I was a late blooming Stephanie Meyer fan. Yet, it started, like most of my other YA author obsessions with a friend who’s 12 year old wanted to read the books. “Rach, you read, right?” (I love that line) “Have you read this Twilight series? Its supposedly got all the kids in Melanie’s class going nutty, but I don’t want to get it for her if I don’t know what its about. Something about vampires.” The first thing that came to mind was, “pick up the book and read it yourself!” Yet, vampires, excited twelve years olds… hey it sounded like my cup of tea. So, I tore through the first novel gave my thumbs up to the illiterate mommy and quickly succumbed to the world of Twilight. Now my co-workers look at me a little strange – even though you know they read those books too!
When the Host was released the cover was intimidating. I knew Meyer was a good writer, but I wasn’t that impressed with her prose to think she could pull away from the vamps and venture into something as deep as what the summary of the book was touting. Meyer’s characters are what make her book, their emotional reactions and their unique perspectives of their environment. The vampire world she created, while having a few different takes on the usual fiction was nothing new. The world of The Host was out of the fantasy and deep into the sci-fi and it takes talent to paint the picture well. This explains why it took me picking the novel up 5 or 6 times, reading the jacket – then putting it back down, for me to actually buy the book. Then once I bought it, I let it sit on my coffee table for nearly a month. I was intimidated. I was intimidated by the concept – hated the Body Snatchers movie, and I was scared that it was going to really really bad and my respect for the author would go out the window.
But then I started reading. I couldn’t put the book down. The story is in regards to a human called Melanie Stryder. Melanie lives in a world that has been peacefully invaded by a parasitic alien race. Melanie is what the aliens call a “wild” human, and the last thing Melanie wanted was to become a new home for an alien parasite. To Melanie’s unfortunate, that is exactly what she becomes, following a very violent “death” that includes her falling/throwing herself down an elevator shaft.
Melanie’s body is repaired and the alien Wanderer is inserted into Melanie’s body. So begins the symbiotic relationship of Melanie and Wanderer. Most humans fade from existence when the aliens are inserted into their bodies, but Melanie, being strong willed and stubborn refuses to leave. She is violent, noxious and determined to not succumb to Wanderer. Wanderer herself is a strong creature, but she was inserted specifically in Melanie’s body because they think she will be able to infiltrate the human resistance. Melanie desperately wants to protect the other wild humans she left behind so she refuses to let go and give up her memories. Melanie’s love for her brother Jamie and a man named Jared are so strong that through dreams and shared memories, Wanderer finds herself yearning for the two humans. Wanderer is so taken aback by these strong emotions that she literally throws everything she has ever known away and sets off in a journey to find these humans and discover what love is really all about.
The first part of this book is a very drawn out inner dialog. Wanderer is confused by her feelings and even more thrown off by Melanie herself. She questions everything around her and even her sanity as she struggles with first trying to get rid of Melanie and then finally accepting that Melanie has become a part of her. The story is a multi-leveled love story, the first part is the friend/hate relationship that forms between the parasite and the human. Then as memories are shared, the brotherly love for Jamie and then the love affair with Jared.
When Melanie/Wanderer is finally reunited with Jared and Jamie, you don’t know if you should cheer or cry, the relationships are so complex. There is no definitive line of who is right and who is wrong. At first you are excited about the reunion but then as the humans reactions to Wanderer become hostile and scary you don’t know who to side with.
As the story emerged the complexity of the situation deepened, the true good of Wanderer becomes evident and reveals the true nature of what it really means to be “human”. New relationships form and Wanderer discovers who she is now that she is part Melanie and part “Wanda”. There has been some questioning on the relationship part of the story, most people think that it is hard to believe that a love relationship could form between a human and the alien, but really in life anything can happen. If people can fall in love over the internet, with a picture and pretty words, a human can most likely fall in love with a parasite dressed up in human’s skin. Wanderer is shown as a very gentle soul, and her eagerness to help the humans and become like them draws the others to her. Its actually very moving, showing that we can surpass our differences and learn to love people/things that we really thought we hated, if we just took the time to learn about them.
During this very long novel you are kept at the edge of your seat. There is always underlying tension, whether emotional or violent. I really began to care about what happened to both Melanie and Wanderer. Even the supporting characters became larger than life. The character interaction is well done. There are no explicit or implied sex scenes so this book is also safe for teens. There are a few moments of kissing and lustfulness, but nothing graphic or overdone. The ending was well done and I almost sighed in relief when I finished the last sentence. The epilogue also implied that there could be a sequel, or at least other novels set in the world, Meyer created.
Overall the book was well done, nothing profound, but very very entertaining. There were a few threads that weren’t followed through on, and some character reactions were very unbelievable. Wanderer was sometimes frustrating in her naïveté and how she was always trying to sacrifice herself. The Seeker – Wanderer’s antagonist was a little unbelievable also, I would think that her behavior would have been noticed in her position, but it did set in motion Wanderer’s escape into the human world. Nothing to turn me off from the novel though. Over all, cheers for Ms. Meyer and I hope this shows that she has a lot more in her to impart on this world, aside from those pesky and sexy vamps which we love her for. I give this novel 4 glasses.