Stephenie Meyer's hyped "The Host" (Little, Brown, $25.99, 619 pages) isn't quite as mind-bending as the jacket blurbs would lead you to believe, but it's still pretty good stuff.
The setup is solid: An alien race of parasites has invaded Earth, and through insertion into the brain stem, inhabits and changes human beings. But the hosts don't become monsters; quite the contrary. In fact, they become super-civilized, nonviolent, cooperative and pretty much happy all the time.
"The Host" is told from the point of view of one of these parasites, who takes over the human body of a young woman who was part of the tiny resistance movement that still fights the alien takeover. Once connected, she discovers that the passions of human beings are much more powerful than the emotions of submerged flowers, flying batlike beings and the others the host has inhabited in her journey across the universe.
Aside from the fact that the host is just too good and wonderful to be true, Meyer does a nice job of delineating an interesting cast of characters and sets up conflicts that flow naturally from her premises. Unfortunately, though, the "twist" at the end is obvious for about 150 pages, and speaking of 150 pages, the book would have been better minus about that many — but those two flaws can't detract from a satisfying, enjoyable read that almost lives up to the hype.