The Host: A Novel
I think it’s quite obvious by now, from my recent posts, that I LOVED this book. At first, I found it slow to start, and wondered if I’d ever care about where the story was going. However, a quarter of the way through I found it hard to put down, and stayed up easily past midnight to continue reading. And then, there were the tears. The free-flowing, hardest I’ve ever cried while reading, honest to goodness, tears (that I unsuccessfully tried to hide from my husband, who raised an eyebrow at my rare condition). The puffy red eyes, streaky face, and sniffling were much too obvious, and could not be blamed on allergies
OK so onto the story:
Basically, this book takes place on Earth, once the “Body Snatchers” has officially taken over (remember that movie)? Now, in this case, the “Body Snatchers” are an extremely advanced, peaceful alien race (called “Souls”) that simply want to take over planets that display hostility and violence. The aliens have slowly but successfully been implanted into almost the entire population of humans, and Earth has become a safe and tranquil world. Each citizen has a role (similar to the roles in human nature) such as ”Healers”, “Teachers”, and “Seekers”. Doors no longer need to be locked. Crime is obsolete. Money is no longer needed, as the new “humans” trade. They take something, and they give something back. Murder is almost non-existent. Almost? That is where the “Seekers” come in.
It seems that a tiny number of humans have escaped their doom, and live in hiding in a commune, deep in a cave. The “resistant” humans are trying to kill the alien infested humans, (ending both the lives of the human, and the “Soul” inside). While Souls can live forever, by being taken from a dying host, and implanted into a new one, if the host is killed or dies while the Soul is still inside, both die. The “Seekers” have been created to find the resistant cell. The Souls are losing many of their loved ones.
The Souls succeed in capturing a member of the human resistance (a female named Melanie), and they implant a legendary female soul into her (named Wanderer, or Wanda). She is strong willed and has successfully lived numerous lives on other planets. They hope that Melanie’s memories will lead Wanda and the Seekers to the cell, so that the few remaining humans can finally be taken over.
The Souls have encountered another problem. In normal instances, after implantation, the Soul gains the humans memories, and perhaps even a bit of their personality. Souls implanted into married couples even find themselves staying together, and learning to love one another, as the memories of their humans had. While the human spirit inside the body usually ceases to exist once the Soul has been implanted, some humans are stronger then others and fight the implantation every step of the way. They continue to live almost equally to the soul (at least in mental capacity) inside their own body, and the aliens fear that the Soul ends up being controlled and essentially changed, by the, still living, human spirit, jeopardizing their very goal.
Wanda is experiencing this very problem with an angry and defiant Melanie.
Melanie has two loved ones that she had to leave behind in her search for a cousin (which lead to her capture). Afraid to lead the alien “Wanda” to her family, she has blocked her memories from Wanda. Wanda is counseled by a therapist (a ”Comforter”) to help her cope with her difficult human, and is assigned a feisty and obnoxious “Seeker” who follows her every move, suspicious that she will succumb to her human and fail her assignment.
“I’m going home. Don’t follow.”
“I have to Wanderer. It’s my job.”
“Why do you care so much about a few spare humans? Why? How do you justify your job anymore? We’ve won! It’s time for you to join society and do something productive!”
My questions, my implied accusations, did not ruffle her.
“Wherever the fringes of their world touch ours there is death.”
She spoke the words peacefully, and for a moment I glimpsed a different person in her face. It surprised me to realize that she deeply believed in what she did. Part of me had supposed that she only chose to seek because she illicitly craved the violence. “If even one soul is lost to your Jared or your Jamie, that is one soul to many. Until there is total peace on this planet, my job will be justified.”
As Wanda and Melanie struggle against each other, they both realize that they have something in common. Their mutual distaste for the “Seeker”. As they spend time with each other, they begin to open up, and even care for one another, and Wanda begins to suspect that her assignment is an unworthy one.
For a moment, I allowed myself to see the prison that was life without a body. To be carried inside but unable to influence the shape around you. To be trapped. To have no choices.
I shuddered and refocused on the rough road, trying to stave off the mingled pity and horror. No other host had made me feel such guilt for what I was. Of course, none of the others had stuck around to complain about the situation.
Fleeing together into the desert, Melanie allows Wanda to access her memories as they locate her family. Near death from the excruciating journey, they (Melanie’s body, still carrying both Wanda and Melanie) are found by the resistant cell (that includes her family) and taken into custody.
Holding her prisoner, the humans have noticed the telltale signs – a scar and a strange reflection in the eyes - of alien implantation on their Melanie, and obviously mistrust her. Hoping to gain some insight on the aliens, she is fed, and housed in a tiny cell, and guarded by the very men Melanie loves (and Melanie realizes, that even Wanda loves them, as she shares and feels Melanie’s strong memories).
No they can’t. Uncle Jeb would never let them hurt me.
Uncle Jeb doesn’t know you’re here, I reminded her.
I focused on the old man’s face. The thick white beard kept me from seeing the set of his mouth, but his eyes did not seem to burn like the others’. From the corner of my eye, I could see a few of the men shift their gaze from him to me. They were waiting for him to answer the question that had alerted me to their presence. Uncle Jeb stared at me, ignoring them.
I can’t tell him, Melanie. He won’t believe me. And if they think I’m lying to them, they’ll think I’m a Seeker. They must have experience enough to know that only a Seeker would come out here with a lie, a story designed for infiltration.
Attempting to keep from being killed, they both struggle to gain the human’s trust. And THIS is where the story (at least where I became hooked) starts.
This book will lead you through every facet you’d expect to encounter, if this situation were real life. The initial hatred, and violence against her (the enemy) as she is held captive, Melanie’s internal struggle to have her family recognize that she is still there, and Wanda’s agony over her own emotions of love for Melanie’s family (including Melanie’s boyfriend).
While Wanda was speaking with Melanie’s uncle:
“I’ve been wondering if you all aren’t turning sort of human. If we don’t have some real influence, in the end.”
He waited, giving me a chance to respond. I didn’t.
“Saw something a few years ago that stuck with me. Old man and woman, well, the bodies of an old man and an old woman. Been together so long that the skin on their fingers grew in ridges around their wedding rings. They were holding hands, and he kissed her on her cheek, and she blushed under all those wrinkles. Occurred to me that you have all the same feelings we have, because you’re really us, not just hands in a puppet.”
“Yes,” I whispered. “We have all the same feelings. Human feelings. Hope, and pain, and love.”
“So, if you aren’t acting…well, then I’d swear to it that you loved them both. You do. Wanda, not just Mel’s body.”
and another conversation with Melanie’s brother:
“Does Melanie hate you?”
I thought for a minute. “Not as much as she used to.”
No. I don’t hate you at all. Not anymore.
Oh, and of course there is also the prerequisite “Love Triangle” (or TWO) that will keep your heart fluttering. The plethora of emotions that direct the reader through this book range from fear and mistrust to bonding and learning about what humanity really is. There is a lesson to be learned by all. Do not bypass this book! The action and excitement, emotional upheaval and roller-coaster ride of events, will have you devouring page after page well into the wee hours. I’ve had this book on my TBR pile for almost a year now, and can’t believe I’ve held off this wonderful, and fulfilling tale for so long.
I don’t know how Stephenie Meyer does it. While the story does not resemble Twilight in the least, your heart will be affected just as deeply. You will connect with and love these characters, and it will feel as if you, yourself, are truly in the heart of the adventure. Her passionate descriptions and fervent storytelling will keep you riveted.
Oh and the good news is, the author intends on turning this into a Trilogy YAY ME!!!