"The Host" by Stephenie Meyer: Book Review
The story, written by the best-selling author of the Twilight series, begins with the transformation of a female professor who begins to question her existence and her choice of occupations. She's inexplicably drawn to the desert in search of something she can't quite explain. Against the rules of society's norms, she takes off on a quest to find the reason behind the strange images that flood unabashedly into her dreams. When they pervade her wakened state, she is unable to resist the urge to explore their roots.
Television has changed dramatically, along with sports, the news, and the interactions between human beings. Cooperation is the norm, with helping others being the primary objective. Football has lost its competitive edge with players finishing the game with hugs and handshakes for their opponents. Both teams receive a trophy. Violence is replaced with kindness and complacency. The news contains only feel-good stories of people, world leaders, and celebrities acting charitably. Murder and crime is at an all-time low.
There would be nothing wrong with that if it weren't the results of an alien invasion.
An Alien Invasion
Look into their eyes and it's easy to tell. One quick beam of a flashlight will reveal them. The transformation of humans from their natural state of combat readiness—fight or flight responsiveness—has morphed into dormant, non-violent, docile and helpful citizens ready to assist their brothers and sisters with any need.
What's wrong with this picture? The reason for the abrupt changes in the way things have always been can be explained by an alien invasion. These tiny creatures who take over the mind of their host are a peaceful lot.
In this case, the alien beings are tiny enough to live within their victim's body undetected. There is one easy giveaway to their existence: Around the inner iris of their captive's eyes, a shining iridescent presence can be detected, along with a scar at the point of insertion at the back of the neck. The invaders use skilled surgeons who operate under the influence of implanted beings to conduct the procedure, placing the worm-like alien creature along the spine. Once there, it extends thousands of microscopic tentacles into the bodies of their host to control all aspects of their subject.
Attempts to remove the beings result in the unfortunate death of its captive host, although experiments to remove the invaders are ongoing. One such surgeon, a member of the resistance, suffers the emotional consequences of these questionable operations which challenge his Hippocratic oath and his own conscience. He struggles with the pressure to rid the population of this invader, yet, is torn by the results he experiences by doing so.
The Main Character, Wanda
The main character, an alien known as Wanda, short for wanderer, is a complex being who has hosted on at least nine planets during her lengthy lifetime. Living out the lives of the species who reside in each of these worlds, she has taken their memories along for the long journey to Earth. Traveling in a cyber freezer while en route to the next ill-fated planet, her kind will occupy the homes and the minds of their inhabitants. She is among those destined to set up the new world for total invasion.
Human Memories Resurfacing
The trouble starts when the lingering memories of the human in which she is implanted begins to invade her own consciousness. The love her host body, formerly known as Melanie, continues to feel for not only her brother but also for her former mate and lover, Jared, drives Wanda into the desert on a journey from which she will not return.
A Secret Community
Out in the middle of nowhere, a colony of humans has escaped detection and have begun a commune of cooperative efforts within a series of caves. With incredible ingenuity, they have created underground gardens, a kitchen with ovens heated by the natural elements, sleeping quarters and even hot baths for their residents.
Wanda is forced to join their community, first as a prisoner, and later as a contributing member who teaches classes about her species, captivating the youthful audience with her stories of life on other planets. As her inner voice grows louder, she is convinced that her human occupant of the body where she now resides, is still actively hanging on to her former life.
Wanda Is Not Fully Accepted
The character, Wanda, is befriended by some of the cave-dwellers and suffers abuse at the hand of others. Her persistence and optimism under pressure is as admirable as her submissive and passive behavior at the hands of her captors is degrading and offensive.
Those who are not fond of Wanda resent her acceptance by the founder of the safe place where they live. One heavy-handed abuser catches the woman alone in the hot springs and tries to drown her in the pool. Her response to his attack draws varied reactions from the collective who hold a trial to determine the outcome of the incident.
Review: A Captivating, Introspective Thriller
A complicated psychological thriller, this story evokes emotions of the reader who can compare the alien invasion situation to present day prejudice, oppression, and fear of those who are unlike us. It draws the reader into a web of entanglement between both humans and aliens, demonstrating a familiar pattern of violence and resistance to change.
Along with the introspective, the story presents a realm of medical issues concerning right to life and the practices of modern medicine. The innovative nature of the alien race brings with it a variety of cures, medicines, and practices that, on the surface, pulls one in favor of their presence. Their restrictive and lack-luster lives, on the other hand, makes one pull for the tenacity and resilience of their conquered hosts.
A captivating read, Ms. Meyer's book takes us into a world of what ifs. It explores the depth of human interaction and the residual effects of love for others, whether borne of passion or of familial ties. It demonstrates the differences in families and siblings, husbands, wives, lovers, and the ever-present curiosity of children whose acceptance of the unexplained is inspiring.
Meyer's Best Work
Love, hate, passion, survival, revolution, innovation, and a story that draws the reader in from the beginning is the basis for the success of this book, which has since been made into a movie. This book is one I've read more than once and turn to for tawdry escapism and entertainment.
Though she's the author of the Twilight series, a blockbuster story about vampires, this venture into the science fiction realm is by far Stephenie Meyer's best work.
© 2016 Peg Cole