Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer

Warning: As always, I try to stay relatively spoiler free. But it doesn’t hurt to proceed with caution.

Rating: Four Stars—Great

I have mixed feelings about THE HOST—I really do. For one thing, it’s Romance, and I don’t do Romance, so this happens to be one of those rare exceptions. That said, though, I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this book, because half the time I’m like, “THIS BOOK IS THE BEST”, and half the time I can’t help rolling my eyes at the romantic side of the plot. So I’ll do my best to list what sets it apart, in my mind, from the rest of its romantic kin.

Parasitic Symbiosis. Just so you know what I’m talking about, Wanderer is a Soul, a parasitic alien that must live in a host body in order to survive. Usually the host’s consciousness fades after insertion, leaving the Soul to go about its existence unhindered. But in Wanderer’s case, her host—Melanie Stryder—refuses to fade. And, unfortunately for Wanderer, Melanie is willing to do anything it takes to rejoin her brother (Jamie) and her boyfriend (Jared) in hiding, even if it means bringing Wanderer with her.

Indecisiveness is bad enough, but it’s worse when you’re literally of two minds about something. Throughout the book, Wanderer and Melanie must come to terms with each other as they struggle to work together—Melanie with the knowledge the she can no longer control her fate or her actions, that she cannot even communicate with her loved ones unless Wanderer speaks for her; Wanderer with the understanding that, though she is falling for someone, her host is in love with another man.

Talk about drama. I mean, it’s worse than a love triangle—it’s, like, a love quadrangle, or whatever you want to call it.

So, on the one hand, this could come off as really awkward. But I was surprised by how well Stephenie Meyer deals with this issue. And I love the bond that develops between Wanderer and Melanie over time, how they begin to rub off on each other, how they learn to see the world through each other’s eyes.

Human Nature. If you’ve read many of my book reviews or discussions, you’ll know I really appreciate stories that shed light on human nature/humanity. Maybe this is because I love psychology—I enjoy peeking into emotions and motivations and actions and everything else that makes up a person’s psyche. So THE HOST automatically gains points with me on that end when it begs the question, “What does it truly mean to be human?”

Wanderer, Melanie, and Jamie. While Melanie is spirited and strong, Wanderer is the exact opposite—submissive, fearful, and altruistic. Together, they make for quite a pair. And the plot only thickens when they become reunited with Jamie, Melanie’s younger brother. I can’t even tell you how much I love Jamie—he is the most adorable, the most sweetest thing ever. Though he has every right to hate Wanderer for what she has (inadvertently) taken away from him, instead he welcomes her with open arms and accepts her because he cares for her, not just because she wears his beloved sister’s face.

Jared and “The Love Interest”. I can’t very well tell you who the love interest is, now can I? Because that would spoil it for you. But these two guys are the best, especially when they’re butting heads over Wanderer/Melanie like two rams fighting over a lady sheep. Their jealousy is so adorable, and even if they are a little unbelievable, I still half love them.

Uncle Jeb. I haven’t decided yet whether I think he’s fully sane or not. Effectively the dictatorial leader of his little tribe of surviving humans—hidden away in pockets beneath the desert—he guides his followers with wisdom and snark. He may not be blessed with an overabundance of kindness, yet he can be incredibly gentle, and no one else in the group would make a better leader. Also, he provides most of the comic relief, so there’s that.

The Feel of It. I know, very specific of me, but I love the mood and the tone—the scariness of the open spaces and the coziness of the caves, the fear of the Seekers and the daring of those who go on raiding missions. Also, I love how, while Meyer deals with invading, parasitic aliens and spaceships and cool technology, the book doesn’t actually FEEL like a Science-Fiction novel—the Sci-Fi aspect doesn’t get all in your face. (Not that I would mind if it did, but I find it an intriguing and pleasant surprise that doesn’t. Basically, it’s Sci-Fi for those who don’t do Sci-Fi, and if I’m any indication, Romance for those who don’t do Romance. Pretty much your average win-win situation.)

And if you’re doubting the emotional impact of the plot, just put yourself in Jared’s shoes and imagine what it would be like if you lost someone you loved but then had someone else return wearing your loved one’s body. Yeah, I kind of wish I could send Jared a box of chocolates and a “sorry your girlfriend got possessed by a space centipede” card.

The Souls. Okay, so the Souls are the bad guys, right? I mean, they’ve taken over the world and everything. In fact, by inhabiting the bodies of almost everyone on earth, they have effectively murdered billions of people. And their Seekers continue to hunt down and dispose of the remaining resistance. Don’t they sound so horrible?

But wait till you meet them.

No seriously, because they are INCREDIBLY NICE. I mean, they are genuinely very nice little space centipedes. They never break any laws—they don’t need a monetary system because they have perfected communism (and not Stalin’s form of Socialism, but the dream Marx had of a world where everyone shares equally and everyone pulls their own weight—note: don’t try this at home). They care so much about each other, and they are such softies. For the most part, they aren’t aggressive, and they are so selfless. Let me stress this again, THEY ARE REALLY NICE PEOPLE.

And yet they’re the bad guys—and they’re really, really bad guys, considering what they’ve done. So try figuring that one out.

Now for the stuff I didn’t like as much.

Kissing, Ew. Okay, so there was kissing, and a good deal of it at that. And I’m so unromantic, I would almost prefer it if the characters ignored each other all the time and never fell in love, so you can imagine how I feel about kissing. Also, there are a few eye-roll moments like the, “Help me, Jared, you can only save Melanie by snogging me” scene. Yeah, no. I’m sure you could think of something else, Wanderer, if you tried hard enough.

Where Are the Promised Sequels, I Ask You? So a few years ago, when the movie adaptation was just about to come out, US magazine interviewed Stephenie Meyer, and she told them that she had two sequels planned: THE SEEKER, and THE SOUL. At that point, she said she had already written about 20% of THE SEEKER. Granted, she did also tell US that it’s been slow going because she’s busy and she doesn’t work well with interruptions. But seriously, I needed the sequel, like, three years ago. And people wonder why I have trust issues.

So, all in all, I definitely felt that THE HOST was worth reading (actually, worth reading three times). Despite the eye-roll moments, THE HOST presents an engaging plot, a cast of intriguing characters, and 620 pages of well-paced prose.


  1. This sounds really interesting. The love triangle, er, square thing. . . I'm a bit edgy about that. It does sound like it could get sappy.

    The whole time I was reading this I was thinking, "Oh, wow! Poor Jared. Seriously, this author has it in for him or something, because that is like the worst thing in the world!"

    But that first point you made, that it sheds light into human nature. I might be able to read this. That sounds interesting. "What is it really mean to be human?" I would read it for that. Also, it just sounds intriguing.

    1. It is super interesting. And yeah, on the one hand, the love square/quadrangle/thing is rather sappy, especially when you're just talking about it. When I was actually reading, it wasn't glaring (although I'm sure if I really paid attention, it would be a little bit eye-roll worthy). But I also feel that, considering the situation, it's a genuine struggle to be dealt with in that world. It's like, conjoined twins falling in love with two different people, only instead of being conjoined twins, its two consciousness sharing the same body. So yeah, six of one half dozen of another--somehow it tickled my fancy.

      But yeah, poor dearest little Jared. His reactions to Wanderer-in-Melanie's-body are so painful. I mean, it's worse when you think about people you've lost and then imagine someone coming back in their bodies. *shudders* Poor Jared. Stephenie Meyer is so mean (which is obviously why I love her).

      I think that insight into human nature was really what made me enjoy it the most--and it's especially why I chose to reread it twice. I mean, I'm not a romance junkie--so if I've read a romance three times, I should think that's saying something (though whether it's saying something about the book or my sanity is another question altogether). It is really intriguing--I totally recommend it. And I hope you like it! :)

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I've heard a lot about this book, but I just haven't read it yet. It does sound interesting, though, and I like what you've said about the characters, so I might have to check it out just for Jared and Jamie, lol

    Nice review, btw!


    1. You should read it. :) Jamie and Jared are great (the other love interest is great as well). I just love the dynamic between the two love interests, and Jamie is the greatest little brother ever. There is a movie version staring Saroise Ronan, Max Irons, and Jake Abel, but I would really recommend reading the book first.

      Thanks, and thanks for commenting! :)