It ocurred to me while I was reading Stephanie Meyer’s The Host, that I very seldom get to read science fiction written by a woman. That right there explains why I give this 600-page tome a B+; I completely applaud Meyer’s foray into a male-dominated genre.
I’d go further to say that The Host is a better read than any of her Twilight series. I like the fact that Meyer doesn’t use her first “adult” book as an excuse to include a bunch of gratuitious sex and violence, but rather, just so that she can write freely without being concerned about an intended teenage audience.
There is violence – but understandable violence in context of a small group of human survivors living in a world taken over by another (more intelligent and more altruistic!) life form. This is what I mean by a feminine slant – the “invaders” are not portrayed as aggressive fearsome monsters, but gentle, beautiful, creatures who by inhabiting human bodies experience love and loss as humans do – but these “souls” are also horrified by the rage and destruction humans are capable of.
Wait, let me start over: this is more than a story about alien manifest destiny, alien colonialism is just the backdrop for Meyer to explore relationships between allies and friends; between strangers and enemies – for people to be pushed right up against what’s important to them. The story is experienced through a female protagonist who is trying to make sense of the intensity of love and loyalty her host body still feels towards her lover and younger brother, but she is torn by loyalty to her own species. Love and loyalty drive all the action – and this is much more gratifying for me than a story driven by revenge or greed or anger. And the female-ness is doubled because a female “soul” (Wanderer) is occupying a human woman’s body (Melanie) and between the two of them the reader gets to analyze and understand the dynamics of each person she (“they”) meet through his or her relationships with others.
Yes, there are “aliens,” but like the society in The Giver, another sci-fi written by a woman, the “souls” value harmony and the integrity of the group over individual ambition – and the general feeling of the community of “souls” is peaceful and trusting.
I was hesitant to read The Host, but I enjoyed it afterall. The middle sags just a little bit, but overall I think the writing and story structure is much stronger than any of her books in the Twilight saga.