Monday, May 26, 2008

"The Host," by Stephenie Meyer

In the world that Meyer has created, alien souls have taken over the world and inhabit the bodies of humans, called hosts. They carry on life in much the same way humans once did, with the exception that there is no violence.

When a renegade human woman, Melanie, has been captured after living for years in hiding, a special soul is placed inside of her. Named Wanderer for the many planets she has lived on, the soul's duty is to reveal Melanie's memories and secrets to a Seeker, one who locates these renegade humans. The Seeker, a particularly (and unusual for souls) nasty woman, is determined that Wanderer find out through Melanie's memories if there are any more humans in hiding.

There is one problem, though: Melanie hasn't really gone away. She is still locked up in Wanderer's mind, and she won't let the intruder get the information she needs. Through months of work, Wanderer recovers memories of two other humans, Melanie's brother Jamie and the love of her life, Jared. In fact, the memories are so rich and emotional, that Wanderer herself cannot help falling in love with them. Melanie convinces Wanderer that they need to find them to make sure they are safe, which means escaping the Seeker and locating a hidden reserve in the Arizona desert.

This summary is already long, and this was just the first 100 pages of the 600-page book. While the beginning was a bit slow, which is typical when an author has to not only introduce a foreign idea or concept of a world but then also explain how it came to be and so forth, there was enough action and heart to the story to get me to keep reading. And I'm glad I did! I thoroughly enjoyed The Host.

Once Wanderer (in Melanie's body, remember) finds the people she's looking for, will they believe that Melanie is still alive inside, or will they shoot Wanderer on sight? And how exactly does it work when two women in one body love the same man?

Now, there were a few problems. First, the book, as I mentioned, is pretty long. However, it doesn't drag. There is a lot of action and a lot of emotion in the book, and I couldn't help but be drawn in. Those who had a problem with Meyer's main character Bella in the Twilight series will no doubt have problems with Wanderer as well. As this alien soul, Wanderer is adverse to violence in any form, so expect a lot of cringing, a lot of crying, a lot of trembling ... and eventually, a lot of male protection.

On the other hand, it has its purpose. Its meant to show the ugliness that is within all humans, though who could blame their feelings of hate toward beings who essentially took away the lives of their hosts? And Wanderer's self-sacrificing nature is meant to show the goodness and love that can overcome hate. While they seem at odds, Wanderer will find that humans aren't all inherently monsters, as she will find that she is more like the humans than she'd have ever believed. Likewise, the humans (some of them, anyway) will see that their notions of the souls as evil parasites isn't as cut and dried as they thought.

Would definitely recommend The Host to sci fi fans. They'll appreciate all the worlds Wanderer describes as her previous homes. And I'll definitely read the book again sometime ... probably when the sequel comes out (because you know there'll be one!).

4 stars