The Host

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

pages: 578 (including back matter)
publication date: 2008
ISBN: 978-0-316-12865-0

When I realized that Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga, had written another book, I went directly to amazon.com to preview the book. I got about one paragraph into the preview and I read this sentence: “With the truest instinct of my kind, I’d bound myself securely into the body’s center of thought, twined myself inescapably into its every breath and reflex until it was no longer a separate entity. It was me.” Oh my gosh, I thought, it’s just Yeerks; this book is just Twilight but with Yeerks. Immediately, I stopped previewing because I knew I would have to read The Host in its entirety.

And although The Host was not as good as either Twilight or Animorphs, it did share many of the same themes. Themes of love and identity, good and evil, although on a much smaller scale than the other two series. The book begins on Earth in the future, after parasitic creatures known as “souls” have taken over Earth except for a few rebel groups of humans. Wanderer, a soul, is implanted in a young rebel woman, Melanie. When Melanie was captured by the souls, she left behind her brother, Jamie, and a young man, Jared. Because Melanie has people to fight for, she resists Wanderer’s attempts to fully assimilate into Melanie’s body. As Melanie’s consciousness and emotions become more and more prominent, Wanderer begins to sympathize with her. Eventually, Melanie convinces Wanderer to go search for the remaining humans, including Jamie and Jared. And, because this book was written by Stephenie Meyer, a love triangle develops.

The best parts of the book were when Meyer used the interesting plot line to write curious passages about identity and the self. There are entire scenes where Wanderer and Melanie first share a single consciousness, only for it to splinter apart and then shift between Wanderer and Melanie. And all this from Wanderer’s point of view. If I specified much further, I would give some plot lines away, but, as a small example, at one point, Wanderer, in Melanie’s body, states, “I remembered what it felt like to vomit, though I never had.”

Additionally, Meyer was able to create some very compelling suspense. I worried about how Wanderer and Melanie could both survive, how they both could live with their respective love interests, whether the souls would find the rebel humans, whether the various rebel attacks against the souls would succeed and almost every other plot line Meyer concocted. The only aspect of The Host that was not compelling was the love triangle, because it was formulaic and predictable.

The Host also shares some of the failings of the Twilight saga. For example, Wanderer/Melanie is constantly and unnecessarily getting carried by men, often as she is telling them “no.” Additionally, Wanderer encounters not a single black person – not a single one through 561 pages of story. But for all her faults, Meyer, in The Host and the Twilight saga, knows how to craft a good story.

4/6: worth reading

Some other reviews of the book:

Entertainment Weekly
The Guardian
The Obsessive Reader