The Host

Just to show that she can do more than the teen vampire genre, Stephanie Meyer had her first adult science fiction novel published this summer. The book is titled The Host. The book is based on the idea of aliens who take over earth by taking over the minds of humans, leaving the bodies intact. Human beings are essentially “hosts” to this other life form, and the book is about one host body in particular, that of Melanie, who is not prepared to give final control over to her alien, Wanda (The Wanderer). Okay. (The book is actually not as corny as that last sentence just made it sound. I promise.)

Books about aliens taking over the earth can go in many different directions, so I was curious where Stephanie Meyer would go with this plot. I thought that there might be more underlying messages about the environment, and there is some of that – there is certainly concern for human violence and some funny exchanges about individualism and competitiveness, but the book is not preachy in this way, and I suspect most readers will agree with many of the author’s observations and find the ways in which they are presented interesting.

Stephanie Meyer’s writing style makes this a very hard book to put down. If you pick it up you may get through it in a day or two. But it is more than just an exciting sci-fi book; it is also a book about what makes someone who they are, about the relationship between the body and the mind, and in this sense it is a book that raises questions about personal identity. It does not take itself too seriously in this regard, but I enjoyed the opportunity to think about identity issues and to reflect further on several interesting questions raised by an author I had only known for teen fiction vampires. Stephanie Meyer shows that she is in this business for the long haul.

The Twilight Series

Several weeks ago I was reading in our local paper an article about what people are reading now that the Harry Potter series has concluded. Having read the entier Potter series (and facing a summer break in which I like to catch up on popular fiction), the article caught my eye. Several series were mentioned, but one in particular stood out to me as an alternative young adult fiction series that might rival the Potter franchise. It was the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer. I read the first two books in the series, Twilight and New Moon, and they center on a teen who falls in love with a vampire and has to navigate various issues related to this love, including a friendship with a werewolf, who, as we all know, are mortal enemies of vampires. In any case, it is interesting to catch up with what teens are reading today. I am planning to read Eclipse in the next couple of weeks, as the fourth book, Breaking Dawn, is scheduled for release August 2, 2008. Entertainment Weekly has an article on the first (of presumably many) movies based on the series.

Why did I even get into this series? What was intriguing to me at the outset was that Stephanie Meyer is a Mormon. I am not certain the extent to which her faith impacts her writing, but the article I read suggested that her conservative religious background may have contributed to decisions made by key characters in to the series. For example, the central love relationship is one of romantic and sexual tension but not of sex per se; the fact that Edmund (vampire) resists the urge to devour (literally) Bella (human) means they cannot get too close. Some critics have found this to make for a bland novel/series, while others seem to appreciate the nod to chastity (of sorts). Also interesting is that the central vampire clan does not feed on humans but on animals; they fight their own nature to live within a value system their leader holds.

So there are some interesting twists here. The Twilight series does indeed appear to be the heir apparent to the Harry Potter series. I think a few people feared that reading among adolescents would once again slump once Potter wrapped up. But thanks to Stephanie Meyer and others, there are several options in young adult fiction for the summer and beyond.