This too is a review of Stephanie Meyer's novel The Host.
This book has a rare distinction: I have read it twice in the period of 12 months. The last time this happened was from pure desperation, as there was only one book written in English within my grasp. I honestly cannot remember the last time I reread a book so quickly when not under duress. This is not to say that The Host is the best book I've read in recent years, but it is a good indication of its addictive qualities. Yes, even more addictive than Twilight, at least if you are over the age of fourteen.
The first time I read this book I ran directly to E2 to write a review, only to find that santo had written an excellent review, one that was right on the nose, and one that I couldn't improve upon. However, upon rereading the book, I have a few comments that may be worth reading.
The first time that I read The Host, it was due to severe Twilight withdrawal. While as a general rule I do not read teenage romance novels, The Twilight series is surprisingly good, once you push your way through the first few chapters and adjust to the angsty teenager vibe. Make no mistake, the series is low literature, formulaic pap, and emo to the extreme -- but it is also highly addictive. After four books of sparkling vampires, The Host was a godsend. It was written for adults! It took more than one sitting to read! It was wonderful!
My second reading was not preceded by 3000 pages of tween Gothic novel, and as you might expect, it paled in the lack of comparison. The Host is a good book. I recommend it next time you are on vacation or sick in bed and need a good distraction. It is not as good as I remember. It is still highly addictive. I will read it a third and a fourth time.
Somewhat more interestingly, this book is a clear indication that Mrs. Meyer is a fan of Robert Heinlein. Heinlein popularized the idea of small, slug-like aliens that could take over the bodies of humans in his book The Puppet Masters (another book that is well worth reading). In The Host the human resistance is led by a classic Heinlein libertarian, Jeb. He is a friendly, liberal, uncompromising, highly individualistic patriarch, always wise and fair, unpredictable and steady as a rock. He is what the Old Man in Puppet Masters should have been. While Stephanie Meyer's characters are much more emotional than Heinlein's ever were, the highly developed ideals of honor and fair play, and the careful social posturing and slow compromising, are all very Heinlein-like. If Heinlein had ever written romance novels, this is what they would have been like.
What Heinlein would not have done is to humanize the aliens, to bring them into the story as full partners, to show you their side and make you want things to turn out well for them. The Host has a lot more depth and complexity than your average Heinlein novel. While Heinlein might be described as a writer of sociological science fiction, Meyer is much more a writer of psychological science fiction, and as always, she glorifies in making impossible resolutions between conflicting groups, whether it be vampires and werewolves or aliens and humans.
And yes, I think this book counts as a romance novel. A good one. It also counts as a science fiction novel, also a good one.