Wanderer is part of a symbiotic alien race that is conquering the Earth. She and her race are implanted inside human subjects, bonding with them and taking over their bodies.
Melanie was one of the last few members of the human resistance, trying to fight back against the alien invaders and cling to their fragile humanity before the human race as we know it is wiped out. She has a brother and family in the resistance. She was on the way to join a larger resistance cell with her lover, Jared, when she is captured and bonded with Wanderer.
Wanderer’s consciousness takes over, but buried deep inside of the two is Melanie. Melanie is supposed to be gone, but she slowly begins to exert control and influence over Wanderer, much to the alarm of the female Seeker charged with Wanderer’s transition to life on Earth. During a trip for California to a new home, Wanderer decides to go off the path, find Jared and reconnect with Melanie’s life.
If you think I’m giving away too much of Stephenie Meyer’s new novel, “The Host,” I can tell you that all of what I’ve told you here happens in the first hundred or so pages. What follows is a character-driven sci-fi novel that offers up an exploration of what it means to be human, the nature of love and the questions of identity. If you’re looking for a hard and fast explanation of just how the bonding process works or the exact nature of the alien plan, you will be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a character driven, love story that uses elements of the invasion story and sci-fi to tell an interesting and compelling story about the human condition, this is definitely one to put on your “to be read” list.
Meyer’s central concept of having two personalities that talk to each other is one that could easily crumble under its own weight or become confusing for readers. But it never does. The story is told from Wanderer’s (later she takes the name Wanda) point of view with Melanie comig into things from time to time. The journey Wanda takes from being an alien outsider (even an outsider to her own culture) to becoming a part of our community is fascinating and compelling. At first, Wanda seems a bit cold, but as her journey unfolds, she becomes a fast-friend, even to the point that you can forget this is someone who is genuine alien narrating the events of the story.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a huge fan of the Twilight series. I find the first book good, but the next two lost my interest. Part of it was the immaturity of the first-person narrator Bella.
So, I admit I approached “The Host” with equal parts anticipation and reservation. But by having a more mature first-person narrator, Meyer avoids the traps of the Twilight novels, giving readers a richer, more meaningful story. By half-way through the novel, it became difficult to decide which side of the personality I wanted to win out and have the ultimate decision making authority and control. That is a true testiment to Meyer’s character creation.
At its essence, “The Host” is a love-story that uses sci-fi elements to tell the story. A love quadrangle develops in the course of the story. Meyer never simplifies things or makes them easy for her characters. Each character has to make some truly hard decisions and live with their consequences. In this universe, all is not fair in love and war. And as you read the book, you wouldn’t want it any other way.
That’s not to say “The Host” is perfect. It does drag a bit in the middle chapters. But they are necessary to the character-building Meyer is doing.