So, I spent a bit of time saving western civilization yesterday afternoon. How? I got lost in a book.
I've been hearing a bit of the buzz over the last few days about the cover story in this month's Atlantic, titled, "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?" (Please note: stupid is spelled that way on the magazine cover, but not on the internet link. I do know how to spell stupid, really I do!) The gist of it is that the internet is retraining our brains, just as the advent of the printing press and other technologies did before it. We are no longer so easily capable of deep reading for prolonged periods of time. We're no longer capable of getting caught up in a book because our mind's are now trained to read short bits on the monitor and skip to another site via hyperlink when we get bored (or not).
I have to admit that I myself have noticed that suddenly I am struggling to read as much. Which was why it was such a treat to get lost in the last couple hundred pages of Stephenie Meyer's book, The Host.
Yes, I had other things I should be doing, lots of them, in fact. But I couldn't put the book down. I had to keep reading. And such is the secret thrill of getting caught up in a book–you know you should be doing other things, but you simply can't. We don't allow ourselves the simple pleasure of slacking the afternoon away for the sake of reading.
Anyway, back to the book at hand. The Host is by no means a work of great literature and nor is it meant to be. Meyer started out writing the Twilight vampire series for young adults. I'd never heard of her until my son's girlfriend, who at the time worked in a bookstore in Seattle, mentioned that hundreds of people showed up at her readings. That got my attention. Meanwhile, they've been filming the movie of Twilight in and around PDX, and its been hysterical to read how some of the vampire groupies have been sneaking onto the set. But don't get the idea that is rough-housing teens who follow Meyer. Oh no, its their mothers. Even though the books are written with the young adult in mind, apparently they have quite a following among adults as well. Adult women in particular. (Kinda like my beloved David Cook.)
The Host tells the story of this planet being overtaken by an alien species of "souls" who need parasites to live. The entire population has had souls implanted in them, but for a small band of earth rebels who hide out in a cave in Arizona. The narrator of the story is Wanderer, or Wanda, who gets implanted in the body of Melanie. Funny thing happens, though–Melanie is so strong and her love for the rebel Jared is so powerful that Wanda cannot subdue her. Melanie continues to exist in Wanda's head and leads her to Jared's hideout.
The book is overlong. At 600 plus pages, some would say way overlong. I nearly faltered around page 200. The descriptions of daily live and conversations get a bit tedious. But once the plot really gets going, its a page-turner. Meyer does a pretty amazing job of writing a narrator who is really two people at once. It never gets confusing. She sets it up very clearly, which is key, and from then on its easy to follow what's going on.
If the book weren't so damn big and heavy, it would make a great beach or airplane book. Truth is, though, one of the reasons I allowed myself to sit and read it was so that I wouldn't have to lug it with me to LA tomorrow.
I guess now I'll have to check out her vampire novels, that is when I finish the 10 other books I'm reading.
PS. Anybody interested in writing book reviews? I'm in the planning stages of setting up a book review site and I need writers. Send me an email if you're interested.