Meyer, Stephanie. The Host. 1st ed. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.
A little background. In 2005 Stephanie Meyer released her first novel, Twilight, which reached #5 on the New York Times bestseller list for young adult novels. It and its two sequels, New Moon and Eclipse, have spent a combined total of 143 weeks on said list, or so says Wikipedia. These books may not have necessarily been written for high school girls, but this is the audience among
which they became the most popular. My wife, who teaches high school
students (at least half of whom are female), was loaned the books by a
student and gobbled them up in a matter of days, eager for more. The
fourth book in the series, Breaking Dawn, is not set for release until August, and so my wife sought out more books written by Meyer, and came upon The Host. We ordered the book to our Amazon Kindle and it was quickly gobbled up in a similar fashion.
Now, I had little interest in the teen drama Twilight series (featuring both vampires and werewolves), but I was assured that this new novel was
written for adults. So, I picked it up and likewise finished it
in about a week. So, on to the review.
A brief synopsis. Fear not for spoilers, although this will be a
bit more than a standard Amazon tagline. Earth has been
invaded by an alien race calling themselves Souls. The
invasion was complete before humanity even realized it had started.
Souls are tiny, silvery, centipede-like, and have a parasite/host
relationship with other intelligent lifeforms. When inserted into a
human body at the base of the neck, they latch onto the victim's brain
with hundreds of antennae, gaining complete control of the
body and replacing the already present consciousness with their own.
When the novel opens, there are few "free" humans remaining. Those
left are hunted down and implanted with Souls, who then search the
memories of their host and lead the way to more wild humans. Melanie
Stryder is one such unwilling host. Wanderer, the Soul given
Melanie's body, soon discovers that her host refuses to fade away.
Instead, Melanie is ever present in Wanderer's mind, filling it with
her thoughts, emotions, and memories of her still human younger brother
and love interest. Wanderer eventually succumbs to Melanie's
overwhelming desire to be reunited with her loved ones, and sets out to
find them herself.
The Host is a page-turner. It's a fairly quick, easy read;
the 600 page text is divided into nearly 60 chapters. This
makes it easy to pick up and read piecewise, since you're never far
from a good place to stop. Of course, that's not really true. The
majority of these chapters end in such a way that makes it nearly
impossible not to keep going. If you find yourself able to stop
reading, it's probably a good time to do so, because otherwise it's
just going to pick right back up and you'll be forced to read for hours
to come. The plot rises and falls like a roller coaster that's been
squished together; you'll be climbing the next hill before you reach
the bottom of the previous one.
The story is believable, assuming one accepts the premise, even if the settings and situations are
sometimes stretching it. There are plot holes, but they are few and
easy to overlook. The Souls and their society are very well
imagined, and, while I could have read more about how
they live and function and whatnot, the average reader is not nearly as
big a lore nerd as I. Nonetheless, the reader is always informed of
everything they need to know relevant to the story, and usually more.
The characters are very well developed, and as you see
how intensely they can care about one another, you will start to care
about them aswell. Dialogue is done well for the most part, with a few awkward
moments which actually tend to add to the realism rather than detract
from it. The back-and-forth between Melanie and Wanderer in one mind
is done particularly well.
This is definitely an adult science fiction novel with a broad
audience. That said, there are times when sappy teen girl fantasy
moments sneak in, which I assume comes from the author's previous
writing experience. (I'm not trying to knock on the Twilight series here as I have never read them; just going off what my wife has
told me.) And, while these emotions remain a focal point of the story,
such scenes do not. You will care about these characters.
A sequel is a certainty. I knew this before researching for this
article and finding that it was already in the works. The Host could serve
as a stand-alone novel, however the ending is very open and the
"Epilogue" reads more like chapter one of a new book than a tying
up of loose ends. Just as many new questions are raised as lingering
ones answered. It's like Meyer just didn't want to stop writing, and nearly launched into a new story on the spot.
All in all, I highly recommend this book. It's a very refreshing
change from my usual hard sci-fi selections, and
I eagerly await more.
Because these humans could hate with so much fury, was the other end of
the spectrum that they could love with more heart and zeal and fire?