This is a very popular and widely reviewed book and opinions about seem to be all over the place. I actually listened to this as an audio book. The quality of the audio book was very good. While I didn’t enjoy the book that much, I found it very interesting in parts.
Foremost I have to say that Stephanie Meyer has a very, very distinct writing style. Her writing is a bit meandering and deliberate; and it focuses almost solely on the characters in the book and not on outside events. Her books are very much people books and not event or action books. That being said if you loved the style that the Twilight series was written in then you will probably also love this book. This book is written very much in the same style as that series. If you liked the characters of Twilight, and suffered through the style the books were written in, this is not the book for you.
The book is done from the viewpoint of Wanderer. Wanderer is a Soul (an alien species who has taken over all humanity) who has been placed in the host body of Melanie. There is only one problem, Melanie is still in her body with Wanderer; as such Melanie is caged in Wanderer’s head. Melanie was part of a human resistance and the Soul’s Seekers (the enforcers of the Soul’s society) want Wanderer to try and get information about the rebels from Melanie. Unfortunately Melanie is only concerned about one thing and that is protecting those she loves; specifically a man named Jared and a boy named Jaimie. Melanie begins to drive Wanderer crazy with a need to find out if Jared is okay. Wanderer finally submits and Melanie/Wanderer go wandering through the desert in search of the rebel human faction.
This book, true to the main character’s name, wanders a lot. It is slow moving and spends a lot of time dealing with how people feel for one another and how they react to one another. An inordinate amount of time is spend listening to Melanie and Wanderer argue in Wanderer’s head; especially in the beginning of the book. Wanderer’s tendency towards hysterics when encountered with any, even mild, violence got irritating. I understood the point the author was trying to make, that even though they take over worlds the majority of Souls are not used to any form of violence, but this was driven home so much throughout the story that it got excessive.
The special thing about this story is that it spends a lot of time on the philosophy of humanity. What makes humans, human? How much of what makes us human is linked to our bodies and how much is linked to our minds? What makes humanity unique and special as a species? How does an alien civilization promote themselves as peaceloving yet take over whole worlds of species? As with Twilight, a ton of time is spent dealing on the subject of the strength of love. How much of love is based in body, mind, memories, etc? Meyer continues with the overlying theme that she worked with in the Twilight series; which is love conquers all. I am beginning to wonder if this will be the theme of every book that she writes.
There are also interesting questions in dealing with the society the Souls have set up on Earth; although these are small asides in the story. For example if two Souls in human body have a child and they love that child what will happen? Their society is one based on peace and love; so will the society allow the Souls to keep their child and let it grow up human or will they force the Souls to give up their child so that it can be implanted with a Soul.
I did kind of have to slog through this story. Things moved very slow and very deliberately. Many times I found the characters frustrating. There were some moments that I really loved though. I loved Wanderer’s stories about planets where she had previously lived. Although I wondered about the limitation of the planets she had lived on; do we really think humans are that unique as a race? I also loved the descriptions about how the rebel human society lived. The characters made the book, (Wanderer and Melanie were not my favorites) I really liked Jeb and Jaimie though.
Will I read another book if Stephanie Meyer comes out with one in the future? Yeah probably, but if her books continue on preaching the same themes of love conquers all and questions of humanity I might give her up after her next book. The best thing about this book is that it makes you think; the worst is that it is much too long for what it delivers.