Meyer, Stephenie. 2008. The Host.
The Healer's name was Fords Deep Waters. Because he was a soul, by nature he was all things good: compassionate, patient, honest, virtuous, and full of love. Anxiety was an unusual emotion for Fords Deep Waters. Irritation was even rarer. However, because Fords Deep Waters lived inside a human body, irritation was sometimes inescapable.
Thus begins the highly anticipated first adult novel by Stephenie Meyer. The opening scene shows a man, occupation Healer, getting ready to implant a Soul into a human being. These souls are parasitic aliens that have spread across the galaxy. They are able to take hosts--different hosts--on each planet. Our narrator is a Soul named Wanderer. She's unusual, in a way, because she has been to many planets--I can't remember if it's seven or eight or nine--and lived that many lifetimes. The souls know no death, they just move onto a new host when their host's body dies. This is Wanderer's first time on Earth, her first time in a human host. Our secondary narrator is a woman named Melanie. And you've probably guessed by now that she is the host body to Wanderer.
These aliens didn't take over the world overnight. They didn't announce their arrival at all. Their goal--if they had a goal--was to assimilate quietly and peacefully with humans. It wasn't until the humans noticed that something was off that there was any resistance, any battles, any blood shed. What was off? Humans were being too nice, too perfect, too Mayberry. From the Souls' perspective, they were doing humanity a huge favor. They were turning these rowdy and unpredictable and altogether too violent and volatile humans into peace-loving, happy-go-lucky people. Souls love everybody, accept everybody, trust everybody. Except for that one teeny tiny little detail that they won't take no for an answer. All humans must be implanted. As long as their are humans without Souls then there is the potential for blood shed and loss. To "protect" themselves--or so they claim--they must either assimilate or destroy those resisting pesky humans. Those Souls that are seeking to destroy and/or assimilate humans are called Seekers.
Melanie's luck has run out. Or so she thinks. On the verge of being captured, she throws herself down an elevator shaft. She thinks that she'll avoid her fate by destroying her body. But Healers are really good at repairing the human body--another so called "benefit" to this alien domination.
Wanderer and Melanie are soon to be linked together for life. Not that that is the plan. Souls are supposed to erase, eradicate, the consciousness, the personality of their hosts. But Wanderer finds that Melanie will not go down without a fight. She guards her life, her secrets, closely. She will not accept the finality of the situation.
Life is about to turn very interesting for this two-in-one package as they journey together into the Arizona desert to find the meaning of it all. It's a story about humanity, about sentient life forms, about right and wrong, about justice, about love, about forgiveness, and grace, and redemption. It's a novel with a lot of heart and soul and gumption.
This concept isn't completely original. They're not as overtly (openly) evil as the goa'uld (go-ah-OOLD) by any means. But the concept of a parasite invading through the neck and wrapping themselves around the spine and brain and 'controlling' the human and 'erasing' the host personality has been done before. So has the concept of a human host living side-by-side compatibly with a parasite--that's a Tok'ra for you. Tok'ras are the 'good guys' in the parasite world (supposedly though Jack still calls them snakeheads) who only enter voluntary hosts. Even the concept of love can be seen to be similar to that found in Stargate--the parasite and host body falling in love with their mate's parasite and host body. Four personalities, two bodies, love all around.
It was hard not to think about goa'ulds and tok'ras while reading The Host. That could be because I tend to relate all things back to Stargate eventually if at all possible. It doesn't have to be oh-so-obvious. In this case, I think if you've seen Stargate at all, you can see the connection in some ways, but not in all ways.
This story has plenty to make it special all on its own. I don't want to get into the particulars but the environment was very unusual but it worked. In some very teeny tiny way it reminded me of Dune. I don't know why. I've only seen the movie once. But there were scenes from that movie that came to mind when reading the book. Maybe it's the desert environment. (There are no giant worms however.) I don't know. At this point, it's irrelevant. (Maybe also slightly Journey to the Center of the Earth). She created a world that is so strange, so different from present day life, from reality. It's a world that it's easy to get swept up into in a way. The setting, the characters. It just worked. It was very rich in detail. I thought the depths of the back-story was just really well done. (The little details that Wanderer discloses in her storytelling and her question and answer sessions.)
I can't say that I fell quite in love with it as much as I did Twilight upon first reading it. But it's good. The romance, the chemistry, isn't quite as intense, quite as magical as it is for Bella/Edward/Jacob. But it isn't a romance without some merit. I personally was more into Ian than Jared, but that's just me.
First sentence of chapter one: I knew it would begin with the end, and the end would look like death to these eyes. I had been warned. Not these eyes. My eyes. Mine. This was me now. (9)
So I definitely recommend it. Do you have to love science fiction? It might help. But if you're not a fan, don't let the genre turn you off. This is a story about what it means to be human. (In some ways it mirrors the themes of the novel Frankenstein--what it means to be human, to live, what it means to be a monster.) It's a human-interest story therefore. It explores the depths--the good, the bad, the ugly--of humanity in general. The fact that some humans have been possessed by aliens while others haven't is just a distinction that separates it from other novels you might have read through the years. But science fiction fans, I hope, will be pleased with it as well as newbies.
I would have read it anyway--it's got Stephenie Meyer's name attached to it--but it comes with a blurb from Orson Scott Card himself. So you know it has to be good.
And for those that are curious, I tend to like Wanda/Melanie much much more than Bella as far as personality goes. In Twilight, Bella didn't annoy me so much. But in some of the sequels, I found myself growing more and more irked at her. Definitely to a point where I understood where all the hate was coming from saying that she was too whiny and mindless (in a way). Not that I'll ever reach a point where I'll stop reading the series. Who could stop now? (I'm on Team Jacob by the way.)
You can read the prologue and the first four chapters here.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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