The Host by Stephanie Meyer
Available on Goodreads
My rating: 2/5
The intriguing concept and premise of The Host gave it the potential to be an interesting and enjoyable book, and in some ways, I think it was. There were nice and interesting underlying themes and ideas, even specific characters and relationship dynamics which I took a liking to. However, certain aspects, particularly the story’s main love story and the resulting love triangle, were frustrating and made it difficult to enjoy the book.
The Host tells the story of Wanderer, a member of a body-snatching race of aliens known as “souls” that have invaded Earth. When she wakes up in her recently acquired human body, Wanderer finds that its previous owner has not gone gently into that good night. Melanie Stryder’s consciousness remains, and when she shares her memories with Wanderer, the lonely soul finds herself falling in love with the man Melanie loves – Jared Howe, a human who still lives in hiding. Both longing to see him, Wanderer (and Melanie) set off to find him.
Wanderer falling in love with Jared because of Melanie’s memories is one of the key elements of the book’s plot, so I was disappointed by how few memories are explored in the book and the limited relationship development we see through them. The little that is shown of the period between Melanie and Jared meeting and for the first time and them supposedly falling did little convince me that such a strong bond existed between the characters.
It’s therefore fortunate that unlike the blurb suggests, Jared is not the only factor that affects Wanderer’s decision to leave her life behind, because I honestly don’t think I could have brought it. Unfortunately, however, it did still impact how I viewed other aspects of the book. My inability to believe in Melanie and Jared’s love made a lot of character choices, behaviours, and development.
However, the story was not entirely held back by the love story. I enjoyed some of the characters, their friendships, and the underlying theme of finding a home. Those were probably my favourite parts of the book and, in that regard, Wanderer’s journey was quite touching, and Meyer uses her to tell an ironically human story.
Furthermore, Wanderer herself is very human in a lot of ways. But, more than that, she is simply good. Putting the reader in the perspective of the “enemy”, helped to enhance the book in a particular way for me. Being able to experience Wanderer’s internal life helped to show all those aspects of her that made her likeable and worthwhile, even if certain aspects – which I mentioned above – took away from that slightly.
I also liked the use of Wanderer’s point-of-view, it enabled me to step back and consider some of the questions which the book explores regarding the nature and experience of humanity. Are the disadvantages of human existence and society unavoidable? Are they forgivable? Does human nature make universal peace, love, and acceptance impossible? Does humanity deserve to be? Does it deserve Earth?
They’re big questions, and the book smartly doesn’t try to answer them in any sort of objective way, but I liked the depth they added to Wanderer’s journey, as she contemplated them, or subjects which related to those questions.
As someone who loves a good platonic bond, enjoys science fiction, and that likes the occasional bit of contemplation, I found enough in The Host to help make it a bearable read. But, ultimately, it fell short in places that were much too central to the plot to allow me to rate it any higher.
It’s a real shame that this of all books got my lowest rating so far, because I remember really liking the movie adaptation. More on that and further details, in my spoiler book review.