Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Disclaimer: I read The Host back in 2008 and did a review for The Book Swede and I spotted a lot of excitement about The Host movie online this week and thought I'd copy across my review here. I think it would be interesting to go back and re-read The Host to see if my opinion changed.  To be honest, I'm not sure it would have.  Unlike Twilight, The Host has not left a weird feeling in my mind, if I can call it that.  Anyway, enough babbling. Here's my dusted off review: 
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that takes over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. Wanderer, the invading 'soul' who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love. 
I genuinely can’t imagine a scarier scenario. Aliens invade Earth. And they stay. Not only do they stay to co-habit Earth, they take over by bonding with the humans (whom they call their host) in a parasitical way. They repress the host’s personality completely and take over their day-to-day lives. In some instances, the host personality dies and is overcome by the “soul” implanted into its body. Humanity becomes changed forever by the souls who find that they bond truly well with their human hosts.

I don’t like bugs – no matter how beautiful. So I had a preconception about how this was going to turn out already, and in the back of my mind, I ran through the various horror movies out there in the same sort of genre and I sort of despaired. How to do something new and fresh? The concept already had my skin crawling before I even read The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Which is not the best way to start reading a book to review.

I know the author through her Twilight books she did, in the past, and was unsure how she was going to handle this futuristic, Sci-Fi styled book with its overtones of horror and romance.

The fact is: she pulls it off. The aptly named soul, Wanderer, becomes implanted in a rebel human, Mel. Mel is a fighter and she refuses to let Wanderer take her over completely. She becomes a passenger in her own mind and slowly but surely a strong relationship grows between host and soul. We follow them on a journey filled with hate and despair as they strive to find Mel’s brother and her boyfriend/lover, Jared. A group of humans headed by Mel’s uncle, Jeb, (who immediately in my mind turned into Sam Elliot) discover Wanderer and Mel, in the desert, close to death. And this is where the story genuinely unfolds and the author’s writing skills comes to the fore.

A tremendous amount of internal dialogue and keen observations on human behaviour is dotted through the book. It is beautifully written and the style is consistent all the way through. But having said that, I couldn’t quite suspend my disbelief that the souls were all such gentle folk, even the Seekers, the ones who hunt humans and bring them in for implantation. Wanderer is rendered as incredibly saintly, yet all through the book I felt that I wanted to throttle her, to make her be more proactive and less reticent. Which, naturally, from a writer’s point of view is exactly what you want to do: stir up emotion in the reader. Mel remains as an interesting counter-point to the very selfless Wanderer (or Wanda) and I found it interesting to follow the storyline to see how the author played it out right to the very end.

It is a good book, no doubt about it. It is skilfully written with a lot of thought having gone into the society the souls press upon humanity. 

The movie is out next year and here's the trailer and it looks like fun...

1 comment:

Mari said...

I really, really liked The Host myself, Liz :) It felt like Meyer had grown as a writer with The Host, which is my favorite Meyer novel.

I liked the Twilight Saga until there was Breaking Dawn which was just lacking in all departments in my opinion. Twilight was the book that introduced me to young adult books and the paranormal genre and I'm eternally grateful to Meyers for making the introductions. That has also lead me to discover that there are better books in the genre than Twilight. Well look at me rambling on and on, that was how inspirational your review was :D

The Host trailer looks promising, I mean it cannot possibly be a worse adaptation(boring in my opinion) than Twilight. I have only seen the first movie and that was more than enough for me.