The Host by Stephenie Meyer (2008)
Fiction | Science Fiction: Aliens
“Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.”
pooled ink Review:
I know this may sound crazy to many people, particularly those whom have read my reviews or heard my ranging thoughts on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga (hence why it took me a year after I bought this book to actually read it), but I really enjoyed this book. I’ve only read it twice but the first time I loved it and now almost four years later I find myself just as easily and utterly drawn in. No I’m not a huge fan of alien stories, no I’m not a huge fan of Stephenie Meyer, and no I’m actually not generally a huge fan of very very long books (except Harry Potter, obviously)…and yet here I am saying that this book has somehow managed to captivate me.
The conflict of morals, the attack on ethics, and the constant delve into humanity and all that entails. Humans are looked at from both the viewpoint of aliens (outsiders) and fellow humans (insiders) and each facet of what makes humans human is explored, attacked, defended, discussed, pondered, and pushed to its limits.
…Are there flaws? Okay fine, yes there are flaws in this book, but a good debater could argue that flaws are the beauty in humans and thus the presence of flaws in this book only furthers its efforts to exhibit such as is arguably its main goal. …A bit of a portentous stretch? Perhaps, but just let me be a pretentious debater for a moment. Aaaaand now I’m done. Back to the review.
Melanie’s love story is a quick fiery one while Wanderer’s is the epitome of a deep slow burn as she learns even the basics of what love is for humans on Earth. I found myself captivated by this character called Wanderer and watched fixatedly curious as she embarks on a journey she never, in her thousands of years of existence, could have ever seen coming. Meyer is firm and consistent in her description of the souls from their personality/mindset to their basic way of life, and this species serves as a striking contrast to human beings. Not only do the souls expose the darkest grime of humankind but it also reveals (to the utter shock of Wanderer) the unfathomable gifts and goodness of humans.
Yes this book is quite lengthy and yet to me it didn’t feel at all slow. It was not quick either, but it was a length I was not only able to endure but I was more than willing to. With every chapter I found myself sinking further and further into the story and any willpower to shrug it off fell away. The attention to detail is rather excellent without being overdone and although technically the geographical scope of this story is rather limited (almost all of it takes place in the secret human hideout) I still felt like I had traveled and did not grow bored being stuck in one place. Who knew I could be so entertained by a few dusty desert mountain caves?
I will say that I have an iffy opinion on all of the other alien species brought up in this book because most sound so utterly ridiculous…and yet that’s really just me being an ignorant human, isn’t it? Doctor Who would not approve. This calls to mind a particular scene in this book that could, in its own non-human perspective way, be considered utterly gruesome and horrific. A scene that shows slaughtered souls. Wanderer breaks apart from the shock and horror of the sight going practically comatose for days as she mourns and rages, but the core of this scene is actually not Wanderer’s reaction at all. She responds just as we’d expect her to. What is devastatingly key and convicting is how the humans react. They are confused by her outburst at first for they had made sure to cover the human corpses but the dismembered souls and their blood were splattered all about the surgical room – they did not see the souls as true beings, they were not humans. It’s a shaming scene, really. It’s not that the humans were trying to be callous, they had a fight to fight and just had not yet evolved to see those silvery antennae-covered little bodies as equal to that of a human body. In mind they knew these bodies were intelligent beings with feelings but it had yet to truly sink in and reach their hearts.
This book is not straightforward or hesitant and I love that. It struggles, and wrestles, and pushes itself further trying to understand. It crawls three steps forward to be kicked two steps back. I also applaud its effort and successful execution to develop varying characters each with unique and interesting perspectives. Furthermore Meyer strives to put forth a realistically wide range of reactions, opinions, and behavior towards the souls. The souls’ reactions towards humans are not varied almost at all (except for Wanderer and the Seeker) but that is to be expected as it is on par with their personality which is actually excellent because as such the souls serve almost like an objective perspective or a control group amongst the varied human samplings for this sci-fi experiment of putting an alien in the midst of a group of humans hiding after their world and their species has fallen.
This book isn’t about an alien invasion per say but rather the after effects. The Earth has been conquered for years, the humans are all but eradicated, the souls walk the world comfortable and safe, the few survivors left hide in fury and fear, and then one day Melanie puts up the fight of her life and Wanderer wanders into the enemy’s den and challenges everything either species once believed. Two minds, two species, one host body…and together they may change the world. The Host, an alien’s story of humanity.
P.S. I remember hearing a rumor when I bought this book (about three years after it was published) that Meyer wasn’t particularly enthused with this work and that it was far from her favorite. Well, I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is then she’s crazy. This book actually had depth and a probing psychological anthropological eye while her other series (um, Twilight) simply did not. She also claims that this is a “novel for adults” but despite myself being an adult I actually feel that it contains concepts applicable and comprehensible for a wider audience than just “adults.”
Maybe some will find this book unbearable, dragging, or boring but that’s for you to decide. I, however, am a fan. The Host is so far the only Stephenie Meyer book that I can still tolerate 😉 and I am not at all uncomfortable being a part of an unpopular opinion.
Purchase here: The Host
Meet Stephenie Meyer!
I was born in Connecticut in 1973, during a brief blip in my family’s otherwise western U.S. existence. We were settled in Phoenix by the time I was four, and I think of myself as a native. The unusual spelling of my name was a gift from my father, Stephen (+ ie = me). Though I have had my name spelled wrong on pretty much everything my entire life long, I must admit that it makes it easier to google myself now.