By JOHN MARK EBERHART
The Kansas City Star
The Kansas City Star
Maybe it’s because she’s a mother to three boys; maybe it’s just because she’s a compassionate person. But Stephenie Meyer loves to see the good in people -- even the "bad guys."
"My books really aren’t horror novels," Meyer says from her home near Phoenix.
"The vampires are a source of light in my novels. I tend to look at the bad-guy side of things -- giving them their side, letting them talk."
The vampires in question populate Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse, the first three books in Meyer’s outrageously successful Twilight Saga series. The fourth, Breaking Dawn, will be published Aug. 2. Meyer’s appearance Thursday in KC is actually to talk about her first non-vampire novel, The Host.
Young-adult readers and older ones have embraced the vampire series with the kind of passion J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter elicited: millions of co? pies sold (4 million in the last 12 months alone), ardent devotion (143 weeks combined on the New York Times best-seller list), and the inevitable film adaptations - the first, “Twilight,” hits theaters Dec. 12.
As for why the books enthrall readers: There's always the old-fashioned sex appeal of vampires - the taking of blood, neck biting, the intimacy of the exchange. Yet Meyer downplays it a bit: “Since I haven't read a lot of vampire books, I really haven't absorbed that assumption. The act of sucking blood is not this sensual, sexual, romantic thing; it's a very violent, gruesome act.”
Perhaps. But these characters are teens. In Twilight, Bella Swan is a “new kid” who leaves Phoenix for a small town in Washington state, where she feels (of course) out of place.
She falls for Edward Cullen, a handsome boy vampire. As Booklist opined: “This is a book of the senses: Edward is first attracted by Bella's scent; ironically, Bella is repelled when she sees blood. Their love is palpable, heightened by their touches, and teens will respond viscerally.”
Viscerally but also safely, or at least somewhat innocently, given the fantasy setting. At the very least, the Twilight books are once removed from the realities of teen sexuality explored in such young-adult books as Meg Cabot's Ready or Not.
Tuesday, though, will bring the publication of The Host, in which Meyer will take her fans in a different direction: It's a non-Twilight novel that is ostensibly science fiction, though on her Web site (http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/) the author calls it “science fiction for people who don't like science fiction.”
Preorders already have ensured The Host's success; last week it ranked 24th on amazon.com and 19th on bn.com.
Meyer will be in Kansas City Thursday to sign and discuss the book, but according to Rainy Day Books, the thousand tickets are gone.
“It's definitely a departure in that it's a whole new cast and crew in my head,” Meyer says. “But, at the same time, I think my established readers will be comfortable with it; they'll get into the rhythm of it and find that it sounds like me. Stylistically it's very similar.”
The Host is the story of Wanderer, a member of an alien species that takes possession of human minds and bodies. Nearly all of humanity has yielded to these alien beings, but Wanderer's host, Melanie Stryder, is an especially strong human. Her will is not entirely broken; she pushes back at Wanderer, and the two minds must find a way to deal with each other.
“It's science fiction because it's about aliens,” the author says, “so there's no other way to categorize it. And I like science fiction. But this doesn't feel to me like science fiction; once you get past the basic premise, it's just about being human.”
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