Published 2008 617 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
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.
Okay, I’ll confess. There are no vampires here - but with a description like "featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies" you have got to be just a bit curious, right?
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series novels have often been described as vampire fiction for people who don’t like vampires. It is fair to say that with The Host, her latest novel, she has once again managed to break the usual genre conventions - this time writing a science fiction novel for people who don’t like sci-fi.
In The Host, Stephenie Meyer leaves vampires and the misty forests of Forks, Washington behind as she moves into the arid Arizona desert and the realms of science fiction. While The Host isn’t marketed as a young adult novel, it is not not a novel for young adults either. The story has a fairly universal appeal and I can see Stephenie Meyer’s existing fan base finding enough similarities to the Twilight series in the writing style and the content of The Host to be more than satisfied.
Unlike the most popular alien invasion movies and science fiction TV shows, The Host doesn’t have Will Smith or Richard Dean Anderson to save the planet against a background of gun fire, secret weapons and loud explosions. In The Host humanity lost, vastly outnumbered and stealthily overwhelmed by superior technology. There are tiny pockets of resistance left, just a handful of humans who haven’t yet been captured, but they don’t spend their days plotting to retake the planet from the aliens – just surviving consumes all their time.
Indeed, The Host isn’t really about saving the planet from alien invaders; it is a story about what it is to be human, about identity and about individualism. Most of all The Host is a story about the nature of love. Romantic love, love of family, love of friends - all of these emotions are explored by Wanderer as she first succumbs to Melanie’s emotional memories then succumbs to the emotions for herself.
There is more than just memories left of Melanie though; she is trapped inside her own head unable to take control of her own body, forced to be an unwilling host to the alien Wanderer. Which makes things very interesting when Wanderer and Melanie eventually meet up with Melanie’s loved ones…
Possibly the largest similarity between The Host and the author’s Twilight series novels is the character of Wanderer. She has something of a Bella vibe going on - it is the way that they are both enormously self sacrificing. Wanderer’s alien nature actually makes her even more self sacrificing than Bella which means that she needs others to look out for her and take care of her since she has little instinct for self preservation.
All in all The Host makes for compelling reading. Avoiding the obvious sci-fi clichés it concentrates on humanity and the human emotions experienced by an alien invader who really wants to be human. A great read - even if it doesn’t have any vampires in it…
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