Stephenie Meyer, queen of the vampire books --Twilight
– marketed to teens, has ventured into adult and science fiction withThe Host
, and almost instantly scored a No. 1 bestseller.
In this book, Earth has been invaded by another species, known as “souls.” A soul, which bears no small resemblance to a silvery centipede with thousands of antenna, is inserted into an opening cut into the back of a living human’s neck and then takes over the host’s mind, driving out the original inhabitant.
As the story begins, a special soul, one who has lived on several other planets in several other life forms (a flower, a bear, a dragon, to name a few) is being inserted into the body of a young woman. Once there, the soul will take on all the human’s memories and begin life on Earth in a calmer, safer manner. Earth people have been deemed suitable for replacement because we are all too violent.
The shocker is that when the Wanderer or Wanda as she comes to be known, takes up residence, the strong-willed Melanie doesn’t go away. This isn’t supposed to happen and the internal debate between the two over the next several hundreds of pages (619 in all) makes for fascinating reading.
Along with everyday souls, there are “healers” who put the human bodies back together if they are damaged with techniques light years in advance of human medicine and “seekers,” the sort of police force of even these calmest of souls who make sure everything stays orderly.
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A complication for the Wanderer is that in taking on all of Melanie’s memories, she falls deeply in love with Jared, Melanie’s boyfriend, and also has intense maternal feelings for Melanie’s younger brother Jamie. It seems that Melanie’s loves are hers as well. In short order, the Wanderer goes off the reservation to try to help Melanie save Jared and Jamie from being captured and replaced. She ends up being captured herself by humans and begins an ordeal of imprisonment and mistreatment until the human’s leader intervenes.
Despite the intense aversion the few surviving humans have developed for the species that’s trying to put them out of existence, a love triangle develops with another human, which moves the discussion to the basic question of what is it that makes love work? Could you fall in love with someone whose natural form is a bug or insect?
There is humor. One of the best scenes of the book involves a basketball game where opposing players (now souls) take time not arguing with each other over who has the right to the ball but deferring to each other and insisting they don’t want to take unfair advantage of each other.
Despite its length, this book is a fast read, tough to put down. There are some wonderfully poignant moments, especially toward the end. Unless you absolutely can’t stand science fiction, this book is highly recommended. – Margaret Downing