Author: Stephenie Meyer
Country: US (May 2008)
Genre: Fiction - Science Fiction
After reading the Twilight series, The Host reads as though a completely different author wrote it. (I felt this way about Breaking Dawn as well). The novel has two voices, that of an alien life-form Wanderer, or "Wanda" and human host, Melanie. The conflict of the novel is rather philosophical. Wanderer is an alien life form whose sole purpose is to be a "soul" in the beings on various planets. After living on many planets, she finally takes home on Earth and is placed in the human host, Melanie. Melanie, of course, spends the first part of the story fighting to keep consciousness while Wanderer tries to deny it. Fortunately for Melanie, she is persistent, bombarding Wanderer with images of human emotions, primarily her love for her younger brother Jamie and Jared. Wanderer eventually "wanders" her last time, seeking out Melanie's loved ones and the other rebels who have resisted the alien invasion.
What is most unique about this novel is the difficulty in hating the antagonist. I could empathize with the struggle of both Wanderer and Melanie. Wanderer was not developed to be a heinous villain, nor were the other aliens in their species. She was just existing in the ways that she existed. It is of course, easy to empathize with Melanie. She's the human that has to struggle with this new personality that has taken over hear mind and body. I can understand her animosity and disdain for the creature that has captured her.
Rachel over at American Bibliophile is hosting monthly book discussions (which I'm thrilled about). These are her questions for The Host.
1. Would you classify The Host as a dystopian read? Why or why not? If so, how would you compare it to other dystopian novels?
I struggled with this question. In fact, I read the questions that Rachel came up with even before finishing the novel. I then completed the book on Friday and had to mull over this question again all weekend. Would I classify The Host as a dystopian? I still don't think that I've come up with a convincing answer one way or the other. Here's my struggle: In many ways, I can easily see how someone would immediately refer to the book as dystopian. After all, it is a blatant commentary on humanity. There are many obvious passages where Meyers paints humans as being selfish, violent, and unforgiving. Alternatively, the alien "souls" are the human foils - they are kind, benevolent, cringe against violence, and over all peaceful. It is also mentioned via Wanderer and others that the Souls came to Earth because they viewed it to be too violent and self-destructive. But here's where I'm a bit hesitant on declaring The Host dystopian and closing the book - the Souls were not coming to Earth with the intent of transforming themselves to make the necessary utopian qualities needed to make Earth a better place. What I mean by that is, the Souls were just being who they were. They did not craft a government or creed or create ideals on how life should be led and then follow it. They just existed on Earth as they would have existed on any other planet. Their immediate purpose in life was to find hosts to inhabit. Had we read a chapter of their life on one of the other many planets where Wanderer lived, would we have viewed that as dystopic? Probably not, (1) the other life forms that became hosts did not seem nearly as conscious and aware as humans, thus (2) the souls inhabiting those life forms might not have seen as ghastly. The novel is still a commentary on the human race and perhaps how we treat each other and what changes we need to make. It also poses the question, 'What does it mean to be human' regularly. I just don't know if I'd throw the towel in completely and mark it as dystopian.
2. What do you think Meyer is trying to say about Christianity and religion? What do you think she is trying to say about our society in general?
Maybe I need to re-read the book, maybe I missed some huge obvious symbolism about Christianity and religion. I didn't really catch that as being much of the focus, not nearly as much as Meyers questioning what is human or the ridiculousness of making general all-assuming sterotypes. The illogic of "if I am human and I feel compassion, all humans feel compassion" is no more true than "if the middle east has terrorism, all middle easterns are terrorists" I believe that Myers is fighting against that type of false logic, among other things.
3. A lot of people have speculated that those who liked the Twilight series might not like The Host. Why do you think this is?
The two are definitely on opposites of the spectrum. The Twilight saga was a quick fun read and left very little food for thought. The Host opens the doors for more discussion and internal thoughts. I don't know if all Twilight lovers are going to wrap their heart and soul around The Host as they did with Edward and Bella, but do know that even my students who have read the saga and read The Host were not disappointed. (Some even said they preferred The Host!)
4. Was the ending satisfying for you? Why or why not?
I hated the ending. I really truly was disappointed that everything wrapped itself up in a nice neat little bow. In fact, the ending is the reason why the book was given a "B".
5. Which characters did you find likeable/unlikeable and why?
Even if I didn't care for all of the characters, Meyers did a wonderful job of making me understand them. What more could you ask for as a reader?
6. What overall theme in the book did you relate to most and why?
I really liked that this book had philosophical undertones. I wish that I had been reading it with a companion so that I might have stopped at some point and say "Hey, what did you think about this...". I think that it's important to remember that just because we are human that does not mean we always behave in the most humane way.