Gattaca director and Truman Show writer Andrew Niccol has signed up to write and direct the movie adaptation of Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer's science fiction novel. But don't panic! This could actually be a terrific movie. Book spoilers below.

We reviewed Meyer's novel, The Host, when it came out a year or so ago. And we were pleasantly surprised: It's a cheesy beach read, to be sure, but it's also a genuinely thought-provoking, fairly original science fiction story that manages to ask some questions about what it means to be human. So we're cautiously optimistic about Niccol's adaptation, to be produced by the people behind The Road.

There aren't that many stories which start with the Earth already having been vanquished totally by alien invaders — I can think of a few, most notably William Barton's When Heaven Felll — and Meyer has a neat twist on this premise. The Earth has been peacefully overtaken by parasites that control human host bodies. They're more peaceful and mellow than we are, and Earth under their rule has become a placid, rational place — it's not unlike if the pod people from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers had won.

But Meyer adds another twist on top of that — which is really where The Host gets interesting. The alien parasites are "going native," and they're being influenced by their host bodies' desires and habits and ideas. It's not unlike the relationship between the Trills and their host bodies in Star Trek, except that the creatures in The Host are accustomed to taking over bodies that are more docile and easier to control, unlike our belligerent, adrenaline-and-hormone-ruled selves. The central love story in The Host is actually just our way into thinking about what it means for the alien invaders to go native — the invader known as Wanderer falls for the man her host body, Melanie, loves, and finds herself being subsumed into Melanie's identity rather than the other way around. She becomes a passenger in Melanie's body rather than the controller.

So... you have a story about a voyeur who lives inside a woman's body. You have a world where people are all controlled by creatures, but the boundary between controller and controlled is getting increasingly blurry. And you have a paranoid thriller about a seemingly perfect society that has cracks. It's not hard to imagine the man who brought us the panopticon nightmare of The Truman Show, the man-controlling-ideal-woman story of S1m0ne and the flawed-utopia of Gattaca making The Host into a great film. I'm actually eager to see what he does with it.

The only downside to a Niccol-directed The Host would be if it delays The Cross, the dystopian future movie he's already working on, which we ran some concept art from the other day. Here's hoping he finishes The Cross, and then creates a smarter, sharper version of Meyer's admittedly schlocky novel. It could be that rare movie adaptation that outshines the book. [Variety]