Stephenie Meyer — world-conquering begetter of Twilight, creator of vampires who glitter in the sunlight — has written an engrossing new novel called The Chemist, which would seem at first glance to be a radical departure for her.
By Charles Finch
It’s a thriller for adults (Little, Brown, 518 pp., ***½ out of four stars) in the vein of David Baldacci or Lee Child, pitting a scientist against the shadowy government figures who once employed her, then tried to eliminate her. There are no werewolves around.
But there are exchanges like this:
“I am intrinsically incompatible with being an object of romantic interest,” says the lovely, ingenious, kind-hearted title character, who seems to us eminently compatible with being an object of romantic interest.
“I understand you,” is the heartfelt reply of the man she’s recently finished torturing. (Literally torturing.) “I just don’t agree.”
As this moony, sweet exchange shows, Meyer’s heart is still in Forks, Washington, despite the change of genre. Her millions of readers will be happy.
The chemist’s name is Alex, or at least that’s what she goes by — she’s on the run as the book begins, sleeping in a gas mask every night, surrounded by elaborate booby traps designed to kill anyone who gets near her. This lifestyle is a major problem socially. She spends a lot of time buying peaches — with some effort, a deadly toxin can be extracted from their pits — but not much dating or hanging out.
Then she gets a message, offering her a chance to come in from the cold. Is it real, or only a more subtle attempt on her life? The uncertain answer lands her on the run with a pair of dreamy brothers, and one of them, a doe-eyed schoolteacher named Daniel, falls in love with her on sight, becoming her guide back into the realm of human contact.
There are a hundred objections you could make to The Chemist. Its biggest twist is visible from space. It’s full of the same daffy blitheness toward blood and pain that always made the Twilight books unsettling, at least to me. Alex’s foes within the government never quite come into focus in the third act, one lesson she didn’t take from Baldacci or Child.
But Meyer is also just a really good storyteller. The Chemist is consistently fast-paced fun, especially the way that Alex’s scientific genius gives her an array of potions — she’s small, but you don’t want to get within swiping distance of the rings on her fingers — that verge on the magical. Meyer knows how to stick close to the arc of Alex’s redemption, tracking her emotions as she tentatively learns to trust again. It’s a terrific ride.
The immense power of the Twilight saga was the way it captured the adolescent conviction of one’s own unlovability, and confronted it with a handsome boy’s implacable insistence to the contrary. It was far from being a thriller, but then the thriller itself is a kind of teenage daydream — of specialness, toughness, power.
The Chemist, absorbing, romantic, and goofy, recycles Meyer’s formula into a genre whose fantasies appeal to a whole different set of readers. Is there any doubt it will sell a trillion copies?
Check out the full article in the USA Today: http://usat.ly/2flzBup