Whilst marketed as Stephenie’s “first novel for adults” the language, violence, and what little sexual innuendo that can be found in The Host is extremely tame and is quite suitable for teens and younger readers. In fact, if not for the depth and complexity of the book emotionally and thematically. The Host is really not far removed from being a YA novel. Genre-wise, The Host obviously possesses science fiction elements but is more akin inn spirit to such stories as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Puppet Masters, Alien Nation, Planet of the Apes, and V: The Series where science fiction is downplayed in favour of more thought provoking issues like the resiliency of humanity, overcoming cultural violence barriers, inrerspecies prejudice, and so forth. However, instead of being fueled by adventure, thrills or horror, The Host is essentially a character-driven romance.
Considering how popular Stephenie Meyer has become, it’s hard to imagine that her debut novel was only just released in 2005, because it seems like I’ve been hearing about the author for decades. Not immune to such massive hype but Stephenie’s first novel for adults that marks my introduction to the author’s charm to people.
With the set up, one in this story, earth has already been conquered, and has been for several years now. Also, Earth is the only of dozens of planets that have been similarly subjugated. Two, the “souls: are a benign alien species and in their mind, they believe they’ve done humanity a favour by getting rid of crime, violence, and other depravities – concepts along with hate and betrayal that are foreign to the aliens. And thirdly, even though the planet has been conquered, the lives of those humans whose bodies have been stolen continues. In other words, the aliens, through their human hosts, continue to feed and bathe themselves, go to work, and have relationships. Basically, life is normal, except they don’t have to worry about security, pay for services or provisions anymore, and health care is much improve.
I should also note that even though The Host is classified as science fiction, there is actually a very little science in the book. I mean readers will get to learn about different planets – Fire World, Sea World, The Singing Planet, The Planet of the Flowers, The Mists Planet, The Dragon Planet, Summer World, etc. – alien species (Vultures, Spiders, Dolphins, Claw Beasts) and The Souls’ Callings like Healers, Seekers, Comforters, and Motherhood as well as their Origin World, but overall the science fiction elements are overshadowed, so don’t expect the same kind of depth or complicated world-building that you might find in a space opera or epic fantasy series. After all, that’s not what The Host is about.
Instead, The Host is about emotions, characters, and their interactions with one another, and what it means to be human and this is where Stephenie Meyer leaves her mark.
What’s truly amazing about this is that the main protagonist is an alien. Of course, Wanderer is not your everyday alien. You see, she chose the name Wanderer for a reason. On average, “a soul” may visit two planets before finding one they like and settling down. Earth is Wanderer’s ninth planet. Because of this experience, Wanderer is chosen to be inserted into the body of the rebel Melanie Stryder. The thought was that with her experience, Wanderer would be able to extract the information from Melanie’s memories that the Seekers need even though the long-term success rate of “souls” assimilating an adult human host is under 20%. What no one expected though was that Melanie’s consciousness would remain aware and driven by her host body’s emotions Wanderer would abandon her species and seek out Melanie’s loved ones.
I could go on trying to explain how amazing I thought the characterisation was, how incredibly poignant story made me react with such strong emotion, and why I love reading The Host so much, but no amount of words can do the book justice. Basically, The Host is one of those rare novels that you have yo experience in your own to really appreciate it.