The Host is a science fiction novel by Stephenie Meyer, better known for the Twilight series of (non-scifi) vampire novels.
The novel is set in present times on Earth somewhere 10-15 years after the invasion of the alien race known as Souls. They are silver worms that, once inserted to a beings spinal cord, gain complete mental and physical control of their host. They have no set life span. As long as a host exists, they thrive.
The story is narrated from Wanderer’s, “Wanda”, perspective. Once she is inserted into Melanie, her host human, complications soon arise. Melanie’s mind refuses to be lost. Through a strong amount of will power, and her body’s initially weakened state, she is able to remain fully conscious, even after insertion, but is unable to control her (and now Wanda’s) body. Melanie was one of the few humans left who the Souls have not been unable to insert, yet. When Melanie was captured, they knew she was not alone. Wanda searches her mind, which is completely open to her, to attempt and locate any other stray humans. She finds the information she seeks, but is also bombarded with the emotions Melanie holds for those humans (her boyfriend, Jared, and younger brother, Jamie, whom she has practically raised) and begins to adopt them as her own. She is overcome with the strong, unexplainable desire to find and protect Jared and Jamie (from her race and anyone else) which Melanie fosters in hopes of reuniting with her family.
“They” follow clues to a desert in Arizona. Eventually, they run out of water, and pass out of exhaustion. On the brink of death Jeb, Melanie’s uncle, discovers them. He, and group of 30ish people (including Jared and Jamie), have been living in an underground cavern. Against everyone in the groups’ wishes, Jeb brings Wanda back to the cavern and attempts to integrate her into their lives.
Wanda (and Melanie) must face the obstacle of overcoming the prejudice of hate of every member of the group, including Jared. Many trails and tribulations occur before the group, as a whole, will accept her; they eventually do however.
The novel ends when Wanda thinks of a way to restore humans’ minds without hurting her own race. She tells them the secret to desertion and teaches it to the doctor of their group. They sneak the removed Souls onto space ships leaving for other planets. This solution stops anyone from getting hurt and so is feasible to her. She also makes the decision to give Melanie her body back upon the agreement they will not send her to another planet like the others, but instead bury her in the desert. She wants this life to be her last. At the last minute however, they insert Wanda into another human whose mind has been too damaged to retrieve due to the extended period of disuse. She finally reaches her perfect ending by being allowed to stay in a human body, without causing harm to another’s life.
Politics of the NovelEdit
The idea of what it truly means to be human could not more blatantly stated throughout the book. Wanda is constantly trying to justify her existence (to the group and herself). The entire reason Wanda “goes native” is because she is overwhelmed by the love Melanie feels for Jared and Jamie. She wants to be able to experience those same emotions. However, as Wanda spends time with humans she is exposed to the wide range of emotions can express. When she first arrives at the cavern she is greeted with hate, anger, and rage without eventually lead to massive amounts of violence directed at her. Later, she experiences affection, love, and friendship as well. This roller-coaster of feelings leaves her completely confused about the psychology of humans. How can they be capable of love and tenderness, yet able to hate someone (her) they do not even know?
Wanda serves as an excellent example of racism in the novel. Every human, with the exception of Jeb and Jamie, openly express hatred and loathing to her. None of these people have actually ever met a Soul. They base their opinions on their hatred of the race.
The question of if a person can exist without a body is also put into play. Wanda has body. She is in complete control of it. The only problem is it was not always hers. Melanie, the original owner of the body, for all purposes is bodiless. Her mind is still present, but she has no control over the actions and words of Wanda. Does she still exist and if so, is she entitled to any rights? It is impossible to separate Wanda from “their” body (as far as the humans know) so for all intentional purposes, Melanie is gone.
Even though Wanda is unable to support her own life without a host body she has still lives for thousands of years (much longer than any of the humans). She tells them without reservation stories from her last lives. They are vivid descriptions of that memorize all who list. But does her richly enhanced life entitle her to be thought of as more than a parasite? To most humans, no. They never forget every different life she has experienced was stolen from another.
Conquer or DieEdit
After spending time with humans, and conversing with Melanie, Wanda begins to wonder if her race should exist as it does. She understands Earth is a better place since the take over. War is not even a concept anymore. Capitalism is abolished. People (implanted people) are genuinely happy. But, what is the cost of this peaceful existence? For the first time (in her nine lives) Wanda has to face the truth her race’s existence- they have to kill to conquer. The humans’ minds that are implanted are lost. She, along with all of race, is a killer. Naturally, she is confused by this realization. Her race cannot exist without host bodies, but she cannot condom murder.
Right Makes MightEdit
Jeb is the leader of the humans in the cave. His decisions are absolute. He repeatedly states “my house, my rules”. The cave was his idea. He accepts any stray humans who need shelter under the condition they obey his rules. He carries a gun- the only gun present- to spend his message home.
Before spending time with humans, Wanda never questions her races motives in conquering other races. She believed because they could, it was their right to use other host bodies. Natural selection; the strongest will always win out.
“Desperate times, Melanie whispered. We can’t afford to be kind in the world you’ve created. We’re fugitives, an endangered species. Every choice is life-or-death.”
“Well, I get to watch your souls a lot, but I never get to talk with’em. I’ve had so many questions just piling up higher and higher…Plus, I’ve always thought that if a person wants to, he can get along with just about anybody. I like putting my theories to the test. And see, here you are, one of the nicest gals I ever met. It’s real interesting to have a soul as a friend, and it makes me feel super special that I’ve managed it.”
“I was not a liar, and I don’t think I could have lied to Jamie if I were. I tried not to think about the implications of my feelings for him. Because what did it mean if the greatest love I’d ever felt in my nine lives, the first true sense of family, of maternal instinct, was for an alien life-form? I shoved the thought away.”