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The Host; thoughts on the upcoming movie

March 23, 2013

When I first heard of this movie I groaned internally, to quote the book it’s been adapted from.  To call it relevant to my interests would be a gross understatement: it will be the first movie to feature body-snatching aliens in quite a long time and, furthermore, a relationship between a human and their parasite forms a significant component of the story.  As far as I was concerned, I was more-or-less obliged to go and see it.  The problem here was that I had read The Host some time ago and, honestly, I did not like it at all.

I should point out here that The Host is not, by any stretch, the worst book I have read.  It’s not even worst book I’ve read that involves body-snatching aliens: Anasazi took almost as much effort to get through despite being considerably shorter, and just about anything is better than the mess that Seven Billion Needles eventually became.  But nonetheless, it is my opinion that The Host is not a good book.  My reasons for this are varied but can broadly be broken down into two categories: length and tone.

The book over 600 pages long and could easily have been cut into around half of that without anything significant being lost.  This is particularly true for the beginning of the novel: the book takes ages to get going and, even though it does start to pick up after 100-or-so pages, I honestly feel that it would not have been published like this had it been a first novel.  Several chapters could have been shortened significantly and a few could probably have been removed altogether.

My second major problem is with the tone of the novel: put simply, it came across as far too light for the novel’s premise.  As with Twilight, reams of interesting world-building details and potential plot threads have been shoved aside in favour of a rather slow romantic A-plot.  A lot of the setting’s underlying horror is given a passing mention at best, which is a crying shame given how good the basic concept is.

Even the relationship between Melanie and Wanderer – which I found to be the most interesting aspect of the whole thing – received surprisingly little attention after the love interests had been introduced. The psychology of Melanie’s situation is never really explored in depth and is largely glossed over; this is one of things that that I feel that What’s Left of Me, a somewhat similar book which a few consider to be an outright rip-off, did better.

With all that said, I decided to go ahead and watch a trailer.  It is safe to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, it could just be a good trailer for what will turn out to be a bad movie and, yes, an overemphasis on romance is still very much apparent.  Even so, it honestly looks like something I could actually watch and enjoy without irony – something I could never have said for any of the Twilight trailers.

A bit of digging revealed facts that raised my hopes for this movie further.  As most of people are probably aware by now, the director and screenwriter is one Andrew Niccol – a man with quite a rich history when it comes to SF movies.  Furthermore, it seems that Niccol has opted for a somewhat pragmatic adaption.  The story has apparently been streamlined considerably, with the removal of the absurdly half-baked Kyle/Sunny subplot being of particular note.  That being said, I highly doubt that a straight adaption would even have been possible with a single movie.

I am still undecided as to whether I’ll be seeing this one in the cinema or not, but I will certainly be watching it at some point in the future.  From what I’ve seen, this could be one of the few cases where a movie is outright better than the book it is based on.  Fans of the book, of course, will probably disagree.


From → SF articles

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