Stephenie Meyer’s The Host has been in my unread pile for quite a while now. For no specific reason I just never picked this one up. Two weeks ago I saw the movie trailer for the first time, and I finally had the desire to dig in and read this book. It’s quite different from the Twilight saga, so if you’re not a fan, don’t let that deter you from giving The Host a shot. It’s much more mature, aimed at the adult science fiction crowd as opposed to the Young Adult fanbase.
The Earth has been taken over by aliens who occupy the bodies of humans, taking over their minds but leaving the bodies in tact. Humans are all but extinct. Despite the odds Melanie Stryder manages to evade capture and lives on the run. Then she meets Jared Howe, another human, and they become a family. A few years later Melanie has reason to believe that her cousin, Sharon, is still human as well, and she decides to temporarily separate herself from Jared in order to find her cousin. Melanie is strong, brave and incredibly fast; conceding that all remaining humans must unite, Jared agrees to let her go.
|Saoirse Ronan as Melanie & Max Irons as Jared|
Then their worst nightmare becomes a reality: Melanie gets caught. Unwilling to become host to a parasite and endanger Jared (as the aliens have access to the humans’ memories and can locate fugitives), Melanie tries to commit suicide; her fall does not kill her, however, and even subconsciously her love for Jared and her will to live are too strong to be denied.
Enter Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie's body. Wanderer has lived nine different lives in nine different hosts on nine different planets - unheard of among her kind. She is considered the strongest of the strong and if any soul can overcome the horror of Melanie’s memories of her final moments, Wanderer can; but she knows something is very wrong the moment she comes to. Melanie has not left the body! Stronger than the Seekers gave her credit for, driven by emotion stronger than Wanderer has ever had to endure, Melanie refuses to completely relinquish her body and her memories to a parasite. She will fight with every ounce of her being to protect Jared and to keep his possible location hidden from the Seekers; she blocks Wanderer from accessing her most valuable memories - this leaves the Seekers unable to track, capture and embody Jared.
|Saoirse Ronan as Wanderer|
Wanderer and Melanie are bitter enemies, each resenting the other's presence in their body. As they are stuck together for many months they get to know each other, and while resentment still runs rampant, they come to understand one another. Over time Melanie allows Wanderer to witness her memories of Jared, and unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met.
Melanie and Wanderer finally become unwilling allies when they find themselves in the crosshairs of a common enemy; the Seeker who caught Melanie – the Seeker hell-bent on accessing Melanie's memories in order to track down Jared. Wanderer must choose; she must either remain faithful to her kind and agree to a transfer into another host to allow the Seeker a turn in Melanie's body, or she must give in to Melanie's passionate desire to find Jared. Realizing she has become protective of her host despite their rivalry, unable to separate herself from her body’s desires and driven by a love so strong Melanie could not be banished from her body by the strongest of “souls”, Wanderer realizes there was never any choice at all. Together they set off to search for the man they both love.
|Diane Kruger as The Seeker|
It is actually quite hard for me to decide where I stand on this book. I quite enjoyed it, but I never had the yearning to pick it up and continue reading. I read whenever I felt like it, but it never bugged me that the book was lying there, waiting to be finished. Would I read it again? No. would I recommend others to read it? Possibly. The writing was good, the tension was believable and the characters were well developed. The plot and the occurring events were interesting, but I really think Meyer could have told this exact story in much less than 619 pages – a lot of the content felt unnecessary to me; I might have even enjoyed the book more if there was a little less descriptive content. I can describe the layout of the vast desert and the “confusing” canyons perfectly. In my sleep. Backwards.
|Jared, Wanderer and Jake Abel as Ian|
My main issue with The Host, however, is that it is written from the perspective of Wanderer; and I was fascinated by Melanie. She is strong and brave, and I wish there was much more of her in the book. I would have loved some chapters from her perspective or even just some more memories of her and Jared's relationship. Wanderer quite annoyed me at first, and I found myself very resentful of Wanderer's love for Jared. This may have been a tool used by Meyer allowing the reader to associate with Melanie (as she is the secondary character), through sharing her despair, resentment and jealousy. Having said that, Wanderer does grow on you. It’s just that the book as a whole places so much emphasis on Wanderer and Melanie being a unit, a package deal, that I think Melanie deserved much more; more time, more presence, more power.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a whole, but I cannot deny that I was disappointed in the conclusion. It was pretty predictable. The ending was a little up in the air and had a few uncertainties I did not appreciate. Meyer suggested in the end that Jared may have been just a little bit in love with Wanderer, and this annoyed me more than I can say. It especially dimmed the power of Melanie and Jared’s love for me, and the hope for their reunion and unbreakable, unshakable love was the reason I kept reading the book (There’s that problem again, I was invested in Melanie and Jared – not Wanderer). Meyer may have gone as far as suggesting everybody was just a little bit in love with everybody else - As far as endings go I was hoping for something much more solid. I hope the film will portray the ending differently. I think this one fell a little flat.
Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer