Challenged: The Host

Well, finally, a book-related post!

Seriously, it had been so long since my last book-related blog post that I had sort of forgotten already how to do one. Yeah, it’d been a tough time for the reading–and writing–me. I have so many pending articles on the books I had read (Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, The Catcher in the Rye, and A Visit from the Goon Squad among others) that I think I should already be rereading them before I take time to sit and type out my thoughts.

With this said, I would be writing about the latest book I was able to finish: Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.

The Host (photo from goodreads.com)

I had reservations reading my borrowed copy of The Host (yes, despite the fact that I did borrow it). One, it’s sort of sci-fi and that’s something I’m quite unsure if I could like. Another thing, I doubted it because I liked The Twilight Saga so much that if The Host became not-even-close-to-exemplary, it would be quite difficult to forgive.

But still, curiosity and the bookish side of me got the better of these reservations. And well, I couldn’t tell myself I did the wrong thing after all. The Host is a unique story, with lots of crazy ideas and amazing takes on humanity. It was written in first-person view but was taken from a perspective that could be easily translated to third person. In other words, Meyer had so wonderfully crafted her novel that readers were all over the story without difficulty.

And because the story of The Host is a bit lengthy to narrate even in summary, forgive me for offering this synopsis from Goodreads instead:

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie’s thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of the man Melanie loves – Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

I Liked Best

The best, most amazing thing that could be said about this Meyer novel was that it had taken the issue of humanity to a level that people would be able to comprehend only with an open mind and whole heart. Since the lead character was a mix of two species–human and otherwise–the story took turns describing, hating, loving, and continuously wondering about humanity.

Life was taken as a complex existence, with warring ideas and conflicting emotions that were conspicuously difficult to handle. It was certainly hard to understand or even accept especially from the point of view of a soul like Wanderer, who knew and tolerated nothing but positive emotions like love, care and trust.

But when she came to live with the humans, understand their thoughts and courses of action, she began to realize that there are grey areas to a situation. That there could never be just simple choices like yes or no. That humanity was never pure evil, nor was it ever purely golden. That there were moments when violence, pain and hatred were actually the right things to feel even if they were repugnant emotions. This was very much helped by Melanie’s character, who had so much humanity within her that she was able to make Wanderer see reason however shrewd.

I also liked how such arguing thoughts were debated by other characters than Wanderer herself. There was the all-understanding nature of Ian who had so much care for the souls as opposed to Jared’s human-survival priority. Then there was Jeb with his deep curiosity, Doc’s acceptance and even the straight-backed resistance of Sharon.

All of these attitudes were necessary for us to understand the complexity of the issue. Meyer had seen to it that we had them, without the conveniently humans-thrown-together plot that seemed to be so obvious at first.

Finally, I appreciated Wanderer’s omnipresence and, er, eavesdropping abilities. Since the book was written in first person, it was necessary that we as readers were given a good account of what could be happening in places where Wanderer was not part of. It was then necessary that Wanderer, true to her name, was everywhere to hear conversations that were never meant for her.

I Liked Least

I might be a bit partial with this. But I never did appreciate much reading two different works of an author that had so much of each other’s characteristics that they could just as easily be branded as the writer’s signature. Didn’t know how to phrase this one better, I hope you did understand. I’d try to explain . . .

Hmm. You knew how Bella Swan of The Twilight Saga sort of had this different type of mind? The one with the “wall” inside it that it was impossible for Edward or anybody else to read her mind? It felt like that with all those mental argument scenes of Melanie and Wanderer.

Even some of Melanie-Wanderer’s traits were so like Bella: self-sacrificial, motherly and hopelessly in love.

I couldn’t really say it was a bad thing, having this sense of déjà vu in terms of character development. But I still think Meyer could have done a bit more tweaking with her female characters so they would not be so like each other. Apart from all other reasons, it would at least give a distinction in the personality aspect.

Chapter/Part I Liked Most

Definitely, this goes to the final pages–the ones that took place after Wanderer woke up in her new body. Not because it had this sappy happy-ever-after feel (because, well, it was a tarred form of sappy) but because it tied ends, however quite loosely.

Kyle was the best part, with his acceptance of Sunny even if she was a soul. There was reconciliation. There were changes that had me thinking all could be well even if they were far from it still.

My Personal Rating

*sigh* Always, always difficult to rate. But I’d say this one’s a 4 out of 5 pages. The story was uniquely great. Character development was defined. Even the conflicts were progressive in that it did not feel as though the characters were thrown into a quicksand of issues.

Regardless of what others thought of Stephenie Meyer, largely due to their impartial and sometimes prejudiced take on her more famous Saga, I still recommend The Host as a good read. It’s different and very interesting, if ever those words even suffice.

*** P.S. This one’s still counted under my unfinished 50 Books Challenge, okay?

3 thoughts on “Challenged: The Host

  1. gold price says:

    Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed. When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love. One of the most compelling writers of our time, Stephenie Meyer brings us a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the very essence of what it means to be human.

  2. mercadee says:

    The book ends with the rebels, when on a raid with Wanda, discovering another rebel group who also have a soul amongst them. They also discover that there are several other rebel groups acquainted with the one they met. This discovery shows that humanity may still have some hope.

    • Ryo says:

      It does give that hopeful feeling that is very heartwarming. I’m glad Stephenie Meyer decided on that. 🙂

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