The Host - Stephanie Meyer
Earth is the latest world to have been taken over by the 'Souls' - a race of alien parasites that spread from planet to planet, stealing the bodies of intelligent beings. Wanderer, a Soul who has lived on countless worlds but has never found a place to call home, is implanted into the body of Melanie Stryder, one of the few remaining free, adult humans. And then something happens that Wanderer has never experienced before. Melanie stays behind, a ghostly voice in the head that Wanderer would normally consider solely her own.
Worse than that, as the other Souls try to use Melanie's memories to track down other humans, Wanderer finds herself coming to share Melanie's love for her boyfriend and little brother. Faced with the abject humiliation of having failed to properly take over her host, Wanderer chooses to trek out into the Arizona desert, and into a hidden community of violent, savage humans.
Although her Twilight books have never appealed to me in the slightest, Stephanie Meyer's science fiction romance novel, The Host (not to be confused with Bong Joon-ho's monster movie comedy drama The Host) is my cup of tea in so many ways I don't think I could list them all. Most importantly, despite what the advertising copy may try to tell you, this is science fiction: a story that explores the (non-)human condition from a more cosmic perspective.
It's also a gripping drama with a strong romantic element, developing into a nicely realised love quadrangle between a woman, a man, the parasite who controls the woman's body, and another man who grows to love the parasite. The tension between Wanderer's defiantly peaceful and altruistic nature and the violence and distrust that she - as an alien body-snatcher - encounters from the humans; the begrudging trust and even love that she earns from them inch by painful inch - including, most surprising and touching of all, from Melanie herself - all this, interspersed with dramatic set-backs and surprises, adds up to a real page turner - the kind of book I found myself thinking about longingly when I wasn't able to pick it up and read more.
Without giving anything away, let me just tell you that I stayed up until 2am to finish the last hundred pages of this thing. I could see where it was headed, and I gave such a damn about the characters - all of them, even, towards the very end, the chief antagonist, and another character who only arrives for the finale - that I was desperately worried for how things would turn out. Whether or not this book broke my heart or left me elated, I'll let you find out for yourself. The Host certainly isn't high literature, but it is an extremely well characterised and plotted book, full of drama and emotion, that provided some of the best highs and lows of anything I read this year.