Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that takes over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.
Wanderer, the invading ‘soul’ who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves – Jared, a human, who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.
This is a fascinating twist on the usual alien invasion story. Told from the viewpoint of the alien inside a human body – with the unwilling human consciousness still fighting for a foothold – Wanderer is embroiled in an adventure not of her making. Written in first person POV, the success of the book hinges on whether we believe in the alien. Or care enough about storyline and characters to suspend our disbelief. I think she nearly pulls it off – the writing, pace and characterisation are strong and the character of Melanie comes across very clearly. However, it is incredibly difficult to portray adequately the full sense of ‘other’ when writing from an alien viewpoint. And for me, this is the weak spot in the book. It didn’t help that I wasn’t particularly interested in the love story. For me, the themes of difference and other were far too riveting to get sidetracked into who attracted Melanie and/or Wanderer. As the story progressed, I found the love interest increasingly intrusive into what I considered the more interesting aspect of the narrative. I also think it is too long at six hundred and seventeen pages. At times, I skimmed through some of the passages that seemed to be offering the reader more of the same, instead of continuing to take us into new situations.
However, don’t let these relatively minor niggles discourage you from reading this ambitious and original novel. Meyer is a gutsy writer for attempting such a difficult subject – and she is a talent worth watching for managing to get so close to succeeding.