Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

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Strange world isn’t it? The Strangest. 

8316723Melanie 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 has never met. A man she has been task with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, The Host is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

5 Stars

You may or may not have noticed that lately I’ve been on a little bit of a science fiction bender. Last month I read The Martian and almost immediately after, I re-read The Host. What can I say? Reading Stephenie Meyre’s book is like coming home after a long semester away. That and I’m totally trash for her angst riddled romances.

At first, the connection between The Martian and The Host might not seem obvious, besides their shared genre that is. The Martian is hard core science fiction – a classic Robinson Crusoe. The Host, in comparison, is a much lighter, toe-dip into the genre. Set on a futuristic Earth, The Host examines how humanity would survive if Earth was invaded by alien life.

What connects these two books though, is their underlying themes. Both The Martian and The Host focuses on survival, exploring humanity and the fundamentals of the human spirit.

The Host is a beautiful slow burn that takes the whole Invasion of the Body Snatchers idea before turning it completely on its head. Shifting the perspective, Stephenie Meyer thrusts readers into a post-apocalyptic reality. This time the protagonist is the pod person which, besides being a fresh take, opens the door to some rather complex discussion. The Earth has now been occupied and colonized by a race known on Earth as souls. The souls are parasitic in nature. They survive by bonding with different species, essentially taking both the minds and bodies of their unsuspecting living hosts.

These pod people are virtuous and peaceful beings, despite the bodies they steal in which to survive. They see humans as a brutal and violent race, unworthy of Earth. In their mind, the souls are perfecting our world, experiencing it for themselves and creating a utopia.

This is what makes The Host so refreshingly unique and so deep. It begs the question are we worthy caretakers of our home?

It’s this moral dilemma that The Host captures so exceptionally well and what, ultimately, the book is primarily about. Philosophical and probing, The Host takes a multi-faceted look at what it actually means to be human, at what makes us human and Stephenie Meyre forces us to really examine both sides of the argument.

Which brings us to our too-pure-for-this-world protagonist; Wanderer, “Wanda” for short. Wanda is this sort of elusive celebrity among the souls and yet she hasn’t been able to find her niche. Born on the Origin, Wanda has served several terms on different worlds before settling on Earth. Wanda is such a strong, gentle character. Self-sacrificing and humble, through the bond with her resistant host Melanie, Wanda begins to develop a conscious for the humans. It’s this conscious, a love born from Melanie’s memories that prompts her to abandon society and embark on a trek across the Arizona desert in search of the last pocket of human resistance. Wanda’s journey; her discovery of the caves and the community which inhabits them forces her to question where she belongs and who she belongs too. It’s through Wanda’s character, and her wandering nature, that The Host explores the idea of home.

What makes Wanda so complex though is the fact that Melanie is very much still alive inside her head, fighting to maintain consciousness. Melanie is the body but Wanda is the soul. The result is perhaps, literatures most unusual love stories. Where Wanda is gentle and kind, Melanie is fierce, stubborn and loyal. One of the last few humans to survive amongst the souls, Melanie has learnt to be ruthless. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. And even though there is a lot of internal conflict and dialogue between the two characters, each has their own distinct voice. As the plot progresses, these unlikely allies come to depend on one another.

A science fiction novel for readers who don’t like science fiction, The Host isn’t you’re average alien invasion novel. If you’re here for a backdrop of guns, violence and bloodletting then this isn’t the book for you. Instead, The Host is a story about home, love and humanity with the main source of conflict being psychological. You will root for Wanda, you will cry for Melanie and you will fall in love with the rich, fascinating world that Stephenie Meyre has weaved. It’s about survival, it’s about finding your home and it’s about belonging.Alexandra

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