The Host - Stephenie Meyer This review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum

Disclaimer: I have never read the Twilight novels. While I do plan on doing so one day, I just so happened to have a copy of The Host lying around, the convenience of which led me to my decision to read it for my first taste of Stephenie Meyer. I'd also heard that it was a little more suitable for adults, and was curious about how she would tackle a book not aimed specifically at the teenage female demographic.

Almost right away, the plot held promise. The Host started off as both an interesting and different kind of alien invasion story to me, in which a race of extraterrestrial silvery worm-like parasites called "Souls" have colonized the planet by inserting their bodies and minds into humans, thereby taking over or erasing the original host's identity and consciousness. The story begins with Melanie Stryder waking up from one of these insertions, though now she is called Wanderer, the name of the Soul which now inhabits her body.

Except Melanie is too strong, her consciousness remaining at least partially in the body, causing Wanderer to become bombarded with thoughts and memories of Melanie's lover Jared as well as her little brother Jamie. Inadvertently, Wanderer begins to form emotional attachments to the two men as well.

At this point, I'm still pretty intrigued, especially when Melanie's knowledge leads Wanderer to a complex of caves and tunnels in the desert, where a group of free humans led by Melanie's uncle Jeb have made their home and secret hideout. Here, Wanderer/Melanie are reunited with Jared, but things get complicated when essentially two minds are in one body, with one of those being an alien entity to boot. Things become even more problematic when a love triangle of convoluted proportions begins to form as Ian, one of the residents at the hideout, develops feelings for Wanderer (the alien consciousness) while Melanie (the human consciousness) remains steadfastly in love with Jared.

And here is where the book started to lose me. I had some idea when I picked up this book that I was signing on for a romance, so I wasn't completely blindsided by the relationship drama. Still, I had not expected the story to devolve so rapidly into a sappy soap opera, and I have to say my opinion of almost everyone in the book plummeted sharply from the resulting bad dialogue and stunted personalities.

In essence, my biggest problem with The Host were its main characters. The only people I could stomach were the supporting ones like Jeb or the doctor, especially when the little brother Jamie's role was downgraded to being a convenient and useful plot tool to keep the story moving along. Because quite honestly, nothing much else was really happening.

Still, I could have enjoyed this more if it weren't for how crudely Jared and Ian were both portrayed -- over-protective, controlling, forceful, aggressive and borderline abusive, prone to petty jealousies. Like I said, I have not read the Twilight series in its entirety, but what I perceived from the two men were not so different from the criticisms I have heard about Edward's character. Even allowing for Wanderer's ignorance on human matters and the inherent meekness of her race, it annoyed me every single time either Jared and Ian told her she wasn't allowed to do something.

Speaking of which, Wanderer's portrayal doesn't fair much better. Her character is a blubbering bag of tears, always either weeping or on the verge of doing so. It's a personal thing, but I can't stand characters who constantly cry, because then they start to get me down. And whether Ms. Meyer realizes this or not, she makes Wanderer wince and flinch so much and so often, you can't help but start to wonder if the poor thing has a tic. I started being grateful for Melanie's consciousness; she was more of the firebrand with the passion and initiative.

Anyway, I guess it's hard to enjoy a book when you can't tolerate its protagonist/narrator, and this was probably the major obstacle holding me back from giving this a higher rating. Otherwise, I truly did enjoy the premise especially its science fiction elements. I also have to admire Stephenie Meyer's efforts to explore deeper and meaningful themes like the value of independence and identity, even if the execution of those ideas could have been better.