“Sometimes, fact missed with fiction so thoroughly that, though no lies were told, it was hard to remember what was strictly true” –page 18 from The Host
The word “classic” is one I don’t use too often when I discuss books. Only a select few can be given that term. In my case, I have one such book that I compare all others to. If any book I read can come close to my number one cherished book of all time, than that book will be given the “classic” label. My favorite book of all time is The Stand by Stephen King and The Host by Stephenie Meyer came so close, after fifteen years, to knocking The Stand off its pedestal and becoming its replacement.
Stephenie Meyer is on her way to becoming one of the most influential authors of this decade and quite possibly this century. You think her Young Adult vampire series is amazing? With The Host, she has written a near masterpiece about the worth of an individual, the importance of a person’s soul and a spiritual element that most can only find within ourselves. I would not be surprised if this book is eventually taught in schools and is considered as one of the most influential novels of the 21st century.
The Host is a spin on aliens taking over the Earth, much like the sci-fi movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. These beings travel from planet to planet, in order to bring peace and well-being to the creatures that live there. The aliens do this by inserting their souls, through the necks of the host body and essentially eliminate the original being’s soul. From that point on, this new alien soul lives the life of the former soul, but filled with tranquility and happiness. These invaders have been successful on multiple planets and now they have set their sights on Earth. Humans are known as being very destructive. They enjoy killing and starting wars. These invaders will take over the humans and make Earth a balanced planet full of peace and joy. Murder and killing will be a distant memory.
It has been five years since the invasion and most of humanity has been overtaken. On this day, a new soul is one of many to be inserted into a host. The host was a young girl, who rather than be taken alive, killed herself by jumping down an elevator shaft. But the aliens have a higher form of medicine and are able to save the girl’s body. The soul they have placed inside is called Wanderer. Wanderer is a special type of soul because she has lived on more than six other planets. Wanderer has been a Flower, Bear, Sea Weed and even a Dragon. Yes, there are many other life forms in this huge universe and Wanderer is lucky enough to see and be many things. When Wanderer awakens, she (you will come to find out why Wanderer is female) is very much out of sorts. She knows she would experience the memories and feelings of her host body, but something is so very wrong. In the past, when a new alien soul takes over a host, the host’s original soul lies dormant or is erased. But this is not the case with Wanderer. Her former host’s soul, which was once Melanie Stryder, talks to her in her mind and won’t go away. Wanderer may control her new host, but Melanie is an annoying voice in her head and won’t leave Wanderer alone.
Wanderer is a very kind and essentially, a peaceful being. But with Melanie, Wanderer can’t stand her. Wanderer just wants to live a simple life as a human till she can move onto her next life cycle. But Melanie wants out and because Wanderer feels the same things as Melanie does and experiences Melanie’s memories, she and Melanie decide to go on a journey. Melanie wants Wanderer to find her people, meaning her younger brother Jamie and Jared, the young man who has helped Melanie and Jamie survive from the aliens. Melanie is in deep love with Jared and yearns for him. Since Wanderer is being pulled towards, much like Melanie into finding her family, Wanderer will go and search for these humans even though it is very dangerous and they could end up killing her.
Wanderer will travel from Chicago, Illinois to the arid deserts of Arizona where her Uncle Jeb may be hiding out along where Jamie and Jared. Wanderer treks through the desert and comes close to death until she is found, by Jeb. Wanderer’s life is soon on the line. Jeb doesn’t kill her right away and brings her into his “house” where he lives in some intricate, man made caves, where other humans also live. That is where Wanderer finds Jared, Jamie and other humans, who want her blood. That scene alone will rip your heart out by the shear emotion that is felt by Wanderer, Melanie and especially Jared. She is the enemy and must be killed because they believe she may have brought the seekers (the alien police who round up the humans) to their hiding place. Jeb won’t put Wanderer out of her misery but leaves that decision in the hands of Jared.
From that moment on, Wanderer is caged much like an animal is or some could say a possible terrorist. This group wants her gone and Jared is the one who holds her life in his hands. But there is one who doesn’t want to see Wanderer killed and that is Jamie. Jamie believes Melanie is still inside her body, and will not allow any body to harm his sister, even if it is only her body that remains.
As things progress between Wanderer, or as Jamie comes to name her, Wanda, she and some of the humans have a tentative truce. Jeb does his best to assimilate her into their clan, but always with and eye and a gun pointed at her. There are Kyle and Ian, brothers who have very different distinct feels for Wanda. Kyle wouldn’t mind bashing her head in with a rock, while Ian becomes her protector. There is Doc, their healer, and Sharon, Melanie’s cousin and her mother Maggie who give Wanda the evil eye whenever they can. This group initially thinks of Wanda as an “it” but as time goes on, “it” because a “she” to them. By Wanda talking about her past lives, and working alongside them, she becomes more human to them. And that is where Wanda’s beliefs and ideals change. She is becoming more human everyday and even though Melanie is so very much alive in her head, speaking to her; Wanda has become her own person. Whereas she has feelings for Jared because Melanie does, she has new feelings for Ian who also returns them.
But the outside world is still overtaken by Wanda’s people and the seekers are looking for her and the humans still in hiding. She must make a decision whether to stay within the body she was given or let Melanie come back. Wanda’s decision doesn’t only include herself, but that of Jamie, Ian and even that of Jared.
At over 600 pages, The Host raises so many ethical and moral questions about the importance of a life and human nature. One such statement tuck out at me that fits the tone of the book perfectly:
“Who among us would not volunteer if asked to do something for the greater good? But is that really the case here? Is the greater good served by this? The question is not her willingness, but what it is right to ask any soul to bear.”
These questions are asked of Wanda and her sacrifice for the greater good. But is the greater good served by eradicating a race of beings just because another set of beings believes it is their right?
This is one of the many situations that arise that will keep you on the edge of your seat, turning page after page as you try to find out what will happen to Wanda and her new found friends. Some will remain enemies, while others cross that line into love. Love is so very much alive when it comes to Wanda. Jamie comes to love Wanda as much as he loves his own sister Melanie. Jared, even though he wants Melanie back, finds Wanda to be a close confidant. As for Ian, he is a man after all and his way of treating Wanda as a woman he cares for is so very foreign to her. He wants Wanda to stay and won’t allow her to leave because she has become important to him just, as Melanie has become important to Jared.
There is a great deal of violence, and the topic of murder and killing is always on the minds of the characters. Stephenie Meyer has written an adult book, make no mistake about that, and is one that will haunt you long after you finish reading. But there is hope and again the thing about love and acceptance holds true, much that yin and yang concept. With death and violence there is a balance of hope and peace.
Stephenie Meyer has tapped into the human psyche with The Host. She brings to light so many things. Wanderer is the storyteller and through her eyes we see the truth and a yearning to belong and at peace within ourselves and those around us.
If I could give a book a perfect 10, an A+, 5 out of 5 stars, The Host is the book to deserve it.