The Ant King and Other Storiesby Benjamin Rosenbaum 2008 (228 pgs)
Wonderful magical stories ranging from the title story featuring a modern day Orpheus and Eurydice wandering through ant tunnels that are possibly hidden in a video game, to the strangest Austen story you’ve ever seen set in a cottage on a precancerous mole, a manor carved into a rotten molar, and the perilous journey in between. My favorite was Start the Clock, where a gang of 9 year olds (who’ve been 9 for 25 years after a virus freezes everyone at the age they were) shop for real estate in Pirateland. But every one of the stories was fun.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer 2008 (619 pgs)
When the world’s population gets body-snatched by invading aliens, a few rebel humans are forced into hiding, struggling to remain whole. A newly installed alien named Wanderer finds herself in a body whose former owner hasn’t quite vacated. What should be an effortless takeover instead becomes a battle of wills as Melanie refuses to disappear. At first biding her time, waiting for Melanie to surrender, Wanderer instead finds herself coming to an understanding and eventual affection for the human trapped in her mind. As they share memories and experiences, Wanderer even comes to love those who Melanie loves. Together they break away from the alien occupied civilization to track down Melanie’s loved ones.
I was pleasantly impressed with Meyer’s much more refined and challenging writing. This in no Twilight novel; it surpasses that series in character realism and evolution, its exploration of humankind’s capacity for cruelty and kindness, and the nature of selfhood and emotion. Billed as “the first love triangle involving only two bodies,” what could easily have become a cheesy sci-fi or sappy romance is instead a surprisingly deft exploration of identity and humanity.