Wanderer And Stephenie Meyer Are Both Awful At Storytelling: The Host Chapters 25 and 26

Posted on August 9, 2013 by

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Happy Friday, readers! We have a ton of news to share with you! When I say “we”, I mostly mean “I”, but don’t worry! WE’LL GET THERE.

  1. In Matthew news, today is my last day interning for NPR. I am officially unemployed!
  2. As a result, I’m kind of way too busy to have a new Good Books, Good Times ready by Saturday. I’ll try to get it up by Sunday, but I can’t promise anything, unfortunately. The winds of fate are a fickle temptress.
  3. But I totally have a new article on NPR this week! It’s about Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics, the Adventure Time graphic novels, the Machine of Death short story anthology editor) and his new Choose-Your-Own-Adventure rewrite of Shakespeare’s Hamlet! You should totally read it! You’ll learn a li’l somethin’ somethin’ about Shakespearean adaptation and its socio-political role!
  4. Most importantly, Ariel and I have decided that The Host sucks. Like, we already knew that, but it really sucks. Specifically that it’s slow-paced, and this is totally messing with our read-along style, especially because we’re already doing all we can to read two chapters for you a week (we are but human).
    So here’s what we’re going to do. Starting next week, Ariel and I are splitting up the work and reading two different chapters, so we’ll get through four a week. “But wait,” you, a concerned blog reader, say with a voice full of concern. “This means that we’ll only hear funny funny jokes about each chapter from one of you and not the other!” Well, concerned blog reader, this is only partly true, because the other one of us who isn’t reading that day will still contribute their jokes to the other person’s post! So one of us will write the bulk of the post as usual, but the other reader will have their own comments in there, talking about things the other one didn’t or simply following up on what they did. Either way, MORE JOKES FOR EVERYONE.
    This is actually something we’ve wanted to experiment with for quite a while, because we’ve always wanted this blog to feel more conversational between the two of us than it currently does. And because Stephenie Meyer wrote such a slow, boring book, this is the perfect opportunity to experiment with our approach and try something that might be better! Thank you for sucking so much we had to totally reevaluate how we mock books that suck, The Host!

Okay. Back to The Host.

Choose to not read any more of this book than any one person should.

Choose to not read any more of this book than any one person should.

Chapter 25: Compelled

Another week had passed, maybe two – there seemed little point in keeping track of time here, where it was so irrelevant

See, this is exactly why we’re going to start reading this book at twice the speed, Wanderer.

Wanderer keeps doing lots of chores in the cave and gets to learn about the other survivors a little bit. Like what their names are and that there’s thirty-five of them. Making great strides there, Wanderer. Apparently Sharon (Melanie’s cousin who she was trying to find when she got captured in the first place) has been here the whole time?

Doc and Sharon were partnered […] Sharon was not the girl I’d seen in Melanie’s memories. Was it the years of living alone with the dour Maggie that had changed her into a more brightly colored version of her mother? Though her relationship with Doc was newer to this world than I was, she showed none of the softening effects of new love.

Did we know any of this?! Is this book actually drowning in so much description of its settings and moral philosophizing from its narrator that I missed a detail as important as the person Melanie died trying to save IS ALIVE AND HAS BEEN HERE ALL THIS TIME?

[Jamie and Jared had] gone to look for Sharon themselves. Maggie had held Jared at the point of an antique sword while he tried to explain; it had been a close thing. It had not taken long with Maggie and Jared working together for them to decipher Jeb’s riddle. The four of them had gotten to the caves before I’d moved from Chicago to San Diego.

And yet Wanderer and Melanie are supposed to be significantly strong-willed and good at stuff, right? We only had to read about how fucking special they are a billion times.

Also this song is stuck in your head now.

Also this song is stuck in your head now.

Anyway, Jamie (somehow) notices something that I have: Melanie hasn’t said anything for the past few chapters. Stephenie Meyer continues to make up the rules as she goes along.

“It’s hard for her to talk. It takes so much more effort than it takes you and me. She doesn’t have anything she wants to say that badly.”

Because if there’s one thing this novel loves, it’s dragging out character development for ages and then rushing it all the way through in one sudden go, Jeb suggests that Wanderer teach classes again. Wanderer refuses because it’s kind of awkward for her to talk to humans about the history of the race that enslaved them, but Jeb makes a very good point that nothing would happen anyway, so they might as well get to hear some good stories. If only Meyer was a little more self-aware when she wrote that.

But Doc tricks Wanderer into telling everyone stories anyway! I guess that’s good? He asks what alien species is closest to humans, and Wanderer describes a species of “Bears” that are “close to mammals in many ways” and “have similar emotions, the same need for societal interaction and creative outlets”. Ariel thought this was really boring yesterday, but this was actually the one time in the chapter I was actually interested, because Stephenie Meyer finally remembered (albeit briefly) that the strength of science fiction is in actually making new things, creating new alternative worlds that reflect on our own. As it turns out, this works much better when you’re talking about alien creatures that use their giant claws to make ice sculptures than when you’re talking about teenage girls and their feelings about boys.

Apparently this just pales in comparison.

Apparently this just pales in comparison.

Chapter 26: Returned

As if this book is hearing my complaints and responding to them, the chapter begins with a summary of the stories Wanderer is telling the other survivors about the species and technologies of the other worlds she’s lived on, instead of actually telling us about them. I just… I can’t even.

And then when it does deign to tell us some of these actual science fiction stories (in a science fiction book! UTTER MADNESS), it fucks it all up.

“The look more like huge dragonflies than fish […] They’re all leathery, though, with three, four, or five wings depending on how old they are, right? So they kind of fly through the water – it’s lighter than water here, less dense.”

The density of water is dependent on its temperature and its salinity. NOT WHAT FUCKING PLANET IT COMES FROM. The only way it could be less dense is if 1) it has a negative amount of solute (like salt), which is impossible, or 2) if it was at a higher temperature, which means it’s a gas and not a liquid.

IT'S FUCKING SCIENCE.

IT’S FUCKING SCIENCE.

And it’s not just the science major half of me that this one description of an alien species pisses off, but the humanities part of me too!

“They have five, seven, or nine legs, depending on which gender they are […] They have three different genders.”

Okay, let me explain the difference between “sex” and “gender”. “Sex” is based on an individual’s biology (for humans, XX or XY chromosomes), and “Gender” is based on an individual’s psychological identification with an expression of masculinity or femininity or androgyny, as they are socially constructed. So for example, a transgendered person would biologically be one sex, while they identify as the other gender. That is what the words mean. They are not interchangeable. The word you are looking for here is “sex”. Gender is not a, uh, trinary? Look, it doesn’t matter. You done fucked it up.

Why, yes, I am using a Doctor Who gif to express dissatisfaction with representations of sex and gender in media. My sense for topical humor is pretty fantastic, yes, thank you.

Why, yes, I am using a Doctor Who gif to express dissatisfaction with representations of sex and gender in media. My sense for topical humor is pretty fantastic, yes, thank you.

Wanderer keeps explaining the completely nonsensical goings-on of this alien species when Jared suddenly returns. Being the strong female character that she is, Melanie suddenly finds her voice again when she sees him, having literally been silenced without the presence of a man. Literally.

Jared! Melanie’s exultant voice was loud, a silent shriek of elation. She burst into radiant life inside my head. Jared is home!

Jared and Kyle are pissed to find that, having returned from a secret resource-gathering mission into the society of the alien species that enslaved them, the other survivors are sitting around listening to an alien telling them stories. Honestly, yeah, I could see that being a little jarring. Jared decides, fuck it, he wants Melerer dead now.

Jared growled. “Jeb left this up to me, and I’ve made my decision.”
Jeb cleared his throat noisily. Jared spun halfway around to look at him again.
“What?” he demanded. “You made the rule, Jeb.”
“Well, now, that’s true.”
Jared turned back toward me. “Ian, get out of my way.”
“Well, well, hold on a sec,” Jeb went on. “If you recall, the rule was that whoever the body belonged to got to make the decision. […] Seems to me like there’s someone here with a claim just as strong as yours. Mebbe stronger.”

What the fuck is going on with the gender politics in this book? A bunch of male characters are arguing over who has a “claim” to a female body, in a novel published in 2008. “Now, wait a second,” you might think. “It sounds like he’s suggesting Wanderer has a claim to the body now… that’s not so bad?” And yeah, that wouldn’t be quite as bad, but NOPE. IT’S NOT WANDERER.

After a moment, understanding furrowed his brow. He looked down at the boy still hanging on his arm. All the joy had drained from Jamie’s face, leaving it pale and horrorstruck.

Man, I can’t even.

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Posted in: The Host