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Book Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

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The Host is a long and captivating novel that delves into the very heart of what makes us human by looking from the point of view of aliens. Aimed at adults and told in a fast-paced, engaging style, it's sure to please more than science fiction readers and fans of author Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular teen-vamp Twilight series.

The Souls, a symbiotic alien species that attach themselves to the nervous system of their hosts, have found Earth and taken over human bodies. The human individuals are no longer distinguishable, although their memories remain. The only things that give the Souls away are the small scar at the base of the skull (which has to be opened for inserting the jelly-fish like alien) and a shimmer to the eyes that can only be seen when light shines directly on them.

Wanderer is an unusual Soul, because she has lived lives on eight previous worlds; Earth is her ninth. Thought of as especially strong and brave, she is chosen for the 20-year-old female body that was just recovered. The Souls are frightened of the humans' capacity for violence and see the few rebel humans who hide from them as a great threat. It is hoped that Wanderer can overcome such a "resistant" host and find out what secrets this rebel knows.

Wanderer thinks she should have no trouble adjusting to this body, but Melanie, the human to whom it belongs, just won't leave her head. Mel successfully blocks Wanderer's attempts at gaining information from her for months, and Wanderer can't help but feel the pull of Mel's loyalties, they are so strong.

Bothered by the inability to get rid of Mel, Wanderer sets out to see the Healer who did her insertion, only she never arrives. Under Mel's influence, she heads into the desert, looking for Mel's kin. Mel finds what she seeks, an enclave of humans, but Wanderer's journey is just beginning. Her sojourn among the humans is the heart of the narrative, where both Wanderer and the humans are challenged in their understanding of each other and what it takes to live a meaningful life.

Because she is an alien, Wanderer can be forgiven her excesses, but she seemed a slow learner, and some aspects of her reactions to the humans became tedious. The humans, for their part, are highly emotional but very consistent in themselves, so that they become stereotypes: the wise old man, the bigot, the monster, the saint, the innocent child.

Wanderer's exploration of the human body and its overpowering emotions and physical capabilities, on the other hand, is extremely interesting, and the relationship between Mel and Wanderer is the most compelling and fully examined. At times, Mel goes silent in Wanderer's head, and she is missed.

Stephenie Meyer knows how to write a page-turner, expertly structuring her chapters so each one is a cliff-hanger. The history of the Souls is fascinating, as is the concept that humans are unique in the Souls' experience, having as strongly-developed individual consciousness as the Souls themselves.

Universal themes, such as "love conquers all" and the domination of the human spirit are plainly on view here. However, the characters, particularly the Souls and their planets, are highly memorable, and I've found myself thinking of them often since I finished the book. The Host is not great literature, perhaps, but is definitely great entertainment, with some things to think about thrown in to boot. Highly recommended as a summer read.

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About Nancy Fontaine

Nancy Fontaine is a librarian and freelance writer living in New Hampshire with her husband, two cats, and every four years during presidential primary season, the national press.
  • http://thehostmovie.blogspot.com/ The Host Movie

    My favorite character is IAN because he has more sensibility. ;)

  • alicia

    correction: STEPHENIE MEYER

  • Cassandra

    StephEnie Meyer.

    E not an A.
    Other than that it was a pretty good review.
    Props on knowing the number of planets.
    But if u got that right it baffles me as to y u misspelled her name.

  • Lauren

    I enjoyed this review. As a fan of the Twilight saga, I enjoyed something different coming from Stephenie. This was a great summer read, and I heard somewhere that she is going to write a sequel to this novel.

  • Nancy Fontaine

    I am very sorry I misspelled the author’s name! Thanks for pointing this out; I’ve asked the editors to make the corrections.

    Glad to hear there is talk of a sequel! It sure ended on note that lends itself to that.

  • pav rai

    good review of the book, uve picked up on the main issue in the LOVE. i enjoyed it but found the first half a bit boring. if anyone does read this. HANG IN THERE. it gets better after the first 75 pages.

  • http://www.booksonboard.com Breaking Dawn!

    I loved The Host… but not as much as the Twilight Series. I’m insanely excited about Breaking Dawn. Also, readers of your blog may be interested in this: BooksOnBoard, my favorite online bookshop, is hosting a Twilight Rewards Quest in anticipation of the release of Breaking Dawn. They’re giving away some awesome prizes (like a Cybook – don’t have to lug all of the incredibly heavy Twilight books around any more!) to Stephenie Meyer fans. Here is a countdown to Breaking Dawn flyer with more info.

  • mindy

    All I have to say is that it is a great book coming from a great author.

  • Erin

    Im reading this book at the moment and its the best adult books ive read besides Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. At first I was very impaticent and almost stoped reading it but after the first hundred pages i could not put it down. Hope to see more like this from her.

  • MrsCullen

    i tought Mel was 16… not 20. im not really sure but, will someone please check on this? thanx.

  • OhWow

    This book is so freakin awesome.. I love it!!

  • karate grl 4 veaz

    omg twilight was the best book i have ever read it is so good i want to read every book made by you ur the best!

  • karate grl 4 veaz

    the host sounds really good i want to read it really badly because every book i read by you was frickin awesome

  • Melody

    omg is there really a sequel!!! i luv stephenie meyer and her bks and melanie is 2o by the way.

  • Jennie

    Mel’s 17, not 16. anyways, i loved this book, just like i loved the twilight series!!! i didn’t think the beginning was that boring – a little confusing, but very intriguing. i LOVE stephenie meyer!!!!

  • Jennie

    i’m sooo excited about the sequel, too!!! according to interviews it’s going to be called The Soul and if she writes a trilogy the third book will be called The Seeker. i can’t wait until i can pre-order it from Amazon!! =D
    Great summary, by the way!

  • htrur

    actaully, mel is 21. and the souls are not like jellyfishes but like centipedes.

  • Aspasia Phipps

    My grand-nieces read this appalling clap-trap to me. It rates as one of the least moral books I have ever read, less disgusting than John Norman’s “Gor” novels only because it is less interesting and more badly written and therefore even less likely to be influential. The “body snatchers” motif has been done better by numerous better authors — readers who want to see what a *good* exploration of this theme might read Heinlein’s “The Puppet Masters”. The motivations of Meyer’s characters are illogical; their interpersonal relationships are unhealthy; and as an example to young people their lack of courage, self discipline, loyalty and self-awareness are despicable.