The Host by Stephenie Meyer
|The Host by Stephenie Meyer|
|Category: Science Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: When the Soul Wanderer is inserted into Melanie's captured body, all does not go according to plan. She finds herself struggling with the emotions and passions of the human mind that should no longer exist. When one of her own kind starts to become over-intrusive in her life she flees, and enters a world she could never have imagined, no matter what she'd learned in her previous incarnations.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 624||Date: May 2008|
|External links: Author's website|
The healer Fords Deep Waters is a Soul, so by nature he was all things good: compassionate, patient, honest, virtuous and full of love… However, because Fords Deep Waters lived inside a human body, irritation was sometimes inescapable.
Fords is not the only Soul living inside a human body. As we join him to witness the insertion of the Soul known as Wanderer into her eighth incarnation – her first as a human, having previously been a bat, a flower, a bear, a spider, a See Weed – most of the human bodies remaining on planet earth have been occupied.
If there had been a war, humanity had scarcely noticed it. They had no time to fight back. The Souls took over by sheer force of numbers, and by stealth.
The premise is hardly a new one. Think Stepford Wives, or The Invaders. Our greatest nightmares in respect of alien invasions revolve around those where we will not be able to tell the aliens from our own (except maybe for that fourth finger, or the strange heartbeat, or the oddly reflective eyes).
In keeping with the template, for there to be a story either the battle must only just be beginning – or the invaders must believe they have won.
The latter applies here. Although the Souls would argue it never was a battle. They have come to save this planet from the violence and hatred and greed of its dominant species. In a sense to save that species even, although they would do so by changing them irreparably. Society has changed for the better. All work, and all take what they need from the fruit of those labours. Money is a thing of the past. Sirens are now only heard in the event of a fire or an accident. The law-enforcers are seldom needed. Peace and harmony reigns as the unity of souls, (individuals, not a conglomeration like the Borg) go about their unadventurous lives, all focussed on the greater good.
As we join Wanderer in her takeover of Melanie's body, however, we see that there may still be a little resistance out there somewhere. Or in there, as the case may be.
Wanderer awakes to Melanie's memory of the violence of her attempt to evade the Seekers. This is normal. The memories do remain.
What is not normal is that as the days progress, Wanderer discovers that Melanie has not gone away as she should have done. Her consciousness resists the takeover of her mind and her body. She shouts her defiance in Wanderer's head. Her head.
The Soul struggles hard to subdue her unwelcome 'guest' – but fails and instead begins to succumb herself to Melanie's memories of love. Human love. The kind of love that isn't always kind, but is often more passion than compassion. Fierce, protective love.
Meanwhile, the Seeker who first found Melanie – a wild adult human is a rarity – is taking an over-enthusiastic role in following up the transfer of Wanderer's soul. An interest that becomes at first intrusive and then threatening. So threatening that, unheard of for a Soul – but naturally for the human lurking alongside – Wanderer/Melanie try to escape. They head out into the Arizona desert, where the story really begins.
As with much science fiction The Host revolves around universal themes and reworks the set pieces of classic literature and film. Perhaps because of its setting it most closely evokes the Western motifs: the stranger in town, love and distrust, the rule of the gun, strong women and brutal men, brother set against brother. Harsh lives determined by harsh conditions.
As with the best science fiction it works because all of those elements are reduced down through the struggles of characters we care about into the fundamental question: what, exactly, is the nature of humanity? What makes us human?
Conflict is the thread through the story, but the nature of the conflict constantly moves so that it is impossible to retain a hold on who the bad guys really are. Threats arise from all sides, without and within. Everyone it seems has something to hide.
The SF element is muted to the extent that the story is set in the near future with earth technology being much as it is now, and the alien technology being scarcely more advanced apart from their ability to travel interstellar distances and having some whizzy medical capabilities which are necessary plot devices, but the nature of which is never fully explored. Not one for those who want their SF heavy on the S, The Host is a character driven story which leaves the reader rooting for all sides at once and maybe just wishing that a happy ending were possible, for everyone.
Best known for the Twilight series, Meyer has taken a risk with this change of direction. Not every author could make the shift from teenage vampire romance to adult science fiction. Meyer has done so without missing a beat. Her writing is as sharp as ever. Her humour is just as wicked although it takes a back seat in this one. She continues to explore ethical questions quite directly, without preaching or dictating the required responses. Thoroughly enjoyable.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If you enjoy this book then we think that you'll also enjoy The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Host by Stephenie Meyer at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Host by Stephenie Meyer at Amazon.com.
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