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The Host
Stephenie Meyer
Narrated by Kate Reading, unabridged
Hachette Audio, 23 hours

The Host
Stephenie Meyer
Stephenie Meyer was born in Connecticut in 1973 and her family Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English and lives with her husband and three young sons in Phoenix, Arizona.

Stephenie Meyer Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nicki Gerlach

Aliens invading the bodies of humans isn't a new plot device, but who ever stops to think about the body-snatcher's point of view? The Host gives us the chance to experience this unique switch in perspective: the book opens as the alien called Wanderer (so named because she has lived the life-term of eight different hosts on eight different occupied planets) is inserted into the body of Melanie Stryder, a renegade human recently tracked down and captured by the Seekers. When an alien Soul is placed into a new human Host body, that's supposed to be that: the Soul will have access to the previous occupant's memories, but the body is the alien's to control. Unfortunately, things don't go so smoothly for Wanderer; Melanie has stuck around inside her head, and she is not happy about sharing her body with an occupying Soul. She fights back by filling Wanderer's thoughts with images of Jared, the man that Melanie loves. Wanderer knows that she should turn this information over to the Seekers, but soon she comes to love Jared as well, and rebels against the idea of his possible capture.

United with Melanie by this common emotion, and pursued by a Seeker who's convinced she's hiding something, Wanderer strikes out into the desert, following cryptic clues Melanie's uncle left to guide them to a hidden rebel cell of humans. However, by cooperating, Melanie and Wanderer have made themselves untrustworthy to both of their peoples. Fueled by their love for Melanie's human connections, they can no longer stay with the Souls, but the humans -- including, heartbreakingly, Jared -- fear and distrust the alien in their midst. Wanderer must fight for acceptance, not only for Melanie's body, but also for herself as an individual. She must also deal with her conflicting emotions of a developing love quadrangle: her body -- Melanie's body -- remains strongly drawn to Jared, while her Soul is slowly falling for Ian, another of the conclave of humans.

I have conflicting feelings about Stephenie Meyer's work. On the one hand, I frequently react poorly to her message, morals, and attitudes surrounding gender and relationship issues, often finding myself anywhere from mildly annoyed to seethingly angry. On the other hand, MAN can she tell an absorbing story. Regardless of my intellectual reaction, I invariably find myself completely sucked into her books, blindly turning pages (in this case, changing CDs), totally oblivious to everything else in my world, but desperate to know what's happening in hers. Objectively, this book could have to be about a third shorter; Meyer is not a particularly concise or elegant writer, never saying in one sentence what she could hammer at for three. Still, once you've been sucked into the story, it doesn't matter: even when not much was actually happening, I never had the impression of the story dragging.

The Host is being touted as Stephenie Meyer's first "adult" novel, although I'm hard-pressed to figure out why this one is Adult while the Twilight series is Young Adult. The narrators are the same age (well, Melanie is; Wanderer is obviously a few thousand years older), there's not any more violence in one versus the other, and sex is actually mentioned less in the ostensibly more "adult" book (although it occurs "on screen" at the same frequency -- i.e., never -- in both). Nor did I find the themes of The Host to be particularly age-specific. There's a meatier moral dilemma here than in the Twilight series, but it's not so complicated as to exclude most teens. Suffice to say, fans of one will almost certainly enjoy the other, regardless of age.

While the main issues of identity, body vs. mind, and ownership are handled well (with the exception of a few arguments about whether Melanie's body "belonged to" Jared or Ian, which creeped me out), some of the same issues surrounding relationships and gender relations that plague the Twilight series are prevalent here as well. First, Meyer writes relatively passive women, which is unfortunate, considering that teen girls make up the vast majority of her fan base. Wanderer is stronger than Bella, but she still doesn't have a whole lot of agency, and there's a lingering whiff of "whatever the men think is best" that rankles.

Second, and I realize that this puts me in a very small minority: I don't like Edward (from Twilight). Meyers tells us he's this wonderful, perfect, incredible specimen of the male sex and we're supposed to believe it, even when she subsequently shows him acting like an immature, borderline-abusive, incredibly arrogant asshole. The Host has some strong echoes of this; its weakest part is the early stages where Melanie convinces Wanderer to fall in love with Jared. I didn't buy that this process would be as quick and effective as it was, but even once I suspended my disbelief and accepted that Wanderer was in love with Jared, not until the very end of the book did I ever believe that Jared deserved it. But, Meyer says he's perfect, and therefore he's perfect, assholish behavior or not. Since the Wanderer/Jared relationship was only one among several, it wasn't quite so annoying, but there's still a noticeable disparity between what we're shown and what we're told.

But, intellectual and feminist disagreements aside, The Host is a vivid, absorbing, and compellingly readable story, told from a unique perspective by a convincing narrative voice. Kate Reading is likely familiar to many audiobook listeners (she has read the female P.O.V. chapters for Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books, among many, many others), and she does an excellent job with the narration, as usual. Overall, I think sci-fi fans (who don't mind a hefty dose of romance) and romance fans (who don't mind a hefty dose of sci-fi) are both likely to enjoy this book, and of course Meyer's preexisting fans are going to eat it up.

Copyright © 2008 Nicki Gerlach

Nicki Gerlach is a mad scientist by day and an avid reader the rest of the time.  More of her book reviews can be found at her blog,

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