“Body and soul. Two different things”
The Host by Stephanie Meyer
I was given The Host as a gift after I’d read the Twilight tetralogy. This was back in 2008, and it has been gathering dust on my bookshelf ever since. I had absolutely no intention of reading it after reading the Twilight tetralogy earlier in the year. That was until I saw the trailer at the cinema’s for the upcoming movie release. I was surprised that I actually found the trailer interesting. It seemed to have some action in the plot. After seeing a second trailer and finding that my interest was still there, I decided to put my prejudice towards Meyer aside and give the book a change.
The Host is set in the future, sometime after an alien race called Souls have taken over Earth. The Souls are not the typical aliens found in horror movies (i.e., little green men). The Souls are a gentle race of people who have taken over Earth because of the violent and aggressive nature of humans who cannot be left to their own devices any longer, and those who come to Earth do so for the experience. The Souls experience Earth by living inside a human host and taking over their minds. This erases the person who used to inhabit the body, or so it was thought. Wanderer is put inside Melanie Stryder, one of the few remaining human rebels, with the goal of accessing her memories and locating the remaining rebels. The problem is that Melanie refuses to be erased and remains very present. Instead, Melanie shows Wanderer images of the man she loves, Jared. Wanderer finds herself increasingly unable to answer the Seeker’s demands for the location of the humans because she too has feelings for Jared. What will the Seeker do if Wanderer doesn’t give her the answers, or if the Seeker realizes that Melanie is still present? Will Wanderer be able to resist leaving to find Jared, and will she unwittingly lead the Seeker right to them? If she makes it, without being followed, how will the rebel humans react the arrival of a Soul inside a loved ones body?
The story line of The Host has the most potential out of all of Stephanie Meyer’s books. This story is essentially a science fiction novel, where aliens take over Earth in a really neat way, and yet the focus of the majority of the book is on the love triangle/square between Wanderer/Melanie, Jared and another male who shall remain nameless so there are no spoilers. The romance plot wasn’t badly done as such, because the reactions of the characters were realistic. I liked that Jared reacted badly towards Wanderer/Melanie because essentially an alien showed up in the body of the love of his life. Who wouldn’t react badly to that? Especially, as he doesn’t know Melanie is still in there. I enjoyed how Meyer slowly softened everyone’s feelings towards Wanderer, although Jared’s constant back and forth between semi-okay to pure hatred was rather annoying to read. As Melanie puts it in the book, he is being pigheaded. I wish that this had ended a little sooner. It’s clear that Jared is in love with Melanie though, and he cannot accept Wanderer as the mediator between the two. Then there’s the problem that Wanderer has fallen in love with Jared because of Melanie’s memories. I found this interesting, but in places Wanderer’s continual love for Jared, despite his actions towards her, is a little strange. I understand that she loved him in the beginning, but after everything he does, even she admits that he is not the person in Melanie’s memories anymore. Yet, she still pines for him and loves him. I could understand this after a few months, but after a year has passed, this should have gotten easier, surely? Then, there is Wanderer’s love interest, who is VERY willing to accept her. Again, I find this a little strange. She is part of an alien invasion that stole people’s bodies and inserted themselves inside. That said, the romance is slowly developed, which is unusual for Meyer, and is on the whole, realistic.
Rather than the romance being overdone, there was just too much of it. Rather than the romance falling in as a sub-plot to the alien invasion, it takes forefront with the alien invasion fitting in and around the romance. Had it been the other way around, I think this book could have really worked because some elements are really interesting. For example, I wish there had been more stories from Wanderer about the other planets that she lived. That was fascinating. I also wish more of the book had been devoted to the last quarter. I can’t reveal what this is about without ruining the plot, but it was the most interesting part of the book and yet it was squeezed into the end. This feeds into Meyer’s avoidance of any real action. In the Twilight tetralogy, Bella always misses the action (e.g., she’s on the verge of unconsciousness at the end of Twilight when the Cullen’s are confronting James, she’s in hiding when the Cullen’s confront the newborns in Eclipse, and while there is the threat of a battle in Breaking Dawn, nothing comes about). In The Host, there is more action, mostly at the end as aforementioned, in that there is much hostility towards Wanderer leaving her constantly fighting for her life, and there is the threat of the Seeker, who is determined to find Wanderer. The problem is that most of the action is too spread out so there’s no urgency in the book, and the Seeker is one of the worst antagonists that I’ve ever read in a book. She’s really only there throughout the book in passing as her actions are mentioned, and when she does catch up to Wanderer this is over all too quickly. I’m not sure why she was really seen as a threat in the first place.
Finally, I found it difficult to connect with the characters. I think that because Meyer tells you everything (actions and emotions), rather than showing you with descriptions of actions or feelings etc… I felt like I was just mindlessly reading through the book. This meant that I didn’t really feel anything when major bits happened to the characters. I like some ambiguity. There’s also the fact that many of the characters are hard to sympathize with or aren’t in the book enough. I didn’t really like Jared or Melanie throughout the entire book. Jared was aggressive and acted pigheaded throughout most of it, and while I like Melanie more, there wasn’t much depth to her character. She was just the angry host for Wanderer who complained throughout most of the book. I get that if I were stuck in my own body while someone else controlled me, I’d be pissed, but it felt like Meyer brought her in at times to complain as a means of keeping her in the plot. The focus is very much on Wanderer. I did enjoy the scenes where Melanie and Wanderer worked together. I think more of these would have been good.
That all being said, I am excited to see the movie adaptation of this book. The trailers seem to show that the movie has capitalised on the action that happens in the book, which should make for an excellent movie. The book is very big considering what happens, so I guess in 90 minutes, only the best bits will make it in. I’m looking forward to the movie’s release on 11th April 2013.
Final Verdict: If you like romance with a bit of science fiction in the background then you will enjoy this book. If you’re like me, and prefer a lot of action, I’m not sure this book will be very satisfying.