness, he committed a hate crime against the English language first, followed by a raping of the fantasy genre’s puppy. He deserves our ire.)

I may have been unfair to Meyer though. Her writing (craftwise) isn’t any worse than J.K. Rowling, and I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. My problem with the Twilight series is the incredibly thinly veiled Mormon overtones combined with the rather obvious, “Forget the poor Native American that loves and protects you with all of his heart and soul, go and marry the rich, abusive white asshole” lesson. I actually don’t have a problem with vampires sparkling in the sun on a personal level. She was trying something new. I don’t blame her for that.

But I digress.

The Host is not part of the Twilight Saga. It does not have sparkly vampires or fairy wolves in it. It has pod people, sort of.

The book is told from the point of view of Wanderer, a member of an alien race known as “Souls” in English. Basically souls are parasitic worm monsters that attach to the brain of intelligent creatures and replace their personalities with their own. The book itself takes place years after the Human race has fallen to the Souls, with only a handful of resistance fighters left.

Wanderer finds herself waking up from a long sleep in cryogenic stasis to discover that she has been put in the body of a member of the resistance, and that her body, Melanie, isn’t at all okay with that.

As you can imagine, wackiness ensues from there. The book deals a lot with the themes of found family, betrayal, and the difference between spiritual and physical love, as well as the nature of emotion in general.

I enjoyed it, probably in no small part because I listened to it as an audio book read by the wonderful Kate Reading, who has a smooth voice that hypnotizes and compels. In general, the story was somewhat predictable, including the ever present “Meyers Love Triangle.” The characters themselves were investment worthy, though. I liked learning more about them and I actually began to care for them as characters. It was a pretty big change from her other primary protagonist, who was written to be so generic and bland that any girl could pretend she was actually the one being wooed in the Washington woods.

Bottom line, it’s worth picking up and reading. If you think that Meyer’s should be strictly punished for what Twilight has done to the world, then read The Host and consider it her attempt to make it up to you. I assure you, this is a sci-fi story that doesn’t go out of it’s way to ruin all other sci-fi stories ever written. It’s just a book about some characters that have real depth to them living in a really messed up situation, and trying to survive.

In the end, I dug it, and that should be enough of a reason to add it to your list of books to get to sooner or later.

If you’d like to check it out, you can get it as an audio book read by Kate Reading here, or pick it up a hardback copy on [amazon_link id=”B004R10ANA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].

Published by M.A. Brotherton

M.A. Brotherton is a writer, blogger, artist, and fat-kid from the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. He’s tasted a little bit of everything the Midwest has to offer, ranging from meth-tweaking rednecks in massive underground cave complexes to those legendary amber waves of grain. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time screwing around on the internet.

14 thoughts on “Book Review – The Host by Stephenie Meyer”

  1. Sara Olson-Liebert says:

    I actually gave the Twilight novels a fair shot. I read them all simply because I was baffled at how they ended up as fodder for AP college English courses here.  Then I heard she wrote an ‘adult’ book, so I read The Host.

    I pretty much hated it too.

    I think I just despise her writing, her story ideas period. She’s just not my cup of tea. To each their own.

    And just for you- And Also, Safety Dance.

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      I have a hard time not getting distracted by the actual craft that goes into a book. I nitpick all of the sentence structuring and things like that and I can’t get into the story. It is one of the reasons I switched from reading books in hardback to listening to them from Audible. Also, I can do it in the car and increase my reading time by like 1400%.

      That being said, when I am listening to a story that is well Narrated, the natural flow of the voice actor/actress can really save a poorly written book. It makes word breaks and things seem more natural, and lets me get caught up on the important part, like the characters and story.

      Now, the Story of the The Host isn’t brilliant, but I do like the characters that are in it, and I think that makes me a 16 year old girl inside.

      1. Sara Olson-Liebert says:

        I will agree with you.  Listening to a book is entirely different than reading it.  I had a data entry job for a few years where we were allowed to listen to audiobooks/ipods/etc while we worked. Audiobooks were the only way I got through some works I know I would have otherwise burnt with relish.  Anyways. I’ll allow you to be a 16 year old girl inside because I still giggle in delight over movies like Mean Girls.  See!  You’re fine!

        1. M.A. Brotherton says:

          Well, at least I’m not some sort of freak for having an inner 16 year old girl.

          It really does make a difference, and I think it allows me to absorb more. I’ve always been an auditory learner, so listening to the words makes them sink in better.

  2. Tracy Mangold says:

    I have The Host and just could not get into it. I also don’t think she is any where NEAR the caliber writer that J.K. is. I’ve read all the Twilights. Don’t care for them but I do think the movies are better – from a pure – entertainment viewpoint. That’s my personal take on it. But they are horrible examples for girls. J.K. Rowling has a fabulous imagination and empowers all. 

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      I want to be pretty clear that I think Rowling’s stories are absolutely amazing. On the list of books that I read multiple times, the Harry Potter Series falls in at #3. I love the series.

      That being said, Rowling is a great storyteller, and I can appreciate that, but crafwise, she’s a bad writer.

      Her story is just SO GOOD that I don’t notice the poor craft when I’m reading it. Which I guess is actually the sign that she is a great writer.

      That being said, there are two books out there that I have tried to read and never been able to get past the first few pages on. One is Twilight, and the other is Eragon. Both are so horribly written that it put my brain into fits trying to deal with the garbage word usage.

      I don’t even know if there is a good story there, because the craft is so bad that it causes me physical pain to try and read them.

      The Host didn’t do that to me, and I am chalking it up to Kate Reading correcting some of it as she read. Plus, I’m a sucker for a body snatcher story, and especially one that asks you to examine one simple question, “Am I the bad guy?”

      1. Tracy Mangold says:

        LOL. I agree. I love how Stephen King reacted to Stephanie Meyer’s writing. I think I almost choked on whatever it was I was drinking at the time when I read it. There’s nothing better than a good story. But I’m curious, what are your qualifications for being a good writer craft wise.

        1. M.A. Brotherton says:

          I think the most important part is how well you communicate your intent. Obviously I’m not a stickler for spelling or grammar, not that I consider myself a great writer by any means.

          When we talk about bad writing craft, it’s easy to see it when it’s really bad, the writing becomes overly distracting.

          To me the craft of writing is in word choice and flow. If the words feel like they are getting in the way of the story, then it’s bad craft. It becomes distracting. I generally give Rowling, and other YA authors a pass at points when their writing does this because more often than not, it feels like it was an editor coming in behind them and saying, “This isn’t appropriate for 13 year olds.”

          I can also tell you if you read through the Harry Potter series from the beginning in one sitting, you can actually watch Rowling evolve to compensate for that. It becomes obvious around book four.

          So, to make a long story short, I guess it is very subjective. It is about how easily my mind follows along with the story, unhindered by the writers choice of words or phrasing.

  3. Canaan Roling says:

    I’ve decided I will try to JK another shot. Her first 3 books were not interesting or well written to me at all. And I’ve read the Twilight Saga and The Host now, and honestly both were so unforgettable I cannot remember their plot or characters at all.
    Then again, I am constantly told I’m a sci-fi fantasy snob.
    Neither of the authors compare to Lackey, Jordan, Modesti, and their my “easy” readers. They tell their stories using beautiful language and story-crafting. Then you get into the likes of Lewis, Tolkein, MacDonald and other old timers and you can not even hold a candle to them.
    But on the JK note, I have had multiple people tell me that by book 4 her craft improves tremendously, so I”ll give her another shot.

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      You should give Rowling another shot. She tells an amazing story with loveable characters.

      In my opinion Lackey does not belong on a list with Jordan, who belongs on the second list anyway as one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time.

      I’ve never heard of Modesti, send me a recommended read there. I’ll check it out.

      Seriously, though. Rowling’s writing gets a million times better about book four, and I think it’s because at that point she had the clout to tell the publishers to eat a dick when they tried to edit her work to make it more “youth friendly.”

      1. Tracy Mangold says:

        I really hate it and I’m not talking about you, Matt, when people diss JK. My imagination soars when I read her books. I never thought it was dumbed down. I hate it when people call their work, their “craft” personally and REALLY, if I EVER EVER EVER resort to calling what I do, my “craft” I hope someone smacks me upside the head. I think we really get too critical of other writers sometimes. I read for enjoyment. If a book intrigues me, propels me to read, then I like it and it is enjoyable. What I don’t like about Meyers is that she is one-dimensional. She writes a fun story but her characters are replaceable. They don’t burrow their way into our hearts in the same way as do the characters of Harry Potter. I can’t imagine not loving the HP novels personally but that said, they aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I loved your review in case I didn’t mention it, Matt. I love this discussion. SOO healthy to have.

        1. M.A. Brotherton says:

          I do not diss JK Rowling. She is one of my favorite writers, and someone I greatly admire. I actually love to read her blog and news posts, too, although she hides them in sneaky places on her website. She inspires me as a writer to keep going and pushing. I know she targets a lot of that stuff at kids, but it still inspires me.

          I have to come to the defense of the term “craft,” though. I think there is a skill to putting words together, and that should be celebrated. More often than not, though, the term is used by people that don’t know what the crap they’re talking about to hide the fact that they are barely literate.

          Everyone that sits down to write has imagination and stories to tell, we all have that in spades. Some of us might have more raw talent than others, but I don’t think talent is the difference between good writing and bad writing. Being a good writer takes work and dedication. The craft of writing is where it shows how much effort you put into growing and developing that talent.

          I have to agree about Meyer’s characters in Twilight. I honestly believe that Bella was written as to be so completely generic and bland on purpose so that every girl out there could cast herself as the main character of the book. I don’t feel the same way about The Host, but it could be the depth that Kate Reading adds as she reads it.

  4. Mary Fankhauser says:

    I enjoyed the book too, but had a very distracting recurring thought – What about the poor people?
    The premise of Souls taking over human bodies in order to experience life as a human works out just fine if you’re one of the lucky souls who ends up in affluent suburbs in the U.S.  What about the souls who ended up in trailer parks? The squalour of the ghettoes of Mumbai? The flood plains of Bangladesh? Basically anywhere where their ‘share the work, share the produce’ philosophy still won’t end up with enough for everybody?

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      You know, I feel a little guilty that it never occurred to me to question it. I suppose the point they were always trying to make was as a global community, they didn’t have those problems because they would spread the resources equally across the planet and ensure that everyone had everything they needed.

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