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Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.

Currently reading

One Hundred Years of Solitude (Audio)
Gabriel García Márquez, John Lee

Invasion of the Meyer-Aliens

The Host  - Stephenie Meyer

Okay, so you know how sometimes you'll be eating junk food, and you just want to keep eating it until it's all gone, even though you begin to feel a bit queasy? And then maybe once you've eaten it all, you look at the label and see that the food you just ate has partially hydrogenated oil, high-fructose corn syrup, and probably also GMOs (not required to be labeled), along with more calories than it has any right to have? Reading The Host was sort of the "book" equivalent of that for me. Or it was like that once I actually got some momentum going. I did have a couple of false starts with this book. Initially, I downloaded it as an audiobook from my library's electronic-collection website, but it was only available in WMA format, so I couldn't transfer it to my player. Being tethered to my computer defeats the whole purpose of having an audiobook, at least as I consume them (mostly while running!). So that expired on me long before I got very far into it. Then I had another false start after downloading the epub version. I simply kept forgetting I had it on my computer. Finally, I picked up the print version from the library--incidentally it was the paperback re-release that came out after the movie. Which brings me to this confession: relatively early in my reading process, I watched the movie. So I pretty much knew what was going to happen, but still I wanted to see how the events played out in the book. Of course, I couldn't help picturing the actors, and then I got annoyed when there were references to Wanda having cut her hair short, because movie Wanda/Melanie had long hair. But that's neither here nor there.

The premise: Our narrator is a "Soul" known as Wanderer, a shiny, metallic centipede-looking creature inserted into the base of Melanie Stryder's brain stem, where Wandered attaches her tentacles and becomes enmeshed with Melanie's spinal column and brain. Wanderer is a bit of a celebrity amongst her kind because she has lived on several different planets and completed lifespans on each. Wanderer's species has all but obliterated unaltered human beings, and Souls known as Seekers are busy looking for those who remain so that they, too can be enSouled. Before too long, Wanderer realizes that Melanie isn't like most humans, whose consciousness fades away once a Soul sets up shop in the body. Melanie is a fighter--in fact she tried to kill herself by jumping to her death rather than be captured and transformed, but the superiority of Soul "Healer" medicine saves her from that death. Melanie floods Wanderer with memories related to boyfriend Jared and little brother Jamie, so that Wanderer comes to love them just as Melanie does, but also works on blocking Wanderer from accessing information she could pass onto the Seeker assigned to Wanderer to find them.

I am about to get very spoilery, so I will throw up the requisite tags. [Spoiler tags have just recently been added to Booklikes, so I am adding them in now.]


Melanie convinces Wanderer to use a series of remembered clues to reach the Stryder family compound. They come close to death, but finally Melanie's Uncle Jeb discovers his niece's alien-infested body and revives her with water. She's kept in a prison of sorts within Jeb's hidden "cave" compound while Jeb, Jared, and others decide her fate. Infuriatingly, Jeb decides that Jared gets to decide whether or not to kill Melanie's body, because Melanie belongs to him (more on that later). Melanie wants Wanderer to reveal that she, Melanie, is still present as a consciousness, but Wanderer perceives that the hostile humans would perceive that as a trick. Oh, I forgot to mention that at some point Melanie's father was captured and implanted with a Soul, after which he came back impersonating his old self in order to get "his" family members to the Seekers. So that's a legitimate fear. Jeb decides to get to know Wanderer a little better, so he sends Jared (her primary guard) off on a supply-gathering mission and starts having some conversation with her. He decides she's not so bad after all and nicknames her "Wanda." He slowly integrates her into his group of 35 humans, and slowly most of them sort of accept her. Jeb, Jamie, and Jared--at different points--come to realize that Melanie is still there. Ian separately comes to know this as he gets to know Wanda. Before you know it, there's a love square: Jared/Melanie;Ian/Wanda. It's weird and awkward. Wanda becomes useful to the humans. She can walk right into a store and walk out with merchandise (her society doesn't have currency). She can obtain medical supplies (her race, although alien, somehow are BETTER THAN YOU AND ME when it comes to being human--magically, they have superior, super-advanced medical technology!). She has a bit of a falling out with them when she discovers that occasionally they kidnap Soul-infested humans and try to do a parasite-ectome. Her discovery of this comes in the form of walking into the "hospital" in the caves and seeing (also smelling) the mutilated Souls. She calls the humans who participate in this "monsters," and they cannot quite understand her horrified reaction since "the bodies are covered up." (Only the human bodies are covered; the Soul bodies are mutilated and strewn about like garbage.) She goes through a mourning period, but eventually she decides to forgive her human companions.

Even though Souls are supposed to be kind and loving, Wanda's personal Seeker breaks the mold by being a right bitch and never giving up her pursuit of Wanda. She finally discovers Jeb's band of resistors and fatally shoots Wes, a minor character you won't care about but who is much beloved within this community. Wanda is left with the decision of deciding on the Seeker's fate, and rather than agreeing to a death sentence, Wanda teaches Doc how to remove a Soul from its host body. Melanie pops that badgirl into a cryogenic tank and sends her off to another planet. Once Seeker is out, the host turns out to be a rather nasty woman named Lacey, who despite her nastiness is quickly integrated into the group.

Wanda becomes concerned because Melanie appears to be getting weaker within their brain. She goes through a period of time when she can't hear her and has to get Jared to make out with her to get her to return. She decides she'll have to give up her body, but she doesn't want to go off to another planet. She wants to be buried here on earth. Jared decides to thwart that plan, and while Wanda is entanked, he and Jamie find her a new body--a teenager inhabited by a Soul called Petals Open to the Moon. After removing "Pet" from the girl's body, they wait for a while to see whether the girl's original consciousness is still present, but apparently that consciousness did go gentle into that good night, so Wanda is inserted into the new host without any bad feelings (sorry, Pet, but you're evicted).

Okay, with that overly long plot summary out of the way, I want to just share some points I've been mulling over.

*Insertion into a human host is a surgical procedure. Some of the species that Wanda has been--such as plants--would have been incapable of performing surgery. Wouldn't it have made more sense to make the Souls self-inserting?

*Immature hosts. The Souls recommend that "immature" hosts are the easiest to adjust to. AKA killing children. Why are we supposed to think these Souls are so replete with goodness? When Melanie discovers the butchered Souls in Doc's hospital, she is especially mortified that one of them is a baby. Jeb rightly points out, "Your kind don't spare our babies." (Her comeback to that is that they don't cause physical pain; they just erase them painlessly.) When Wanda realizes that a pair of Souls raising the infant of their host bodies, without having implanted a soul into that baby (leaving him human), that gives her hope for the human race. And that's all well and good, but originally, she'd have seen nothing wrong with the practice of implanting Souls into babies. ::shudder::

*Jamie's "eyes tightened"; blecch—I did not miss the ever-tightening eyes of the Twilight series.

*Wanda tells us that she "turned blue"; how does she know??!?!?! "I looked up then, with shining eyes." HOW DOES SHE KNOW THAT HER EYES ARE SHINING?!?!?! (Sorry--this is a peeve of mine--it also drove me crazy whenever Bella could tell us exactly what her face was looking like at any given moment, without the help of a mirror or other reflective surface.)

*Meyer continues to abuse the word "chagrin" (including "chagrined").

*I've seen reviews mention that Meyer clearly has a thing about having men carry her female protagonists around. I see what they mean. Not only does she have Ian carrying around Wanda after she's hurt her leg, but then she has Ian and Jared fighting over who gets to carry her.

*"It was in my nature to be fair"; praise yourself much?

*"They were monsters, but maybe monsters who were justified in what they were doing"; how are the Souls not monsters? And what is their justification?

*Meyer's conceit that a person can "belong" to someone else. As mentioned above, Jeb says that Jared is to decide Wanda's fate because Melanie is "his," though later he decides that Jamie has an "equal" claim. Why would boyfriend trump brother (or even uncle) in the first place? Case in point: "This body barely belonged to me or to Melanie—it belonged to him [Jared]."

*"I settled into my preferred stride. Just over a six-minute mile I'd guess." What? Okay, I don't care if Melanie had been a track star or cross-country champion in high school. That body has been sedentary for a while, with recent injuries. No way does she just fall easily into low-six pace without any training! [Curiously, I read that Meyer has gotten into running, which is why she has lost weight; I wonder if she knows better now about running pace.]

*Wanda saying her goodbyes when she was preparing to die—maybe because I had seen the movie and knew how this "death" was not going to happen, I was very aware of the emotional manipulation Meyer was pulling out. Though even if I hadn't seen the movie, I think I would have guessed that Doc was not going to allow Wanda to die. When does Meyer ever kill her darlings?

*The body that Wanda is inserted into at the end: why did they have to choose a teeny-tiny, weak sixteen-year-old? (And they thought she was even younger—though she pretends to be 17 about to turn 18 so that Ian won't consider her jailbait.)

*After Wanda removes the "soul" from the Seeker and puts it in the cryotank, we get this: "I looked back at the stranger on the table. Doc was already dusting Smooth over the sealed wound. We made a good team: one attending to the soul and one to the body. Everyone was taken care of" (717). Body and soul. Not too heavy-handed, Meyer.

*The idea that the souls are so honest and trusting—there is no word for "loyalty" because they lack the concept of "betrayal" ("Language Log" bloggers would have a field day with that). And yet, the souls pose as their host bodies' former identities in order to lure the family members and friends of that [former] person to the Seekers so that they, too, can be injected with parasites. So that's not betrayal because the objects of betrayal are only human?

*Meyer failing science: when Wanda explains that she's female because she has the capability of bearing her species' young, but then the process that she describes is completely asexual! She belongs to a category called "Mother" because she has the ability to reproduce, but the way she would do that is to go through an excruciating process where she'd divide into a million offspring. The process kills the Mother, and each baby soul carries the memory of her mother's ordeal. Unpack that. Mothers go through the ultimate sacrifice to reproduce. They are revered because of their sacrifice. And then they are not around to have to raise or deal with the children that revere her. Meyer has some weird issues related to motherhood. And I think the whole thing means that the Souls are ungendered, so calling them "it" is appropriate.

*By the end of the book, Wanda has decided that she doesn't want to be a parasite anymore. Good on her. When she awakes in her new body, she's assured that she is not a parasite because the body's original tenant never comes back after they've evicted Petals Open to the Moon. But why does Wanda have a better claim to the body than Pet did?

*What about Kyle and Sunny? When his Jodi never re-emerges, he's content to reinsert Sunny, instead of hating her for having obliterated Jodi? Even though he'd been ready to kill Wanda for occupying Melanie's body, when Melanie had never even meant anything to him personally? That's quite an about-face.

*THE SOULS ARE BETTER THAN YOU. They're aliens but, to some degree, we are supposed to think they are better at being human than humans are. After all, they have ended war. They're better at medicine than we are (and HOW can they be—how do they instantly develop better knowledge of human bodies than humans have?).

(show spoiler)