The Host (novel)
||This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (February 2013)|
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Juliana Lee|
|Genre||Science Fiction, Romance novel, Thriller|
|Publisher||Little, Brown & Company|
|Publication date||May 6, 2008, April 13, 2010 (paperback)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Audio Book (CD)
|Dewey Decimal||813/.6 22|
|LC Classification||PS3613.E979 H67 2008|
The Host is a science fiction/romance novel by Stephenie Meyer. The book is about Earth being invaded by a parasitic alien race, known as "Souls", and follows one Soul's predicament when the consciousness of her human host refuses to cooperate with the takeover of her body.
The Host was released on May 6, 2008 with an initial print run of 750,000 copies. An international version of the novel was released on April 2, 2008 in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and Hong Kong by the UK publishing division. It was translated into Norwegian, Finnish, Estonian, Catalan, Chinese, Japanese, Croatian, Arabic, Czech, Dutch, Persian, Swedish, German, Polish, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Hebrew, Turkish, Slovak and Danish among others.
"Souls", a species of parasitic aliens, have invaded Earth, deeming the humans too violent to deserve the planet. When a Soul is implanted into a host body, the consciousness of the original owner is eventually erased, leaving only their memories and knowledge. Wanderer, a Soul who was given her name for not living more than one host's life on any of eight previous planets, is placed in the body of Melanie Stryder, one of the last few humans who've managed to avoid capture. Melanie tried to commit suicide by jumping down an elevator shaft when pursued by Seekers, but was revived by the Souls' advanced medicine. Wanderer is asked by a Seeker to look through Melanie's memories and see if there's anything that can lead them to other humans, but she is being mentally blocked, leading the Seeker to realize Melanie's consciousness is still alive and resisting control.
As time goes by, Melanie's consciousness grows stronger and begins to communicate with Wanderer. Wanderer manages to uncover some of Melanie's memories, mainly about her younger brother Jamie and her boyfriend Jared Howe, another human she met while stealing food some years back. Through Melanie's memories Wanderer begins to love Jared and Jamie as well. Eventually, Melanie's presence becomes too much and Wanderer contemplates being re-implanted in another host, but as she's driving through the desert on the way to consult a Healer on her decision, Melanie inspires her to follow a series of landmarks she remembers to find her Uncle Jeb, hoping that Jared and Jamie will now be with him.
Their quest seems fruitless, however, and Wanderer almost dies of dehydration, until she's happened upon by Uncle Jeb. He realizes Melanie's body has been taken over, but saves her life anyway. He takes her to his hideout; a large set of secret caves housing over thirty humans, including Jared and Jamie. Most of them demand she be killed, fearing she'll escape and tell the rest of the Souls where they are, but Jared stops them, not being able to bear the thought of Melanie's body being harmed. After fainting, Wanderer wakes up in a tiny cave with Jared guarding her. Brothers Ian and Kyle O'Shea come to kill her, but Jeb intervenes and tells them that Jared is the one who gets to decide Wanderer's fate.
She's kept in the cramped cave for a week, until Jared has to lead a raid and leaves her in Jeb's care. With Jared gone, Jeb gives her a real room to stay in and lets her help out around the caves. As the weeks go by, the rest of the humans grow used to the Soul living in their community, and Wanderer grows particularly close to Jamie, Jeb, Ian, and Doc, who all come to believe that Melanie is still present inside her. She's given the nickname "Wanda", and with some encouragement from Jeb begins to tell stories about the previous worlds she's lived on to the group at meal times.
Jared, Kyle, and the others return, and are furious that their group would let themselves trust an alien. Jared decides he wants to shoot her, but Jeb insists Wanda belongs to Jamie as well, and Jared eventually agrees not to harm her. After hearing Doc, Jamie, and Jeb insist that Melanie's consciousness is still alive, he kisses Wanderer to test if it's true, causing Melanie to take control enough to punch him. He takes this as confirmation.
Walter, one of the older humans who is slowly dying of bone cancer, asks to see Wanda. She sits by him in the hospital as he talks to her, thinking she's his wife Gladys. After a while she takes a break and goes for a bath. In the bathing area Kyle appears and attacks her. He first tries to drown her, then throw her down a cavern into the river below. In the ensuing struggle she causes him to hit his head and black out, but the ledge gives way and the two nearly plummet to their death. She manages to cling to the edge, but risks her life by holding onto unconscious Kyle. Ian hears Wanda's cries for help and pulls them up. Wanda is moved back to the hospital to be treated for her injuries, and comforts Walter as Doc gives him a morphine overdose. After Walter's funeral, a trial is held for Kyle. Ian, Jared, and a few others want to kick him out for attempted murder, but Wanda lies to protect him, and the majority vote decides he should stay. Ian confesses that he has romantic feelings for Wanda – not her host body, but her – and kisses her, but Melanie's repulsion and her own feelings for Jared make her confused, and she asks for time to think about it.
Jared goes out on another raid and takes Jamie with him. Afterwards, they intentionally keep Wanda away from the hospital, just as they did after the previous raid, making her suspicious. She goes to see what the secret is, and discovers mutilated Souls who've been cut out of their hosts. The image is so traumatic that she hides for three days, remaining silent and not eating anything as a form of mourning. Jeb eventually convinces her to snap out of it and explains that they've been looking for a way to safely remove Souls from human bodies, but each time has proven to be fatal for both parties, and he agrees to make sure it never happens again.
Wanda then learns that a large cut Jamie got while on the raid has become infected, and remembering what happened when Walter couldn't be treated, desperately tries to convince the community to steal medication for him. She suggests they use her, as she could acquire it easily and would never be suspected of anything, but the group still doesn't trust her enough. Jared sneaks her out at night, and they're successful in their mission. Now sure where Wanda's loyalties lie, they allow her to go out on another raid and return with a vast amount of food, all given freely by stores.
Upon returning they learn Wanda's Seeker found the caves and fatally shot one of the humans before she could be subdued. Not wanting the Seeker to be killed, Wanda realizes there's a way to spare her and the host body – by revealing how to remove a Soul properly. She agrees to tell Doc this secret, on condition that all Souls be sent to other planets rather than killed. Tired of stealing lives from people, she also asks to be taken out of Melanie and left to die, to which Doc grudgingly agrees, under pledge of secrecy. After the Seeker's human host is restored, Kyle runs off to find the body of his girlfriend, Jodi. He returns with her, now inhabited by a Soul called Sunny (Sunlight Passing Through the Ice), who has feelings for Kyle the same way Wanda loved Jared. They plan to remove her and revive Jodi, although Sunny does not want to leave Earth. Wanda then reveals her intentions to give Melanie back her body and Ian, believing Wanda is leaving for another planet, tries to convince her to stay. He expresses his love for her and she tells him she loves him too, then sneaks out when he falls asleep. Jared confronts her as she's going to see Doc, but Wanda manages to keep her resolve. As Doc is putting her under she says goodbye to him and Melanie, and peacefully accepts death.
Wanda wakes up, now in a new host. She learns that Jared had coerced Doc into saving Wanda and went out with Melanie and Jamie to get a new body for her. Wanda is upset, but they explain that the host didn't wake up after they took the Soul out, meaning Wanda isn't a parasite. She learns that Jodi didn't wake up after Sunny was removed either, so Kyle decided to return Sunny to Jodi's body. In her new body, Wanda finally gains wide acceptance from the humans and is free to be in a relationship with Ian. Months later, Wanda is heading out on a raid with Ian, Jared, and Melanie, when they meet another group of humans who also have a Soul in their group. The story concludes with Wanda and the Soul Burns (Burns Living Flowers), agreeing on the strangeness of Earth.
Wanderer "Wanda" – Wanderer is the protagonist, a parasitic alien Soul who is inserted into Melanie Stryder's body. She received her name due to the number of planets she has lived on, having never settled on one she truly liked. She is later nicknamed "Wanda" by Mel's Uncle Jeb. Initially only interested in enjoying her new life, Melanie's love for her brother and boyfriend spills over to Wanda and she finds herself abandoning her kind to seek them out in the desert. She slowly develops sympathy for humans, eventually acknowledging that they have a right to their own lives, and attempting to sacrifice herself so that Melanie can have her life back. Like all Souls, she is naturally altruistic, horrified by violence, and finds it difficult to believably lie (to humans). She hates upsetting people and so suffers endlessly trying to be as little of a burden as possible.
Melanie Stryder – Melanie is a human rebel who was captured and implanted with a Soul after years of evading the Seekers. Melanie's consciousness survives and resists Wanderer's control as best she can. She likes the feeling of being physically strong and berates Wanderer for neglecting to keep her that way. She has a temper and is often quick to use threats of violence, much to Wanda's displeasure. Melanie is passionately in love with Jared and shares a strong bond with her brother, Jamie, of whom she is fiercely protective. Despite initial anger at Wanderer for stealing her life, their shared love of Jamie and Jared turns them into unwilling allies. Their relationship grows to the point where Melanie tearfully begs Wanda not to give her body back, knowing the alien plans to kill herself once removed. Melanie is described as having hazel eyes, dark hair and tan skin and is half Latina on her mother's side.
Ian O'Shea – Wanderer calls Ian "as kind as a Soul, but strong as only a human could be." Like most of the group, he has a strong dislike of the Souls in the beginning, but quickly abandons it once he begins to empathize with Wanderer. Other characters seem to view him as mostly level-headed. Ian befriends Wanderer and gradually falls in love with her due to her personality, insisting he cares very little about Mel's body. He is constantly annoyed at how selfless and self-sacrificing she is, worrying that she's willing to do things she doesn't want because she thinks it will make others happy. Once Wanda is put into a new host they begin a relationship. He doesn't help Melanie find a new body for Wanda, which surprises Melanie. Ian said he didn't care what she looked like; he loved Wanda for her personality. He is described as being tall and muscular, with black hair, sapphire blue eyes, and fair skin.
Jared Howe – Melanie's lover. Jared met Melanie while they were both stealing food from the same house, each believing the other to be a Soul; when he realized he'd found another human he was so excited he kissed her. Loving, aggressive, and somewhat excitable in Melanie's memories, by the time Wanderer meets him he has become bitter and hardened. He originally despises Wanda for taking Mel's life, but he cannot bring himself to let Doc experiment on her. He starts to change his views on the Soul when he sees her comforting a dying friend. His survival skills are an asset to the group, and he's often charged with leading the raids due to his rationality and levelheadedness. He has a somewhat parental relationship with Jamie, whom he continued to care for after Melanie's capture. He is described as being muscular and tall, with tan skin, sienna-colored eyes and naturally dark, but sun-bleached hair.
Jamie Stryder – Jamie is Melanie's younger brother. Unlike most characters, he holds no animosity towards Wanderer for stealing his sister's body or life, quickly comes to view her as a substitute sibling. He is fascinated with Wanda's stories about the other planets and the species that live on them. Despite his apparent innocence and naivete, Jamie wants to be treated like an adult; he yearns to go on raids with the others, and is uncomfortable with the coddling he receives when he is injured.
Uncle Jeb – Jebediah "Jeb" is Melanie's eccentric uncle. A paranoid survivalist before the invasion, Jeb had constructed an elaborate hide-out in caves beneath the Arizona desert. He maintains strict control over the hideout by virtue of having the only firearm. He believes Wanderer can fit in with the humans, and pushes for this to the point of creating great strain within the group. He is calm and deliberate in his decision-making, and despite being one of the most welcoming towards Wanderer, nonetheless does not hesitate to explain and justify the human perspective to her.
The Seeker – The Soul who originally caught Melanie. Her calling is to search for and track down humans who've managed to avoid implantation, although she takes her job more seriously than most others. Mutual spite towards the Seeker is the basis of Melanie and Wanderer's early relationship. She is unusually irritable and edgy for her species, at one point even shooting a human in cold blood, despite most Souls not being able to even pick up a gun. She mocks Wanderer for not being able to completely drive out Melanie's conscious. This is later revealed to be due to her insecurity at having failed to subdue her own host, Lacey, who speaks to her like Melanie does to Wanda. It's noted that Lacey is just as abrasive as the Seeker.
Kyle O'Shea – Kyle, Ian's brother, who is impulsive, quick-tempered, and often considered a pain by the others. His hate for Souls is extreme, even among the group. He tries to kill Wanda, despite being warned not to hurt her, and ironically has to be saved by her from falling to his death after he gets knocked out in the struggle. When he realizes the Seeker's host was able to get her body back, he leaves to kidnap Sunny, the Soul now inhabiting Jodi's body, and takes her back to the cave to see if he can get Jodi back. He's shocked to discover Sunny isn't scared and feels an attachment to him, the way Wanderer did to Jared. When Jodi doesn't wake up after Sunny is removed, he allows Sunny to stay. Although still wishing Jodi could return, he becomes close to Sunny and they are described as being inseparable.
Doc – A tall, slim human who was a surgeon and serves as the group's doctor. Wanda's initial impression of him is that he is a cold-hearted torturer, but he is later shown as being deeply affected by the suffering of his patients and is one of the first humans to accept Wanda. He's fascinated by how effective Soul medicine is and is desperate to find a way to remove Souls without killing either the parasite or the host. Doc is prone to alcoholic binges when he fails in these endeavors. His real name is Eustace. A man of his word, Doc is only stopped from letting Wanda die like he promised her because Jared threatens him with a hunting knife. Some of his characteristics were influenced by Meyer's younger brother, Seth.
In an interview with Vogue Magazine, Meyer stated that body image was a major aspect of her novel. She noted that she is "very critical" of her body, but not others'. In The Host, she tried to convey "what a gift it is to just have a body, and really love it." This is something most humans would take for granted before being captured, and something that Melanie is all-too aware of once she loses control of her body. Other themes Meyer explored were the mother/child bond, the need to change our lives for the ones we love or because our community expects something different of us than what we want, and not fitting in. In other interviews, various themes were noted including the value of the Soul and faith in a world that has been destroyed, tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding. Identity issues are also frequently mentioned, as Wanderer notes whether other characters differentiate between her personality and Melanie's identity as they interact with her.
The idea for The Host originated on a trip from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. Bored, Meyer made up stories to entertain herself, and was halfway through outlining the story of The Host in her head before realizing what she had created. She notes that the story grabbed her attention, and that she "could tell there was something compelling in the idea of such a complicated triangle." As soon as she got to her computer, she typed the outline that she had written in her notebook. Originally meant to be a side project, The Host eventually became a priority, as she favored it above the ideas of other stories she had saved on her computer.
It took Meyer a year to write The Host as she was still editing Eclipse and, as Meyer considers herself a storyteller, she needed something to remind her that she was still a writer, not just an editor. Therefore, after editing Eclipse, she took two days to read through 'what she had already written for The Host to get back into what she calls The Host mode. The character of Ian was originally meant to play a small role' Meyer had no plans for a romance between Ian and Wanderer until Jared "got on [her] last nerve", and Ian "refused to be ignored", and as a result, the ending was changed to allow for Ian.
References to other works
True to Meyer's other books, The Host includes a poem at the beginning of the novel. The poem is titled Question, by May Swenson, and ties into the idea of the mind's reliance on the existence of the body, just as Melanie experiences when inhabited by Wanderer.
Meyer has said that she is working on additional books in The Host series and that she intends to write a trilogy. She said in an interview that, if published, the first sequel would be entitled The Seeker and the second The Soul. In November 2009, she said, "I'd like to eventually have The Host be part of a trilogy." In a Q&A session in Kansas City, Meyer stated that she has outlines for the sequels and has done some writing on them, but she has some qualms since The Host universe is a "dangerous place" where characters might die, and she is not sure if she wants to kill them off.
In a review of the book for The Guardian, Keith Brooke stated, "When it's good, the novel works well, and will appeal to fans of the author's hugely bestselling Twilight series, but it is little more than a half-decent doorstep-sized chunk of light entertainment."
The Host was also a #1 New York Times Best Seller, and remained on this list for 26 weeks, and also spent over 36 weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. The novel was named #1 on Maclean's Magazine's list of 10 top-selling fiction books in Canada. The Host was named one of the "Best Books of May" by Amazon.com.
The Host was developed into a film with Andrew Niccol as director and Saoirse Ronan as Melanie. The project was first announced in September 2009 when producers Nick Wechsler, Steve Schwartz, and Paula Mae Schwartz used independent financing to acquire film rights to The Host. Niccol was hired to write the screenplay and to direct the film. In early 2011, before the start of filming, Susanna White had replaced Niccol as the director, but Niccol resumed his role of director in May 2011. In the same month, Ronan was cast to play Melanie in the adaptation. On June 27, it was announced that the film would be released on March 29, 2013 with principal photography to start in February 2012 in Louisiana and New Mexico. Open Road Films acquired the U.S. distribution rights for the film and Meyer served as producer along with Wechsler, Steve Schwartz, and Paula Mae Schwartz.
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