Welcome To The Desert Of The Real: The Host Chapters 13 and 14

So there seems to be some interest in the possibility of me starting up a “Good Books, Good Times” series of bonus posts, so, obviously, I’d need a book that is supposed to be good that people would actually be interested in reading along with me for fun. I currently have three books (two new ones that have just come out, one older one) on my shelf that I’d like to read, so time for another poll! Please be honest, because if there isn’t enough genuine interest in doing this with any of these books at this time, I’d rather not do it and try again later on. Obviously I can’t tell you what to do, but if you’re going to vote, I’d prefer you do so with the actual intention of getting the book and reading it with us, because I kind of want to see if I can make a legit book club type thing out of this.

Anyway, here’s a book we know is shitty!

Chapter 13: Sentenced

Returning from the brink of death in the desert, Wanderer and Melanie have a newfound respect for each other, and are apparently now the same person, as opposed to just being in the same body. This is reflected in Wanderer speaking in first person plural. This is only a little annoying.

“Are they here?” We choked out the words – they had burst from us like the water in our lungs had, expelled. After water, this question was all that mattered. “Did they make it?”
Uncle Jeb’s face was impossible to read in the darkness. “Who?” he asked. […]
“Our brother!”

Uncle Jeb says no and then leaves, using the always popular “I, uh, have something to take care of” excuse. Now, I haven’t touched on Uncle Jeb too much during my summaries and Ariel’s been picking up the slack somewhat there, but basically Uncle Jeb is Melanie’s conspiracy theorist uncle who figured out that aliens were there because… he was always really paranoid? Also basically every single surviving human at this point is still free because they are all really paranoid, which sounds like fun.

An emotionally deadened Melerer (because they’re the same person now so they clearly need a couple name and MELERER IT IS) decides to go to sleep, but not before debating the matter.

Surely we could go to sleep. All we had to do was not think. We could do that.
We did.

willy wonka suspense

Melerer wakes up at night and sees a canteen of water. She is also surrounded by eight other humans holding weapons, but she notices the water first. Hey, I’ve never almost died of thirst before; I guess I really can’t judge Melerer here.

“Why did you give it water, Jeb?” an angry voice demanded […]
I’d never seen faces contorted into such expressions – not on my kind. These lips twisted with hatred […]
I saw horror, but Melanie saw all this with wonder, her mind boggling at their numbers.

Also the narration is suddenly back in first person single for some reason. Guess that’s it for Melerer. Melanie is all “Yay! Humans!” and Wanderer is all “They want to kill us” and Melanie is all “Oh, yeah, huh, I missed that.” Wanderer applies her many lifetimes of learned experience to the situation.

I knew there were reasons why humans let their enemies live, for a little while. Things they wanted from their minds or their bodies…
Of course it sprang into my head immediately – the one secret they would want from me. The one I could never, never tell them.

What? Okay, when did it become acceptable for a narrator that’s supposed to be reliable to withhold information from the reader like this? Fifty Shades did it this week when Ana, the narrator, didn’t tell us she switched out her cell phone with someone else’s so Jack would discard a random cell phone while her real cell phone was hidden in a bag of money so Christian could track it until the next chapter all of these events happened. She isn’t supposed to be a reliable narrator, and this isn’t a twist. This is a lie. This is lying to the reader to create suspense that doesn’t exist. And this is the same deal. We’ve had no reason to know until now that there’s a secret worth holding a Soul hostage for until, you know, a Soul is held hostage to get the secret. We have no idea what it is, but since Wanderer is supposed to be a trustworthy source of information (this is tricky to explain since she’s an antagonist too, but basically we’re not supposed to believe that she would give us incorrect information during her narration), this doesn’t create suspense, this creates frustration. There’s a good reason for us not to know the secret (it moves the plot along), but there’s no good reason why we don’t know it, aside from Wanderer just doesn’t really feel like it. This isn’t a twist. This is a lie.

At this point I actually strongly encourage you to click on this and watch a short clip from Bob's Burgers that explains what basic storytelling element both Fifty Shades and The Host have gotten wrong this week, because seriously, these books suck.
At this point I actually strongly encourage you to click on this link and watch a short clip from Bob’s Burgers that explains (no, really) this “twist vs lie” element of basic storytelling that both Fifty Shades and The Host have gotten wrong this week, because seriously, these books suck.

The other humans are like “uh, so let’s either kill it or dissect it for SCIENCE” and Uncle Jeb is like “well, this is my niece” and the others are like “uhhhh no, now she’s an alien”. Guys, I don’t know what to make of Uncle Jeb. Ordinarily I’m a sucker for the unconventional voice of wisdom character (think ex-preacher Jim Casy from Grapes of Wrath or John Locke from the first season or so of LOST), and paranoid man living in the desert hiding from aliens would usually fit the bill, but I have no idea what this guy’s deal is.

I didn’t see her free hand swing out to slap me hard across the face […]
“Now, Maggie,” Jeb began in a soothing tone.
“Don’t you ‘Now, Maggie’ me, you old fool! She’s probably led a legion of them down on us.” […]
“I don’t see anyone,” Jeb retorted. “Hey!” He yelled, and I flinched in surprise. I wasn’t the only one. […] “Over here!”

Uncle Jeb wants to take her/it back to their camp, even though he makes it very clear that he’s only made it this long by not trusting a goddamn thing. Except all his behavior now is going against that. And what I usually like about characters like this is the balance between the uncertainty of their actions and feeling like they’re the only ones that really know what’s going on. So why does Jeb think that any of this is a good idea?

“Curiosity,” Jeb said in a low voice.

Dammit, Jeb, not even the crazy but actually logical characters in this book are logical. They take Melerer back to their secret cave base where we meet…

Chapter 14: Disputed

BOY.

I stared at Jared’s face, uncomprehending.
Melanie reacted differently.
“Jared,” she cried […] She jerked me forward, much the same way as she had in the desert, assuming control of my frozen body.

It then takes Stephenie Meyer, like, a page and a half to say “Jared punched her in the face”. I’m not even kidding. There are single-sentence paragraphs for impact between Melerer running to Jared and Jared punching. Twice. Two times. Normally this sort of thing takes two seconds, but Meyer finds all kinds of time for Wanderer to analyze the situation with sentences that barely make sense.

[Melanie] didn’t see that the unconscious smile she remembered would not physically fit on this new face.

Melanie freaks out that Jared is here, which is demonstrated with literally all of her dialogue being “Jared’s here”, because that is how women behave when they are in love. Wanderer is slightly more skeptical.

Did it matter that he was beautiful, that I loved him, when he was going to kill me?

This goes on for a while. Eventually the plot continues and the doctor person comes who wants to try to dissect her for SCIENCE. Jared objects, because he’d rather Jeb just shoots Melerer because then “it dies cleanly”, and Melanie’s all “Jared will protect us!” and Wanderer is all “are you even listening to this conversation?” (that last quote is not taken directly from the book). Wanderer then asks about Jamie, and Jared’s face has “a fierce expression” so evidently he can’t answer, because Uncle Jeb says he’s fine.

This is actually all that happens in a mercifully short chapter, but I feel the need to point out that it would have been shorter if the three whole chapters of Wanderer and Melanie slowly dying in the desert had gone differently.

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6 comments

  1. E.H.Taylor Reply

    Please choose the Neil Gaiman book for GBGT! It will give me an excuse to buy it and not feel guilty when I still have a dozen or so books unread on my shelf.

    As for The Host, I don’t understand anybodies reasons for doing anything. I hope for your sakes that it doesn’t start to constantly switch from ‘I’ and ‘she’ to ‘we’ all of the time!

    Also, your video link sadly discriminates against everyone outside of the US 🙁

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  2. Matt Reply

    I would have gone with Wanderly instead, but I’m not the expert here

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  3. theparasiteguy Reply

    I voted for the Neil Gaiman book on your poll. I’ve never actually read Gaiman before, and I think reading his new one along with a “Good books – good times” blog would be a fantastic way to start.

    Concerning The Host: one thing I realized very quickly is that Jeb is little more than a plot device. At no point did he ever strike me as being remotely realistic; you’ll probably see what I mean before long.

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  4. evan Reply

    I’m going to bookmark your site and preserve checking for brand spanking new information

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