Title: The Host
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Genre: Science Fiction
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
Summary: (From amazon.com)
The author of the Twilight series of # 1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake. Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.
Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.
Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time.
Why did I read the book: I am a huge fan of Ms. Meyer’s Twilight series, and could not wait for her first forray into adult fiction.
Wanderer is something of a celebrity amongst her kind. She is a soul–an alien creature that attaches to a host body, and lives out the host’s natural life. The souls move from planet to planet, colonizing, inserting themselves into different creatures, to experience and live their lives in stolen bodies. Not to say that the alien parasites are inherently evil, or soulless body snatchers–they are a peaceful race that years for only one thing: experience. Wanderer is an older soul, she has lived in seven worlds before choosing Earth as her new home, and being inserted into her new host. However, the new host is unlike any body she has ever inhabited before. When the girl’s body was taken away for insertion, the girl fought violently back. She threw herself down an elevator shaft in an attempted suicide, as she would rather die than come back as an alien tool. The alien colonization of Earth has been complete for some years, so the discovery of this fiesty female is important. While the souls are gentle and peaceful, they have their own brand of law enforcement when it comes to taking over host bodies; these enforcers are called Seekers. One seeker is very interested in the girl’s body, and eagerly awaits Wanderer’s insertion–for once a soul is inserted, all the memories of the body become the soul’s.
Wanderer awakens, only to find that she cannot access all of her host’s memories…and what’s more disconcerting is, the host’s own consciousness, her own soul, still inhabits the body. Melanie. Melanie refuses to leave, she refuses to cooperate with Wanderer, and she prevents Wanderer from accessing some of her memories. Every night, Melanie dreams of the two humans she left behind and that she loves more than anything in the universe–her younger brother Jamie, and her lover Jared. Wanderer, sharing the same body and thoughts, has no choice but to also love Jamie and Jared. When Melanie’s presence does not disappear over time, she is warned by the Seeker that Wanderer will have to leave the body, and the Seeker will do the job herself.
Oddly, Wanderer and Melanie grow to care for each other–and they unite against their common enemy. Wanderer takes off, and begins a desperate search for Jamie and Jared…and she succeeds. She finds not only the two loves of her life, but also a hidden settlement of humans. They all despise her, and take her as prisoner. Wanderer and Melanie fight for acceptance, and for the love they have simultaneously lost and never had.
The Host starts with the classic Invasion of the Pod People/Body Snatchers type of scenario–except Ms. Meyer makes the choice to examine not humanity’s struggle trying to stop the invasion, but the aftermath of successful colonization. The book is narrated in the first person, not by a human protagonist, but an alien one with Wanderer. And I believe it is this choice by the author that makes this book so enticing. Ms. Meyer manages to take a set of science ficion standbys, but through her vivid characterizations, makes the story completely unique.
About a third into this book, I found myself rooting solely for Wanderer (later nicknamed “Wanda”)–I found Melanie’s character abrasive and meanspirited, and I could give a hoot about Jared (the love interest). At first, the sensation was completely frustrating for me–why should Wanda have to suffer through so much, for people who care nothing for her. Jared only cared for Mel, locked under Wanda’s control. And then it clicked. This is the author’s intent. Mel and Jared love each other beyond anything else and will do anything to have each other back. Poor Wanda is caught in the middle, experiencing all of Melanies love and hate, and all of Jared’s spite. At the same time, the hate Melanie feels and the anger Jared feels are not out of place–had any human been in their impossible position, they would have reacted in the same way. It is testament to Ms. Meyer’s beautiful characterizations that can elicit such a strong response to very real characters.
This book is true to style for Ms. Meyer. Full of pain, darkness and heartache, but also hope. Fans of the Twilight series, especially the latter two books New Moon and Eclipse will revel in this new novel. One thing I love about this author is her refusal to make emotions tidy, cookie-cutter happy-ever-after compartmentalized. As in Eclipse, once certain things have been done they cannot be un-done, and the complexity of human emotion Ms. Meyer writes in with her particular blend of hope and heartbreak is something I find very beautiful.
Personally, I would have preferred she ended this book two chapters earlier, but as it stands, this is a wonderful bittersweet, touching novel. Definitely recommended as a keeper–even worth the extra few bucks it costs in hardback form.
Notable Quotes/Parts: The early encounters between Wanderer/Melanie and the human survivors, the rough treatment and hardship that Wanderer/Mel suffered was hard to read, but rang very true.
Additional Thoughts: So, The Host is a work of fiction that uses other science fiction books and movies as a jumping point. The most recent Body Snatcher remake, The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, I think best captures the moral dilemma that is examined at length in this book–and makes for an interesting discussion point (not to say that The Invasion is the best Body Snatcher film–because it really isn’t–but it stresses the question of human vs. alien the most strongly). In Ms. Meyer’s book, the aliens are not unfeeling invaders, but exhibit a blend of emotions. Their society is completely peaceful–no war, no socio-economic strife, none of the pitfalls of humanity. Would this be a better society? Would the alien parasites be better suited for our planet? In the movies, aliens are clearly the bad guys, and are soulless, machine like creatures. Ms. Meyer makes an interesting twist with her sympathetic Wanderer…so, out of curiousity, where do you stand? Alien or Human?
The book also slightly resembles certain aspects of Battlestar Galactica, in that the Cylons in the reimagined show are anything BUT “toasters”. They are flesh and blood, they have the gift of free will, they experience love and hate just as humans do. So…wherein lies the separation? What makes one “human”?
Verdict: I loved this book, and definitely recommend it, especially to those who are familiar with Ms. Meyer’s writing style. Fans of her Twilight series will be pleased with this entry.
Rating: 8 Excellent