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Stephenie Meyer – The Host

July 1, 2008

83. The Host by Stephenie Meyer (2008)

Read By: Kate Reading
Length: 22h 58m (624 pages)

Genre: Science Fiction/Romance

Started: 19 June 2008
Finished: 27 June 2008

This is another audiobook review I wrote for SFsite.com.

Summary: Aliens invading the bodies of humans isn’t a new plot device, but who ever stops to think about the body-snatcher’s point of view? The Host gives us the chance to experience this unique switch in perspective: the book opens as the alien called Wanderer (so named because she has lived the life-term of eight different hosts on eight different occupied planets) is inserted into the body of Melanie Stryder, a renegade human recently tracked down and captured by the Seekers. When an alien Soul is placed into a new human Host body, that’s supposed to be that: the Soul will have access to the previous occupant’s memories, but the body is the alien’s to control. Unfortunately, things don’t go so smoothly for Wanderer; Melanie has stuck around inside her head, and she is not happy about sharing her body with an occupying Soul. She fights back by filling Wanderer’s thoughts with images of Jared, the man that Melanie loves. Wanderer knows that she should turn this information over to the Seekers, but soon she comes to love Jared as well, and rebels against the idea of his possible capture.

United with Melanie by this common emotion, and pursued by a Seeker who’s convinced she’s hiding something, Wanderer strikes out into the desert, following cryptic clues Melanie’s uncle left to guide them to a hidden rebel cell of humans. However, by cooperating, Melanie and Wanderer have made themselves untrustworthy to both of their peoples. Fueled by their love for Melanie’s human connections, they can no longer stay with the Souls, but the humans — including, heartbreakingly, Jared — fear and distrust the alien in their midst. Wanderer must fight for acceptance, not only for Melanie’s body, but also for herself as an individual. She must also deal with her conflicting emotions of a developing love quadrangle: her body — Melanie’s body — remains strongly drawn to Jared, while her Soul is slowly falling for Ian, another of the conclave of humans.

Review: I have conflicting feelings about Stephenie Meyer’s work. On the one hand, I frequently react poorly to her message, morals, and attitudes surrounding gender and relationship issues, often finding myself anywhere from mildly annoyed to seethingly angry. On the other hand, man can she tell an absorbing story. Regardless of my intellectual reaction, I invariably find myself completely sucked into her books, blindly turning pages (in this case, changing CDs), totally oblivious to everything else in my world, but desperate to know what’s happening in hers. Objectively, this book could have to be about a third shorter; Meyer is not a particularly concise or elegant writer, never saying in one sentence what she could hammer at for three. Still, once you’ve been sucked into the story, it doesn’t matter: even when not much was actually happening, I never had the impression of the story dragging.

The Host is being touted as Stephenie Meyer’s first “adult” novel, although I’m hard-pressed to figure out why this one is Adult while the Twilight series is Young Adult. The narrators are the same age (well, Melanie is; Wanderer is obviously a few thousand years older), there’s not any more violence in one versus the other, and sex is actually mentioned less in the ostensibly more “adult” book (although it occurs “on screen” at the same frequency — i.e., never — in both). Nor did I find the themes of The Host to be particularly age-specific. There’s a meatier moral dilemma here than in the Twilight series, but it’s not so complicated as to exclude most teens. Suffice to say, fans of one will almost certainly enjoy the other, regardless of age.

While the main issues of identity, body vs. mind, and ownership are handled well (with the exception of a few arguments about whether Melanie’s body “belonged to” Jared or Ian, which creeped me out), some of the same issues surrounding relationships and gender relations that plague the Twilight series are prevalent here as well. First, Meyer writes relatively passive women, which is unfortunate, considering that teen girls make up the vast majority of her fan base. Wanderer is stronger than Bella, but she still doesn’t have a whole lot of agency, and there’s a lingering whiff of “whatever the men think is best” that rankles.

Second, and I realize that this puts me in a very small minority: I don’t like Edward (from Twilight). Meyers tells us he’s this wonderful, perfect, incredible specimen of the male sex and we’re supposed to believe it, even when she subsequently shows him acting like an immature, borderline-abusive, incredibly arrogant asshole. The Host has some strong echoes of this; its weakest part is the early stages where Melanie convinces Wanderer to fall in love with Jared. I didn’t buy that this process would be as quick and effective as it was, but even once I suspended my disbelief and accepted that Wanderer was in love with Jared, not until the very end of the book did I ever believe that Jared deserved it. But, Meyer says he’s perfect, and therefore he’s perfect, assholish behavior or not. Since the Wanderer/Jared relationship was only one among several, it wasn’t quite so annoying, but there’s still a noticeable disparity between what we’re shown and what we’re told.

But, intellectual and feminist disagreements aside, The Host is a vivid, absorbing, and compellingly readable story, told from a unique perspective by a convincing narrative voice. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I think sci-fi fans (who don’t mind a hefty dose of romance) and romance fans (who don’t mind a hefty dose of sci-fi) are both likely to enjoy this book, and of course Meyer’s preexisting fans are going to eat it up.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Stephenie Meyer’s Website, Official Website for The Host

Other Reviews: Teen Book Review, The Book Swede, Maw Books, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, SciFiChick

First Line: The Healer’s name was Fords Deep Waters.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2008 1:02 pm

    I feel soooo behind the times. I’ve still not read anything by Stephenie Meyer!

  2. July 1, 2008 1:21 pm

    They’re not brain candy, exactly, especially given how angry they sometimes make me, but they are definitely very absorbing – 300 pages can pass by, the sun can set, zombie apocalypse could break out, my back could start spasming, and I would notice none of it until I was done with the book.

    So… worth checking out when you need to get lost in a completely non-serious, guilty-pleasure-type book.

  3. July 9, 2008 12:37 pm

    Stephenie Meyer is very deep writer and you must read very tenderly.

  4. July 10, 2008 5:09 pm

    Great review! So glad to see that you think it needs to be a third shorter. I totally agree. Way to long especially as the story was not that lengthy.

  5. Sara permalink
    July 25, 2008 3:29 pm

    I concur… the male heroes in Meyer’s work are inevitably “perfect”, whereas the females are much, much more flawed. I have a huge problem with this, but that hasn’t stopped me from reading all of her books and sitting on tenterhooks til the release of Breaking Dawn. You might be interested in this Twilight contest BooksOnBoard is hosting (the grand prize is a Cybook reader, which is an awesome, environmentally friendly way to read… AND lets carry hundreds of books in a really light device). Anyways, I definitely agree that the fact that her readership is primarily comprised of teenage girls is rather disturbing.

  6. Stuntgirl permalink
    November 20, 2009 8:26 pm

    Twilight is YA because it is directed towards teenage girls who are desperately searching for love. The Host is Adult because it is much better work and so adults will give it a chance.
    The males are just as flawed as the females. Kyle doesn’t think. Ian thinks too much. Jared won’t give anyone a second chance. Jamie is a kid and is frustrated about how no one will treat him like an adult. Twilight, however has god-like guys, but The Host is much better than Twilight.
    And let’s face it, relationships with teenage girls are just more interesting.

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