Completely different from Twilight and offering a slightly better love story than Bella and Edward, The Host is a book about an alien species who call themselves “souls” who like to invade unsuspecting planets and attach themselves in the aboriginal life forms and live on their life spans. It’s a story about an invasion aftermath, about a wandering “soul” who could not fully exorcise the human conscience living inside its host body and who finds that the “monstrous” humans living on the planet were not as bad as described. It’s a story about another love triangle and being a book from Stephanie Meyer – it’s a boring love story.
The premise is good but the book is so drawn out and uselessly padded that I felt like stopping reading it a few times during the last 4 weeks (! this coming from the same person who devoured a similarly lengthy book in 2 days).
The wandering soul found in Melanie’s body has lived on several planets of the nine that the “souls” have discovered and according to their rules, once a soul was attached to a body, it will have to live its full lifespan. She declares herself as a female and she mentioned about living on the planet of the bats, the sea weeds, the song planet and the flowers. She is old, over 2000 years old in human years but as she says, she’s still a baby in the human life.
The best bits about the book are the imaginative descriptions of other worlds and other life forms. The worst bits of the book are the length, the multitude of uni-dimensional characters and the lifeless interactions and thoughts.
About the souls:
Said aliens, the Souls, are silvery centipede-like brainworms with the ability to take over the bodies of pretty much anything that has a developed neural system (other hosts species mentioned include bear-like things, cow sized arachnids, underwater algae-like aliens with a thousand eyes, freaking flowers and half a dozen others).
The Souls seem to largely lack culture of their own, since life in Earth is noted to be pretty much the same (down to the manufacture of junk food like Cheetos) except now that humans are only flesh suits for the brainworms everything is supposed to be a Sugar Bowl world with no violence, hunger or environmental problems. I was chuckling at a video depiction of an NBA game where the two opposing players were curteously arguing on who should take the ball, both claiming that they touched it last and it would only be fair that the other person should take it. They removed human movies from the TV as they deemed them too violent.
“They were too disturbing. They had to be replaced with things that weren’t so… violent.”
“The Brady Bunch?”
I laughed. I’d seen that show in San Diego, and Melanie knew it from her childhood. “It condoned aggression. I remember one where a little male child punched a bully, and that was portrayed as being the right thing to do. There was blood.”
The Souls at the time of the novel have no biological drive or external factors that could move them to take new worlds for hosts. It is mentioned that the first alien host species (“the vultures”) weren’t good, but that doesn’t exactly justify using vulture technology to go to the worlds of other species that had been their victims and take them over. Nonetheless, expand they do and do so very deliberately (Earth’s conquest, for example, didn’t begin until the Souls were sure that their wunder-medicine could heal the worst human injuries with a couple of pills). Even more damning, one story told by the main Soul character pretty much proves that they could take animal hosts and retain their cognitive abilities.
They are also annoyingly self-righteous. They feel horrified about the fact that half of the population of the plant people decided to mass suicide, rather than become hosts. They are outraged about the fact that the diet of one of their host species involves setting on fire a plant-like creature that they later discovered was also intelligent (which made them start making plans to modify the dietary requirements of the animal species and preparing the plant lookalikes as new hosts). And they are extremely smug about how everything is better in the planets they conquer, after mindwiping the bodies they claim.
The love triangle
The relationships in the book center around Melanie’s reunion with her brother Jamie and her lost love (Jarred). While imprisoned, Wanda (they shortened the Wanderer’s name) slowly gets attached to Ian. So, you have the body and the host loving a person and the mind and another controlling the body, loving another person. Both fighting to be with the man they want.
“I, the soul called Wanderer, love you, human Ian. And that will never change, no matter what I might become.”
It’s like multiple-personality disorder combined with schizophrenia.
Ian loves the well travelled and soft-spoken alien, while Jarred loves Melanie, the fighter and the survivor girl he fell in love with years earlier.
“It’s not the face, but the expressions on it. It’s not the voice, but what you say. It’s not how you look in that body, but the thing you do with it. You are beautiful.” – Ian
This made me think of how much of a person can you really love? The appearances are not all and the mind and the personality are just a facet of the complicated rituals of human mating.
“Eight full lives,” I whispered against his jaw, my voice breaking. “Eight full lives and I never found anyone I would stay on a planet for, anyone I would follow when they left. I never found a partner. Why now? Why you? You’re not of my species. How can you be my partner?”
“It’s a strange universe,” he murmured.
“It’s not fair,” I complained, echoing Sunny’s words. It wasn’t fair. How could I find this, find love–now, in this eleventh hour–and have to leave it? Was it fair that my soul and body couldn’t reconcile? Was it fair that I had to love Melanie, too? Was it fair that Ian would suffer? He deserved happiness if anyone did. It wasn’t fair or right or even…sane. How could I do this to him?
“I love you,” I whispered.
“Don’t say that like you’re saying goodbye.”
But I had to. “I, the soul called Wanderer, love you, human Ian. And that will never change, no matter what I might become.” I worded it carefully, so that there would be no lie in my voice.
“If I were a Dolphin or a Bear or a Flower, it wouldn’t matter. I would always love you, always remember you. You will be my only partner.”