Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I put off reading this adult novel by the author of the Twilight saga because it seemed so strictly sci-fi, and I don't really read much of that any more. But I was thirsting for Meyer's special blend of human/superhuman love, wonderful, readable dialog, and totally involving plots. I was not disappointed in The Host.

In the world of The Host, tiny, alien "souls" have been colonizing many of the planets in the universe, with Earth being one of their recent acquisitions.  The worm-like, silvery, beautiful souls are implanted into the brains of human hosts and take over the actions and thoughts of that host. That is, unless the host is especially strong and feisty like Melanie - the new host of a "soul" named Wanderer. Wanderer is chosen to be implanted into Melanie because of her vast immortal experience in the universe; she has had many hosts on all the colonized planets. But Melanie's desire to still occupy her own body and find her younger brother and boyfriend are stronger than the soul, and they begin a lengthy struggle within the human body they share. The also embark on a secret journey into the underworld of humans who refuse to give in to the aliens and their plan.

As in the Twilight vampire books, the most fascinating thing about this story is the social interaction and moral dilemmas faced by the characters. The souls believe they are helping Earth by taking over, because they are incapable of violence, greed, sloth, or any of the deadly sins they feel have overtaken human Earth. The humans, of course, feel violated and want to retake their planet by force, but there simply aren't enough of them left to fight. In the "underworld" that the humans have created for themselves, they must decide to live in the very way that could have saved the Earth in the first place: they have to work together, seek harmony with the environment and each other, live morally, and work hard in order to be able to live together, meet their body's needs, and most importantly, hide from the world that  is now corrupted by the souls. The souls have no ideas about personal freedoms or creativity, and Wanderer finds that the deep emotions of love, lust, fear, and joy are too wonderful to give up, and indeed, are worth fighting for.  The ultimate selflessness of Melanie, Wanderer, and their love interests is also profound and haunting, much like the irrisistible love between Edward and Bella. However, the story is in no way like Meyer's other books except in its wonderful ability to make the reader get lost in fiction, immersed in other worlds and haunted by the meaning embedded in seemingly "silly" reading fodder.

So, if you don't think you do sci-fi, you might want to try The Host just to make sure.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall

I picked this one up because of the rave reviews, and I definitely think it should be a next year's book club pick as well. Sweeping up Glass guides us through the present and past of Olivia Harker, a child left behind with her father by her crazy mother. She doesn't remember the abandonment, however, and enjoys her life with her grocery owning, hooch running, veterinarian dad who teaches her conservation, tolerance, and love. But when Ida, her mother, returns from the asylum, and then she and her father get in a car accident, the world changes for Olivia and she becomes a broken girl, inside and out.

The reader not only gets a look at how Olivia lives her life and ages, but we find out just how far prejudice in a small town can go and how blind we can be to it, if we don't subscribe to it. Olivia learns that some love doesn't die, and even those we love can lie to us sometimes.

This is a poignant book full of rich story, setting, history, and rebirth. A lot to talk about. Let me know what you think!