I have a love-hate relationship with Stephenie Meyer's work, and I think a lot of other people feel that way, too (even if they won't admit it). I'll start by saying that, yes, I do like TWILIGHT. The book, that is. Not the movie. I read it almost ten years ago, and I was at the perfect point in my life where it actually made a lot of sense to me. Because of that, I will always have fond feelings for Bella and Edward's admittedly self-absorbed world.
Now, I love THE HOST. It's morally complex and features these creepy aliens straight out of the Animorphs series. (In fact, I've always said that the Souls are an awful lot like the Yeerks.) I've read it several times, and I'll be the first to admit that while the story has its problems, the writing and world-building make up for it. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that we're still desperately waiting on those two sequels. I mean she wrote four unnecessary follow-ups to TWILIGHT, as well as a gender-swapped retelling and part of Edward's POV. Come on!
When I found out that Stephenie Meyer was writing something new, my first feeling was disappointment. Like, "Oh, so you're too busy to work on my precious HOST sequels, but not too busy to publish a 500-page tome, I see." But my second feeling was excitement. This is the first completely new thing that Meyer has put out in years. Of course I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I counted down the days to its release date feeling giddy.
The premise of THE CHEMIST is interesting, and completely different from Meyer's usual work. She abandons her trademark first-person narrative style for a removed third-person retelling, featuring a retired female assassin who tortures and kills people with various poisons and chemicals (hence her eponymous nom de guerre, The Chemist). One day, she ends up getting roped back into her old career. Her assignment? To stop a potential terrorist from spreading a man-made plague.
This plot should be the bomb-dot-com. Female assassins? Political intrigue? Deadly missions? Yes, yes, and yes. Unfortunately, it was not bomb-dot-com. More like lame-dot-org.
Despite a compelling opening, the plot of the chemist sinks hard and fast. It's boring. There's a marked lack of conflict. When the heroine encounters the love interest, she pretty much falls for him instnatly, even though she's not supposed to (surprise). Despite the fact that they meet under less than ideal circumstances, they have no misunderstandings or lack of empathy. This sounds like a good thing - in fact, I'm sure you're shaking your head at me, thinking, "You're actually complaining about a relationship that doesn't have any misunderstandings or lack of empathy?" - but it is not. The heroine tortures the hero, and he doesn't even care. Doesn't blame her, doesn't hold a grudge about it.
Second, despite having a plot revolving around assassinations and bio-terrorism, there's pretty much no drama. The heroine and the hero make out. A lot. They talk about dogs and food. A lot. At one point, the heroine gets a makeover and becomes best-fray-frays with Alice's psychotic, non-vampiric twin. Then there's these long periods where pretty much NOTHING happens. All those scenes that the reader takes for granted and shouldn't have to be written into the story? Meyer writes about them.
There are some unintentionally hilarious lines in this book, though. Like this one:
"Um, is this some kind of fetish fantasy thing? ...I don't really know the rules for that stuff..." (14%)
^Is Meyer kind of throwing shade at FSoG here? I wonder.
She snagged the warm, bloody finger off the floor and backed to the bathroom, keeping her eyes on him as he writhed in his bonds; even the best zip ties weren't foolproof. She made sure he was watching as she dropped the finger into the toilet and flushed (46%)
^I literally have no words.
"I don't need any satanic help to do what I do....And virgins aren't useful for anything" (64%)
Don't ask me how it ended. I started skimming at the 75% mark. Honestly, I would have DNF'd probably, except for the fact that so many people were asking about this book, wanting to know how it was and whether I liked it. I'm genuinely sorry to say that, no, I didn't. I was hugely disappointed by THE CHEMIST because everything about it, from the romance to the plot, was utterly devoid of substance. There would be flashes of good writing or clever dialogue, and I would sit up a little, hopeful, only to be disappointed again and again. If THE CHEMIST has any redeeming features, it's that it made me want to reread TWILIGHT and THE HOST, to see Meyer at her best.
Hopefully her next work will be better. If you're new to her work, don't start with this one, please.
1 out of 5 stars. :(