The Host – Stephenie Meyer

The Host, as far as I know, is Stephenie Meyer’s first non-Twilight book.  In this tale aliens have invaded planet earth and have taken humans as hosts for their insect-like bodies.  In many cases this means that the human being is wiped out. however there are a few exceptions in which the human survives but is trapped under the control of the ‘souls’ as they are called.  This story centers around a traveling soul called Wanderer (Wanda for short) and her struggle with her human host, a young girl named Melanie.  In the beginning Wanderer tries to control Melanie and take over the body, but as Melanie forces her recollections of her brother and the man she loves on Wanderer they both yearn to return for those two boys.


To complicate matters, Wanderer begins by cooperating with The Seeker, s woman who is determined to capture Jamie and Jared, Melanie’s brother and lover.  When Wanderer decides to leave her teaching post in San Diego and journey to visit the healer that implanted her in Melanie’s body she disappears and is taken in by Jeb, Melanie’s uncle and resident paranoid.  Jeb has set up a system of caves in the desert for a time when people would have to hide.  At first Wanderer was most unwelcome among the humans but over the course of time they all, or the majority of them, come to like and tolerate her.


As the months wear on Wanda (for she has all but abandoned her soul name) becomes an integral part of the human society.  Eventually she starts going along on raids to get medicines and supplies that the humans cannot get legally.  It is much easier for her to get things because she can just walk into a store and grab them (the aliens having done away with the need to pay for things.)  It is as they return from just such a raid that Wanda learns her Seeker has been captured and she has to work hard to find a way to save the soul she has come to hate and fear.


The eventual decision Wanda comes to is one of self-sacrifice.  She showed “Doc” how to remove a soul from the human body without harming it so that he could do the same for her, that way she could give Melanie back to Jared and Jamie.  She decided she wanted to die, she did not want to be implanted again but this decision was taken out of her hands by Jared and Ian (the man who has come to love her, even though she is an alien).   Melanie returns to her former self, Wanda gets implanted in a new body, Kyle, the one human who was intent on killing Wanda, comes to accept Wanda and falls in love with the soul that has taken over the body of his girlfriend, and the humans find more rebel factions that they can trade with.



My thoughts on this book:


I still think that Meyer has some work to do on plot.  Overall this story had more meat to it than the Twlight books.  I think the latter series was focusing around the romance and everything else was secondary.  In this tale, however, there’s a greater backstory and more philosophical questions that can be raised.  I also love the fact that the aliens, in essence, won.  I am so tired of all the Hollywood movies (Independence Day, Men in Black, etc) that portray humans as able to overcome anything.  That’s just not logical.  Having said that. though, I think that Meyer still needs to work on her climactic scenes.  This novel didn’t end as horribly as Breaking Dawn (a book I wanted to throw against the wall), but I think the ending was too neat and sugary sweet.  I can tolerate the happily ever after ending much more in a series like Twilight that was written with a specific target audience in mind (teenage girls), but I can’t stand it in this book.  True, she didn’t go so far as to have the humans triumph over the aliens, but that seems to be the way they’re going.


It has been many months since I’ve read the Twilight series so I can’t say this with absolute certainty, but I think the internal struggles were more profound.  The struggle was a necessity of the story though.  The whole “call to adventure” came about because Wanderer was being inundated with Melanie’s memories.  Because of this she eventually decides to leave her society and join one that would, in all likelihood, kill her.   This very thought is another intriguing aspect of the story though.  In the Twilight series we have a family of vampires that act as moral as they possibly can.  In The Host there are humans acting in a morally reprehensible, but more realistic, manner.  How would I react if I were a tiny minority of my species?  I sure as hell don’t know.


I’m sure Meyer put this in to show the contradictions of the human versus alien society, but I really love the idea of everyone working in harmony.  Essentially the aliens have set up a very utopian society.  Everyone works for the betterment of everyone.  No money is earned or exchanged for goods.  How sweet is that?  Honestly that is what I would hope our society could eventually become, but I know it will not.  Even though I like the idea of working as a collective, my reaction was much closer to that of the humans: stunned disbelief.  Were something like that to happen I would start to wonder if there was something going on as well.


This is more of a stylistic point: the names that were given to some of the aliens: Wanderer, Fords Deep Waters, etc:  How Stupid Are Those?  I suppose the fact that they come from a different planet should mean we are not surprised that their naming conventions are different from our own . . . but still . . . could she have thought of nothing better?  Oh, I miss J.K. Rowling!  Then again, I’m sure that this was done to show that there is nothing deceptive or mysterious about the souls, in which case I suppose I accept it more even though I still think the names are stupid.


The biggest eye roller for me was not the silly names though, it was the fact that we once again have a love triangle.  In Twilight the triangle was Bella/Edward/Jacob.  In this story it was. I suppose, more of a square: Wanda/Melanie/Jared/Ian.  Jared seemed a little over the top at first, but then I had to think that he’s now seeing this alien being controlling the body of the woman he loves.  How hard would that be?  I don’t know if I buy the idea that he would be able to hurt that body – but that might be because I knew that Melanie was there whereas Jared did not.  It was, strangely, Ian’s reactions that disturbed me the most.  I can’t say whether I would be overtly cruel to an alien if I were put in the same situation, but to actually fall in love with an insect like creature?  That was nearly as bad as Bella having sex with a vampire!  Stephenie Meyer seems to have the unique ability to disturb me that even Stephen King doesn’t possess.


I think I would have preferred it more if  Wanda had either died or not given up Melanie’s body.  I know it’s not really responsible writing because it would leave people wondering, but then again there are ways that good writers could handle such a situation and still resolve it.  The ending just seems to saccharine for my liking.  It would have been more intriguing to see something like Wanda taking over the Seeker’s body, or Ian/Jared dying (though I would prefer Ian), or one of them making a hard choice to give up the one they loved.  I guess when the humans are still being hunted by Seekers there isn’t really a happily ever after . . . but it certainly seems like it when considering the romance angle.


All in all I think that this story was pretty predictable, I saw the self-sacrifice halfway through the book at the latest.  While I think that this book was better than Twlight, I think that Stephenie Meyer has a long way to go before she can be considered a great writer.


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