Okay, I’ll admit it. I read the Host (for the third time back in September) Still I think my review fits in quite well with what we’re trying to do with ‘Tis the Season of Rereading. As a side note, The Season of Rereading (aka school holidays) are almost finished. So this is either the last or second last post. Do you have any feedback?
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.
I’ve read Twilight. I don’t think it was the worst book ever, responsible for the degeneration of the nations youth, but it wasn’t fabulous. It’s easy to see why it appealed to so many people however- and why so many people disliked it. The thing is, I liked the Host. This is my third time rereading it. It was fun- the love triangle was a complex one, the premise was very well executed and I really loved how the deeper themes of identity, family and belonging were woven into the story. It wasn’t perfect- but it was perfectly enjoyable. Stephenie Meyer gets a lot of bad rap, but maybe it’s time to rethink that.
You’ve probably seen the Host around. But in case you haven’t, here is the premise: Earth has been invaded by a species of peaceful aliens, who use human bodies to live inside (Hosts, as it were) This particular soul, Wanderer, is placed in a body who resists her, and then floods her mind with images of the people she loves. Because the soul is essentially human, she starts to feel love for them too. Over the next 600 pages the consequences of that love are explored. This whole idea was done very well- it’s pretty long and I wasn’t often bored. There are many elements to the plot, all quite complex ones, that I could really appreciate.
This book is marketed as ‘the only love triangle to feature two bodies. This is true, I guess- there are two bodies, but as is emphasised over and over, it is the body, Melanie, who loves Jared, and Wanda is affected too, but doesn’t love him for herself, not really. The complexity of relationships when a body belongs to two ‘people’ is really interesting, and it was something I really enjoyed seeing. I liked the characters. Wanda is anti violence, meek and compassionate, and Melanie is not. It is really their relationship that is central to this novel, rather than the relationships with Jared, Jamie, Jeb or (j)Ian. All of those characters were complex too, though. I really liked how the outpost and the relationships in it kept evolving as Wanda was accepted. I also loved how complex she was- she feels the very real betrayal of her own kind, but understands the appeal of humanity as well.
Of course, you have to wonder who you are when you share a body. I could actually see some parallels to the Fifth Wave, What’s Left of Me and One in that respect here. Wanda struggles, because only some of her memories are her own, and she doesn’t know what that means. As she develops into a fully fleshed character, her struggle-and Melanie’s struggle-for individuality s very clear. And The Host also deals with the idea of family. Jamie and Jared are Melanie’s family. But who is Wanderer’s family. As Wanda makes friends, she begins to realise that family goes far deeper than blood. It was slightly clichéd, but I liked that anyway. Another theme, connected to the other two, was belonging. Do you belong among your own kind? Who is your own kind? Is it possible to belong in a stolen body? I appreciated the exploration of these themes, and really relished how the ending solidified it all. Wanda is a character easy to empathise with, and the struggles that she went through were a big part of that.
The main thing that I didn’t like about the host was the pacing. It’s a huge book, and it took me the better part of a long weekend to read. But the pacing was off. It would rush through the important weeks while Wanda/Melanie was accepted. It dragged through the getting lost in the desert. It sped through earth shaking kisses, then spent pages describing a soccer game. The worldbuilding was interspersed throughout. I don’t like info dumps, but for a first time reader, the first hundred pages could be really confusing. I also found that some of the descriptions could get repetitive. The internal and external dialogue was excellent, but some of the narration was quite boring.
The Host is a very interesting book, and I liked it. It bears rereading well, with a good plot and good characters and a good story. Sometimes, authors deserve a second chance.
Have you read the Host? What do you think of rereading books with a bad reputation? tell me in the comments!