Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Host (aka Stephenie Meyer Has Issues)

The Host by Stephenie Meyer is just the type of body-snatching, brink of the extinction of humankind type of science fiction tale I’ve always loved.  The premise isn’t entirely original:  worm-like parasites attach themselves to the central nervous systems of human hosts making  them nothing more than puppets.  They have the misguided belief that humanity is wasted on humans and that they can do a better job of running Earth than we ever did. 

They never counted on Melanie Stryder though, a human host who refuses to give in.

The book is full of the wonder of humanity, the thrill of our senses and the blessings of the human experience.  That sounds pretty cheesy (and it is), so moving along swiftly…

The Host is more than just a typical body-snatching action horror story though.  Stephenie Meyer has created a wonderfully inventive and imaginative backdrop of life on other planets with senses, experiences and colours beyond our wildest imagination.  Earth is not the first planet the parasites have colonised and colonisation has never posed a problem before!

Then there is the human factor.  I’ve not actually read a book about body-snatchers before but I’ve seen plenty of films and they are usually all action and suspense with completely wooden and flat characters.  The Host is different though and I enjoyed the character development and the relationships that formed between the characters.  You really get drawn into the inner world of Wanderer (the parasite) and Melanie (the host) and her interactions with the other humans in the story.  Jared, Ian, Jeb, Doc and Jamie were quite well developed.

For a story that primarily takes place in a dark labyrinth of underground caves, this is a surprisingly entertaining and engaging book and keeps you turning the pages until the the very end.

So why had I already decided to give it 3.5 stars when I was only half way through the book?

[Insert massive sigh here]

That would be down to the classic Stephenie Meyer afflictions of a Mary Sue protagonist and what I have coined “The Sally Field Complex”.

Both Wanderer and Melanie are too perfect for words.  They are both strong, principled and absolutely pure of heart.  You can’t help but hero-worship them in their wondrous glory for how admirable and self-sacrificing they are in their concern and love for the men in their life (singular, they are one body).  They are absolute martyrs and men, it is okay to beat, humiliate, deprive and attempt to murder Wa-lanie because she hates herself and will forgive you and love you even more for it.

[That noise you are hearing is the sound of me gagging]

And who can forget the famous Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech of 1985? Why yes, you’d have to hit Wa-lanie over the head with that Oscar statuette (oh please, can I?) before the simpering idiot realises that “you like me, you really like me”.  It is like Bella Swan at the end of New Moon all over again.  (Okay, so maybe I’m misquoting Sally Field but I stand by my coined phrase). 

Stephenie Meyer obviously has serious issues relating to insecurity, codependency and sexuality and that almost tanks what could have been a magnificent book.  She lets her issues get the better of her and her books have set the cause of strong, independent and powerful women back by years.  Do you think I’m exaggerating?  Well, I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so: Twilight’s Bella Swan is a Feminist’s Nightmare.

Give me the magical matriarchy of the House of Night series or the essential and strong women of the Harry Potter series any day.  (We all know that Hermione, Ginny and Mrs Weasley won that war).

Maybe I’m a bit too much like a reformed smoker (not that I’ve ever been a smoker) but I wasted so much of my life not believing in myself and thinking I was a hero for forgiving men that abused me.  It takes a lot to overcome that lack of self-belief and self-esteem and as a strong, independent, vivacious and intelligent woman, I just don’t appreciate Stephenie Meyer’s message.  So yes, the book gets 3.5 stars because I did enjoy it in the end but like with her other books, I’m left wondering why I bothered.


Oh, and in answer to your next question, of course I’ll be going to see New Moon this weekend.  What would I have to complain about next week otherwise?

© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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