Though originally receiving a slightly overshadowed response, Stephenie Meyer’s “The Host” has been steadily gaining attention since the premiere of its film adaptation last month.
I originally read the book back in 2008. Because the book was released before the fourth installment of the Twilight series, it was readily overlooked. However, for me, it provided a welcome distraction from the inescapable craze of the Twilight fandom.
If you have not yet, I would recommend reading “The Host.” Even if the plot does not specifically intrigue you, read it for the writing style. Though more popular, Meyer’s work on Twilight does not do her skill justice.
“The Host” tells the story of an alien invasion on Earth. Setting it apart from other science fiction novels, though, is the subtlety and peaceful intentions of these bodiless aliens called souls. The plot follows the body of a young woman who, against expectations, resists the absolute control of her soul.
Because from the perspective of the souls, human consciousness is different other species, the soul, nicknamed Wanda, and the host, named Melanie, form an unlikely bond and strive to protect the human rebels they both love from the seekers attempting to find them.
Meyer’s concept of aliens is really different from other science fiction novels I have read. Though accepting the potential of other complex organisms in the universe, of the various worlds the souls have conquered, humans are the only other species with a comparable consciousness.
The human condition is explained through the emotions that accompany Melanie’s body as Wanda begins to adjust. They are often described as overwhelming. Usually, in stories where humans encounter another life form, the differences in the degree of consciousness is never directly addressed. Meyer’s inclusion of this idea really shines light on the complexity of our species.
The direction of this story deters from the recently popular dystopian trend. In “The Host,” we have not yet turned against ourselves; we are facing a faceless opponent. Admittedly, I enjoy dystopian stories as much as anyone; however, the freshness of Meyer’s tale really explores a new kind of conflict.
Reading this book for the second time, after seeing the movie, I realized something a bit startling: this is not Melanie’s story, despite the title. This is not the story of a passionate rebel who fought against an alien invasion. “The Host” is the story of Wanda, the wandering alien who finally found a home. This slight difference in focus really challenges our concept of alien invasions and good versus evil in general.
One really intriguing aspect of this story is Meyer’s consistent focus on the morality of the situation. When first meeting the humans, Wanda is immediately shunned, and similarly views the humans as utterly barbaric. However, as the story progresses, both the humans and Wanda begin to really consider the perspective of each other.
These humans, who have had everything taken from them, begin to view Wanda as an equal, despite her inhabitation of Melanie’s body, a girl whom they all dearly love. They begin to see the situation from the souls’ point of view and begin questioning their original attempts to regain control of the planet.
Meanwhile, Wanda becomes thoroughly overwhelmed with the extensive range of human emotions. She learns to really love their way of life and becomes guilty with the thought of withholding Melanie’s body.
The ethical conversation happens within the plot between the characters, rather than among the audience. It is quite striking. It provides deeper context to the story and a new method of storytelling that challenges the reign of action-packed thrillers.
Meyer’s writing, overall, is rather hopeful. As a reflection of her personality, I am sure, this quality is exhibited throughout the Twilight series and shows up unfailingly in “The Host.”
She has real faith in humanity, and it could not be more clear. Even the conclusion to the seemingly unsolvable ethical dilemma in this story is addressed hopefully.
Though some critics may not prefer this angle, due to the lack of gruesome action, I find it really refreshing; it illustrates a very alternative concept of humanity. That is not to say the story is completely devoid of action or pain, just that physical conflict is not the overbearing focus.
There have been rumors circulating about a sequel since the release of the movie. I suggest reading this book now, before the fandom swells. Because, for more than one reason, this story leaves an impression.