[Book Review] The Host, or the trials and tribulations of the victorious alien invader

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Host! A book I had absolutely no interest in reading but kinda liked anyway.

How did that happen? Well, see,  a few days ago, Meg and me, we were looking through upcoming movie releases. And our conversation went something like this:

Me: We should read The Host
Meg: I have been working on the unicorn demon story
  ug
  I know
  When does it come out?
Me: March, I think.
Meg: I call not dibs
\o/

While the real takeaway message of this conversation is “What unicorn demon story?”, I did fold to the inevitable and grabbed the 1,152 page paperback in preparation of the movie version of The Host coming out March 29. Whatzit about? Well, in the near, near future…

The Host (The Host, #1)

…Earth has been well and wholly invaded by brain-controlling alien parasites. Only a few pockets of wild humans remain, but the Souls are well on their way to making that a thing of the past, too. But when a wild human is caught trying to sneak through the city, it’s reason for a some concern. They give the body to Wanderer, a Soul who’s lived eight lives on eight different planets. If anyone is going to crack the secret of what Melanie Stryder was doing in the middle of the alien-controlled city, it’s gonna be Wanderer.

But when Wanderer opens her new body’s eyes, she has a fight on her new hands – and in her head. Melanie-the-human is still in there, and desperate to protect the memories that would lead her alien enemies to her loved ones.

Confession time: Ever since I read about the body-snatching yeerks in the Animorphs series as a kid, I’ve always wanted more from the point-of-view of the alien invader. And here, my wish is fulfilled  We’re on the wrong side of the battle – our narrator is a mind-controlling, civilization-devouring alien! And we kinda like her. That raises a lot of great moral questions that stalwartly refuse to be buried under the main character’s relationship problems.

While The Host is marketed as an adult science fiction book, it belongs squarely on the Teen Paranormal Romance -err, I mean, Teen Alien-Invasion Romance shelf. There’s even a kind of coming of age element there too, as Wanderer slowly comes to terms with her feelings and her new situation, after she accidentally-on-purpose ends up in the middle of a human rebel camp.

The prose is typical Meyer, by which I mean readable and easy on the skimming eyes, so the book goes by fast. There’s also the characteristic Meyer love triangle (lo and behold the movie poster below for a snapshot), but it’s much more nuanced and better handled than in Twilight. In fact, Wanderer’s alien upbringing and personality gave her the kind of excuse Bella never had for doing incredibly unhealthy things. Instead of being a teenager making irritating life choices, Wanderer’s behavior and personality make an alien kind of sense and becomes an intriguing foil for the moral questions the book asks.

Is the book better than Twilight? Yes.

Is the book a better version of Twilight? Well, yeah, okay, it kinda is.

In terms of the ever-present question of “should I read this?”, I’m gonna say this – don’t go in if you’re allergic to relationship angst and ridiculously altruistic main characters. The book also could have been half its length and still done the job. Those of you who know me, know that I lap up relationship angst like a moose at a salt lick, but there’s only so much angst fluff and manhandling (spinelesssss) that I can munch down before I get indigestion. That said, it’s also an easy read with some very nifty ideas and world-building. If you’re on the fence or are planning on seeing the movie, do read it (and then come back and tell me what you thought!)

I don’t know if I will be seeing the movie when it hits theaters, but I’m definitely curious about how the book translates to the big screen. Most of the plot in The Host is gradual and internal – it’s a book about character relationships, not cars flipping and exploding. The main character is transformed internally, even as she transforms the world around her. Still, if anyone can pull it off, I have all the faith in the world in actress Saoirse Ronan, whom you might remember from Hanna and The Lovely Bones.

___

If nothing else, I am now completely hooked on that nifty song from the trailer by Imagine Dragons.

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Are you gonna see The Host? And who’s looking forward to nagging Meg about that demon unicorn story?

___

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13 thoughts on “[Book Review] The Host, or the trials and tribulations of the victorious alien invader

  1. I gotta say, that “Warm Bodies” trailer from yesterday looked exciting… this… I don’t know. There’s just something in (or missing from?) the trailer that’s not drawing me in totally. I’ll be waiting for further feedback, I think, before checking it out. The book smay be better…

      • Yeah. Well, despite everything I’ve read having put me well off Twilight (plus, I’ve seen the first 5mins of the first movie… and it was so boring), I have read other comments proclaiming Stephanie Meyer’s storytelling talent, so I’m tempted to give her a shot some time… May or may not be this one. We’ll see.

  2. I liked the Host (much more than I did Twilight). I might go see it in the theaters, but I’m really not all that fond of the whole “theater experience” (especially shelling out that much money for a movie I might not even like). I’ll probably wait until I can rent it.

    I’m almost scared to ask about the unicorn demon story 😛 Is it a unicorn fighting a demon? Is it a unicorn that IS a demon? Am I thinking about this to put off getting work done? (the answer to that last one is yes >_<).

  3. Once again, Canary the First, You’ve made me laugh then drew me in. I;m NOT a Twilight fan but just might read this one. Probably won’t see the movie, though. Thanks for the review.

  4. Whoa. That is Hanna. Shoot, now I feel all conflicted about instantly assuming that this will be awful and that casting a brown-haired pale chick is all about copying the success of the past. If they make the formerly badass Hanna sit around and whine and chew her lips for six movies, I’m going to be upset.

    • I have no idea how they’ll handle that book-to-movie transition, but, spoiler, Wanda-who-will-be-Hanna spends most the book cowering and desperately lusting after the guy who wants to kill her while arguing with the voice in her head. The book kindaalmost pulls it off, but you know, movie. Two hours.

      • Well, you know. They could change it so she beats up everyone. But I guess maybe it’s a fact that some roles are better than others and come pre-packed with worse character design.

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