Book Review: The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer: Mixed Feelings

You have to know that I really wanted to like this book. I pre-ordered it on Amazon and anxiously awaited its arrival. Say what you will about Stephenie Meyer’s previous books, I thought they were great. The fact that she created characters that people had such strong feelings about even before the movies came out says a lot about her skill as a writer. And The Host had an amazing, unique premise and a very well-executed plot. So I had great expectations of this book in terms of its quality, but none whatsoever in terms of its content. I was very disappointed in the former, and pleasantly surprised in the latter. Here’s why:

  1. There’s nothing paranormal or science-fiction-like about this book. It’s about a female Jason Bourne, a woman who used to be a CIA agent but was inexplicably ousted and then put in perpetual mortal terror by her former employers. She was an agent who specialized in various forms of chemical torture, so she’s able to elude even the most persistent of government killers using those skills as her defense. In an unexpected move, her former boss reaches out to her with what she thinks is a way for her to at least end this reign of personal terror, if not redeem herself entirely, but that embroils her much more deeply than she ever thought possible not only in his treacherous moves but also in a chance for romance and a normal life with an unwitting accomplice. As a premise, it’s great. And as far as this description of it goes, it’s really good. The first third or so of The Chemist is amazing as it delves into the mind of this lonely, brilliant, wanting-to-be-humane-but-trapped woman and her painstakingly careful efforts to stay alive. But a romance develops surprisingly easily between her and the man that her former boss told her to torture, and whom she did torture, and it kind of takes over the plot after that point and slows it down considerably as they go into hiding.
  2. The last third of the book is quite intense, intricate even, and full of action. It reveals Meyer’s skill with advancing plot by developing characters, something that is not easy to do.
  3. The survival of the main character, Alex, throughout that middle third of the book and even into the end is made possible by various ancillary characters whose motives for such involvement are never really disclosed and whose willingness to put themselves in harm’s way is doubtful.

How many stars (out of 10) would I give it? Probably six. Would I recommend it to others? Yes, with the caveat that you either buy it used or in paperback, because you’ve got to spend $15 on a 500-page hardback otherwise.

 

Have you read it? What did you think?

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