Friday, November 5, 2010

The Host vs. Peeps--let’s discuss

Yes, I am talking about Stephenie Meyer’s non-Twilight novel; no, I am not talking about those delicious marshmallow treats. The reason? Although comparing sci-fi drama to sugared confections sounds wonderful and engrossing, Peeps is actually the name of a novel by Scott Westerfeld (can I get a group “Oh!”). I actually kind of liked Meyer’s The Host better than the Twilight saga. The plot was different and interesting, and it had everything a good book should—including knowing when to end. The plot goes a little something like this: a race from space invades earth by planting themselves into humans and inhabiting their bodies. The creatures take over the human host, and the host’s consciousness is lost. By the time the book starts, Earth has pretty much been taken over by these creatures. So here’s the twist: a group of humans have managed to escape and are living on the lamb, except on one of their runs for food, a woman is captured and becomes a host, except through some sci-fi plot device, the woman’s consciousness is not totally destroyed, thus making the new creature inside of her have to live with a rather annoyed and verbal host. The new parasite goes in search of the renegade humans, not to capture them, but because she hopes that in doing this, she can be free of the annoying host. Throw in some romance and some serious parasite/host conflicts, and you have yourself an enjoyable ride. Now on to Peeps (have you ever tried to microwave a peep? Ok, so I haven’t, but I hear it’s pretty cool). Peeps is the story of a world in which vampires exist because of a parasite that invades human bodies and makes the host want to drink blood and act mean (oh, see how the whole host-thing is coming together?). The even chapters in Westerfeld’s novel discuss real-life parasites and the gross things they do to the hosts they inhabit—thus making the idea of a parasite that controls humans and makes them want blood seem, if not totally probable, at least somewhat plausible. The thing with this certain parasite, however, is that it doesn’t do the same thing to everyone, so our protagonist is actually a carrier of the vampire parasite, but doesn’t suffer from the crazies--but he does get all the perks. It’s his job (Cal) to find vicious Peeps (parasite positive) and send them off to Montana where they get rehabilitated—kind of. The book reads like a noir with mysteries and damsels in distress. The first chapter is so exciting, and just kind of throws you in the action, I was hooked from the first paragraph. I read these two novels kind of far apart, but as soon as I started Peeps, I immediately thought of The Host. It may be in part to the covers—they both have eyes on them that sort of shine if you turn the book just right. But mostly, the host/parasite relationship in both books is the big similarity. It’s unsettling to think anything—alien or parasite—can invade our bodies and make us do things. But it’s just unsettling enough to want to see what happens. Both are good choices for some satisfying sci-fi, but for a quicker read, I’d go with Westerfeld’s Peeps, and save Meyer's The Host for when you have more time.

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