Author : Stephenie Meyer
Release Date : May 6, 2008
Publisher : Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition
ISBN-10: 0316068047
ISBN-13: 978-0316068048
Pages : 624

Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series are the rage these days. I always hear requests for her books at the local bookstore which probably made a pre-X’mas killing with all four Twilight books selling like hotcakes these past few months. So, when The Host came out, I followed the gushing herd and grabbed myself a copy as well.

Okay, so I’ve immersed myself in this story and have finished, after all the hype, well, a bit unimpressed. Not because it’s a bore. Oh no, this is actually an enjoyable story, pleasant to read.  It’s just that I’m really not the target reader.

Some reviews call this Meyer’s first “adult” novel. It may be so, but that doesn’t mean that it’s mature. It’s still very much an adolescent romance-fantasy. Okay let’s stretch it to say that this is a book that people in their twenties would also like.

Interestingly enough, the story is told from the point of view of the alien named Wanderer : Earth is invaded by alien parasites, called Souls, who invade worlds by attaching themselves to whatever intelligent planetary inhabitants they find. Being thus one with the host, they assume his senses, feelings, and memories.

Wanderer, famed in her world for living in a variety of host species, is particularly chosen for the body of Melanie Stryder to access information about existing pockets of human resistance to the invasion. Little does Wanderer know that this host will present her greatest challenge. As she takes over Melanie’s body, she inherits a slew of memories and an overwhelming love for the two most important people in Melanie’s life: Jared and Jaime.

With Melanie’s indomitable spirit still very much alive, and with this compelling love they both share, Wanderer is forced to find them. In the process of doing so, Wanderer finally finds herself as well.

I can see now that Meyer’s success is in her ability to pull many an adolescent’s heartstrings. This book is really a romance wrapped in science fiction; so it hits the spot for young people’s (and those teeners at heart) romantic and escapist cravings quite well—two great formulas in one. No wonder she gets good ratings on this, too.

A thing that pleased me and I hope the author never veers from this: this book and I’ve heard, her Twilight series as well, are quite wholesome romances — I give this a PG-13. In this time where cuss words and sex are usual drivels in music and in teen lit, it’s quite refreshing to know that here’s something that didn’t need these to sell.

Since this book is for a young readership, expect the romance to be cheesy, the sci-fi background also a tad lame; but hey, if you’re in that enviable age bracket, listen to no “oldie” on this — you’ll like this book, mush and all.

My rating should be based from the viewpoint of the author’s intended market. So, if I were 17, I’d say:

My Mark : Cool! —- Two thumbs up!!

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Author :  John Connolly

Release Date : April 25, 2005

“In the crowded killing fields of crime fiction, John Connolly is a unique voice.” — Michael Connelly

Indeed he is.  As my first foray into John Connolly’s work, I am amazed by his ability to elevate crime fiction writing with beautifully crafted prose.  He has a rare knack of weaving elegant, loftily worded paragraphs with contemporary, casually-toned ones.  The result is a smooth read with seamless alterations in moods, without jarring stops and starts, mid-stride.

Black Angel is the fifth novel in a crime series.  The central hero, Charlie Parker,  embroils himself in an investigation over the disappearance of a close friend’s cousin, Alice.  His search leads him to face a horrible truth—the existence of a demonic being known as the Dark Angel, whose lost whereabouts over the centuries have led The Believers, an army of evil men and fallen demons in human guise, to carve a bloody, gruesome trail of death in their search for him.  The Believers is championed by the Dark Angel’s twin, accompanied by a  malevolent soul-eater.

The novel is heavy on the paranormal and the gothic, its inspiration drawn largely from at least three major sources:

a) an Old Testament apocryphal book, The Book of Enoch;

b) the Sedlec ossuary in Czechoslovakia, which as a major setting, appropriately lends the macabre flavor to the story;

(If you’ve never heard of this place, take a peek : )

Official Website

Sterf

Panoramic views of the Bone Church

The Ossuary in Sedlec

c) a controversial Mexican religion venerating the Santa Muerte.

John Connolly’s delightfully detailed historical accounts in this book have probably fired up some readers to learn more about them.  I know they have compelled me to scurry through the internet for my own research.  So midway through the book, I’ve been entertained with a mound of fascinating albeit morbid material on this novel’s inspirations.

The characters are also what make the book interesting.  This particular novel, being the sequel to four others, does not elaborate on the backgrounds of its protagonists; but, you may glean some bits and pieces about them as the story progresses.  Not knowing much about them, though, will not impede anyone’s enjoyment of this book.  However, to know the characters intimately, a new reader to John Connolly would be better served if he were to start from the first in the series, Every Dead Thing.

A lot of credit should also go to the author’s ability to present violence so artistically.   He has an intensely meticulous graphical style that makes his descriptions so vividly crystalline.  Unfortunately, it is precisely this quality that may render the novel too verbose for some readers.   People who prefer a straight-to-the-point manner may be annoyed at being drenched with all that verbiage.

True, the novel could have been a shorter read.   But for readers like me who revel in Connolly’s beautiful phraseologies, there is no such wordiness.  It is a rare treat to find a crime-thriller written with such eloquent and oftentimes almost poetic language; and, an even rarer pleasure to discover one that dared to successfully defy the accustomed patterns of its genre.

My Mark : Excellent