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May 20, 2013 / ljbradburn-Smith

The Host

the host

Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not above swooning over Stephanie Meyer’s sparkly heartthrob and, like many others, I know that what Edward and I shared was real, vampire love, but I have to say that The Host is actually my favourite of her novels.

In this book the reader learns that Earth has long since been taken over by a parasitic alien race (also known as Souls), who have infiltrated the minds and bodies of their human hosts. The story begins as a Soul, called Wanderer, is being inserted into the body of Melanie Stryder, who until now was one of the few ‘wild’ humans left who had managed to evade capture. Wanderer, whose name originates from the fact that she has travelled many different worlds and seen through the eyes of many different beings, is a respected member of the alien race and, as an experienced soul, is charged with the duty of revealing Melanie’s memories and leading the ‘Seekers’ to the rest of the surviving humans.

Hosts are normally unable to actively fight their invasion and Souls are normally able to adapt quickly, so that they can access and process their host’s memories, but even though Wanderer is warned that the senses and emotions she will encounter, in a human body, would be more acute than those of any other being, she has inhabited, nothing quite prepares her for the assault on her newly-discovered senses as she is bombarded with intense memories of Melanie’s life and traumatic death.

Unusually, instead of being able to establish herself, Wanderer finds it increasingly difficult to resist the pull of Melanie’s feelings and quickly realizes that Melanie is still very much present and can even communicate, with Wanderer, through her thoughts. An unforeseen complication that changes everything especially as, although Melanie cannot regain control of her body physically, she is certainly up for a fight and will do anything to prevent Wanderer from selling out the people she loves.

As Melanie’s presence grows stronger so does her desperation to see her brother and boyfriend, who are still human, and Wanderer, fuelled by Melanie’s infectious longing for her loved ones, sets off in search of them. The story, as narrated from Wanderer’s point of view, tells of her struggle to coexist with her host, being an outcast amongst her own kind, and the complications caused from loving the same man.

The Host explores so many themes that I almost don’t know where to begin (almost). Essentially it is about love but I am reluctant to call it a ‘romance novel’ because I think that giving it that name makes it sound flimsy, which could put readers off and certainly won’t convince Ben to read it (as I have been trying to do since he discovered his love for literature). That’s not to say that there isn’t any of the romantic, squishy kind of love, as well as a new twist on a love triangle (square?) thrown in, in typical Meyer Fashion, but there is much more to it than that and Meyer touches on the other themes of friendship, family, body image, and identity, all with a healthy dose of dystopian danger thrown in.

Stephanie has been quoted as saying that she wanted to convey “what a gift it is to just have a body, and really love it”, in this novel, and I think she achieves this through her vivid descriptions of outsider, Wanderer, exploring and learning about a human body, for the first time, and equally through Melanie’s frustration from being locked inside a body she can no longer control. The fact that the souls’s presence is known immediately through the change in the eyes, of a human, was not lost on me either. Being called the ‘windows to the soul’ and being so unique to each of us, it is no wonder that eyes are often the feature that changes to symbolise bodily take over, in Science Fiction (I think there may be a market for extra shiny eyed contact lenses to help rebels blend in, in the future).

Meyer’s choice of the name ‘souls’ is also interesting as many of us, including me, believe that souls are what define us as humans, what makes us individual and the part of us that holds our true essence. Her decision to call the alien race Souls and describe the way they see humans specifically as ‘soulless’ examines  the ideas of justification and the way in which people act as though dispute and wars are necessary, and even positive, by presenting their intentions as ultimately benevolent and for ‘the greater good’. (Before you ask, yes, I did quote Harry Potter.) The discovery, by Wanderer, that humans are not merely the violent, destructive beings that the invading Souls are led to believe and visa versa speaks volumes about propaganda as well as the lack of knowledge that drives people to hate rather than try to understand and embrace difference.

I recently saw the film version of the book and whilst I did enjoy it, it didn’t grip me in the same way that the book did. I felt that the characters and plot lacked the depth that was present, in the book, and it left me feeling like something was missing from the story, which was inevitably Stephanie’s descriptive flair. Meyer is fantastic at creating a shiny (sometimes quite literally) version of a darker world and I think that the things that make her stand out, as an author, are her vivid and insightful descriptions of emotions and desires. She expertly captures the obsessive, desperation of love and lust and is particularly skilled at pitching this to a young adult audience and identifying with the all-consuming wonder of first love. I can only imagine that she has led a rather passionate, exciting life (nudge, nudge) herself and has a major thing for bad boys because the intensity of her characters is so believable and her writing practically jumps off the page making mature adults and teenagers alike fall in love, with vampires and werewolves, all over the place!

It’s just not practical to have Stephanie around when you have a life to live so make sure you give yourself a day or so off work to read this book, go on you know you deserve it 😉

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4 Comments

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  1. wakeupyourluck / May 21 2013 2:43 pm

    I’ve still to see the film, but I have to agree that ‘The Host’ is much better than Twilight. I think it’s a shame that a lot of people won’t give it a go! I thought it was a great idea for a book. (Currently reading ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig, which is a similar concept, and is amazing!)
    – Lauren

  2. ljbradburn / May 24 2013 8:17 am

    Yeah me too, I really like the way it’s written from Wanderer’s perspective! I think that people get a bit stuck on the Twilight idea and if they don’t like that then presume this isn’t for them either. ooo thanks, I haven’t read that but it’s going straight on my ‘to read’ list 🙂 x

  3. HJM / May 26 2013 10:28 pm

    I agree. I was sceptical of reading the Host at first but I did enjoy Twilight (my friends would laugh at me for saying that) and I thought that it deserved a chance and I do enjoy the concept and found the characters interesting. I am waiting to see what she’s going to do next.

    • ljbradburn / May 29 2013 12:07 pm

      Yeah me too, I thought that it had a completely different feel to it. I too loved Twilight, I can’t help it! Although I was a bit peeved that the vampires sparkled rather then burst in to flames true Whedon-style! I do enjoy her writing a lot though and thought that she was at her best in this book. I wonder what she will come out with next too, let me know if you hear! 🙂

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