- The Host (novel)
First edition cover
Author(s) Stephenie Meyer Cover artist Juliana Lee Country United States Language English Genre(s) Science Fiction, Romance novel Publisher Little, Brown & Company Publication date May 6, 2008, April 13, 2010 (paperback) Media type Print (Hardcover) Pages 619 pp ISBN 0316068047 OCLC Number 163708271 Dewey Decimal 813/.6 22 LC Classification PS3613.E979 H67 2008
The Host is a science fiction/romance novel by Stephenie Meyer. The novel introduces an alien race, called Souls, which takes over the Earth and its inhabitants. The book describes one Soul's predicament when the mind of its human host refuses to cooperate with her takeover. 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 Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Swedish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, Hebrew and Danish among others. The prologue and the fourth chapter of the book can be found on Meyer's official website.
Melanie 'Mel' Stryder is one of the only rebel humans left after the invasion of the 'souls'. After insertion into a human body, alien souls erase the human occupant and establish claim over the body and mind. Wanderer is a soul who has lived on eight other planets previously, Mel being her ninth body host. Upon insertion into Melanie, Wanderer is overwhelmed by the vividness of human memories, emotions and senses and quickly learns that she has not established full claim over Melanie's mind.
The Seeker, who is in charge of Melanie's body, starts to worry about Wanderer's apparent lack of control over Melanie's mind. Wanderer is bombarded with Melanie's memories and her powerful yearning for Jared Howe (her love interest) and Jamie Stryder (her brother), and soon finds herself feeling strong love for Melanie's former companions. She becomes desperate to find out whether they are still alive. On a road trip to Tucson, Melanie remembers her Uncle Jeb telling her about a secret hideaway he once made, and which Jared is aware of. Wanderer sets out to find the hideaway, with a vague sketch of the path from Melanie's memories, and is found by Jeb on the verge of death. She is taken to the hideaway, a complex of caves in which a group of rebel humans live, but is treated spitefully as they consider Wanderer a parasite in Melanie's body. Many of the humans believe she should be put to death and attempts are made on her life, most notably by Kyle O'Shea, despite the protection provided her by some of the humans, including Ian O'Shea (who strangled her when she was first brought there), Jeb, and Jared (who experiences powerful, conflicting emotions towards his alien-possessed lover).
Over time, Wanderer, now becoming known as "Wanda", becomes a part of the group's routine by working, eating, and becoming an unofficial history teacher by telling stories after evening meals about her experiences in former hosts on other planets occupied by the souls. During this time, Ian, Jamie, and many other humans befriend Wanda. The Seeker, still not convinced that Wanderer was killed in the desert, returns in a helicopter, but is unable to find the caves. Ian's brother Kyle attempts to murder Wanda by throwing her into a boiling underground river, but is unsuccessful because the cave floor collapses and he is knocked unconscious. However, Wanda saves Kyle's life because of his resemblance to Ian. A tribunal is held and it is decided that Kyle is allowed to stay, though many of Wanda's friends are upset about this decision, particularly Ian, who believes that Kyle deserves to die after his plot to kill Wanda. Jared also defends her, which shocks Wanda. Ian is also shown to be falling in love with Wanda, and kisses her. She tells him to stop because of Melanie's anger, and she is confused about her own feelings since she has been deeply infected by Mel's love for Jared. After spending more time with Ian, she realizes she loves him too, but Mel doesn't approve.
Jamie soon gets an infection and Wanda realizes that she can be used as a raider as she is trusted by other souls. After injuring herself in order to get treated by Healers, she takes the necessary medicines to help Jamie. The humans let Wanda help out on raids, now that she is trusted by them. Following a raid in which the Seeker is caught and Wes is shot by the Seeker, Wanda decides to reveal her biggest secret: how to remove a soul without killing either the human or the soul, a procedure that Doc had been attempting unsuccessfully. She promises to teach Doc under two conditions: first, they must send the souls to new planets without harming them, and second, Doc must remove Wanda's soul from Melanie's body and bury Wanda, because "she does not want to be a parasite any longer". Wanda successfully removes The Seeker and sends her to another planet, and the body the Seeker was in is revived. Wanda then teaches Doc how to take out the souls himself.
Ian is enraged at the idea of Wanda ending her life so that Jared can have Melanie back. He forcibly takes her to his cave where they reveal their love for each other and kiss again. However, she sneaks away from him after he falls asleep, still determined to give up her life for Melanie. Wanda has Doc remove her from Melanie's body, believing that she will die thereafter, according to their agreement. However, she awakens in a new human body whose original owner was possessed as a baby and therefore has no suppressed human personality, and it is revealed that Jared and Ian forcibly prevented Doc from carrying out the agreement and that most of the humans want her to stay as one of them. Ian and Wanda become partners and are practically inseparable. The book ends with the rebels discovering another group of humans who also have a soul among them. This discovery suggests that humanity and souls together may still have hope for the future.
Wanderer "Wanda" – Wanderer is the invading soul that inhabits Melanie Stryder's body. She received her name due to the number of planets she has lived in, having never settled on one she truly liked. She is later nicknamed "Wanda" by Mel's Uncle Jeb and her brother, Jamie. Like all souls, she is naturally inclined to do good and is disgusted by violence. She feels incredibly guilty about the unrest her presence causes amongst Melanie's loved ones, and throughout the book she puts others before herself. She feels an initial affection for Jared, Melanie's lover, and Jamie, Mel's little brother, due to the memories she was fed by her host, and eventually develops her own relationship with both of them. She also grows to love her host, Mel, like a sister, and, when Mel appears to have disappeared from the body they both inhabit, is incredibly upset by her apparent disappearance. She eventually forces Mel to reawaken and promises to give her back the control of her body. She falls in love with Ian O'Shea and feels guilty that she was unable to reciprocate his feelings earlier. She became very confused as her body (Melanie) wanted Jared and she could not respond well to Ian's feelings. When asked, Wanderer estimates her age at "Thousands of years, maybe. I lose track of the years spent in hibernation" and looks like other souls—a luminous, silvery, "living ribbon" entity— but because she inhabits Melanie Stryder, she bears all of Mel's physical characteristics. Later in the book she is implanted in the body of another girl, who is petite and delicate with golden hair, freckled skin, grey eyes, and a dimple in her chin, formerly named Petals Open to the Moon, or Pet for short. Pet was sixteen, turning seventeen in two weeks when Wanderer was implanted into her. In that body she cannot do much for herself: '...They gave me the easiest chores and then, half the time, took the work right out of my hands anyway. Worse than that, I needed the help."
Melanie "Mel" Stryder – Melanie is a 20-year-old human who managed to escape capture by the invading souls for years, living on the run. Eventually she is captured, and a soul known as Wanderer is implanted in Mel's body. Mel continues to fight after Wanderer is implanted in her body, speaking to Wanderer and feeding her memories of the people she loves in hopes that Wanderer will one day lead her back to them. Mel likes the feeling of being physically strong and berates Wanderer for neglecting to keep her that way. She has a temper and may be considered volatile compared to docile Wanderer. Melanie is passionately in love with another human, Jared Howe, and shares a strong mother-like bond with her younger brother, Jamie. She grows to care for Wanderer deeply as a sister, as well. Melanie is described as pretty, tall and athletic with long brown hair, hazel eyes and tan skin.
Jared Howe – Jared is 28 years old and Melanie Stryder's lover. Circumstances always improve for the rebel humans he runs into, due to his great skill. He is seen as loving and somewhat excitable in Melanie's memories, though the loss of her renders him very bitter. He bears a grudge against Wanda, treats her cruelly, and is unable to empathize with her for most of the book. He eventually develops a closer relationship with her in addition to his extreme devotion to Melanie. He is somewhat of a rival to Ian O'Shea, because Ian sees Jared as a competition for Wanda's affections. Jared has been looking after Melanie's younger brother, Jamie, when Melanie was gone. Jamie idolizes Jared and aspires to be like him. In the end of the book when Wanda is taken out of Melanie's body it is shown that Jared and Melanie are back together and are in a relationship. Jared is described as good-looking, tall, with tan skin, brown eyes and tawny hair.
Jamie Stryder – Jamie is Melanie's younger brother and is 14 years old when he first meets Wanda. He develops a relationship with Wanda due to her closeness to his sister and eventually, he develops a strong brotherly bond with Wanda herself. He considers Wanda "angelic" and enjoys her stories about other planets. He is very close to Jared, though their relationship becomes tense due to Jared's cruel treatment of Wanda. Jamie is shown to want to be treated like a man and when he falls ill he is uncomfortable with the coddling he receives and yearns to go on raids with Jared and the other men. He is described as being the only person not to have difficulty with Wanda's transfer into a new body, possibly always seeing Mel and Wanda as two distinct beings due to his very open mind. Jamie is described as having shaggy black curls, warm brown eyes, and sun-browned skin.
Uncle Jeb – Jebediah "Jeb" is Melanie's eccentric uncle. He was one of the first humans to suspect an alien invasion, and thus constructed an elaborate hide-out in caves beneath the Arizona desert. Mel and Wanda believe that he's "crazy like a fox". He believes that Wanda can fit in with the humans, and therefore puts both her and the others in very uncomfortable social situations. However, he remains convinced that no one will hurt Wanda due to his habit of strolling around with a gun and warning others that they are in "his house, his rules". Despite his flighty demeanor, he seems to have a handle on everything in the caves and tends to give very good advice. He is described as having a wild beard and eyes "the color of faded blue jeans".
Ian O'Shea – Ian is a kind character described by Wanda to be "as kind as a soul, but strong as only a human could be." At the start of the book, he has a strong dislike to the souls much like his brother, Kyle. He also tried to kill Wanda when she first came to the caves, but, after a while, he started to like her. Ian falls in love with Wanda, but she explains to him that she can't love him while in Melanie's body because Melanie loves Jared and it 'was in the makeup of her cells' to like Jared. When Wanda tries to kill herself to give Melanie back Ian snaps and won't let her leave. In the end of the book, he is in a relationship with Wanda, who had been put into a new host body, the body of Pet (Petals Open To The Moon). Ian is described as tall, with great physical strength, ink-black hair and vivid, "sapphire-blue" eyes.
The Seeker – One of the invading souls. Melanie and Wanda's relationship is initially based on their hate for the Seeker, who is described as being irritable for the usually gentle souls. She mocks Wanda for not being able to completely drive out Melanie's spirit. It is later revealed that this is because of her insecurity at not being able to fully drive out the spirit of her body's former tenant, similar to Wanda's predicament. When her invading soul is removed, the host body remembers her name - Lacey. She is described as short, tiny in fact, with olive-toned skin, long black hair and slightly bulging eyes.
Kyle O'Shea – Kyle is a fiery character with a strong dislike of souls. He has a brother called Ian and they escaped to the caves together. During most of the book, he holds a fierce hatred for Wanda and tries to kill her, his prejudice against the souls had driven him to a point in time when he had almost tried to drown Wanda and, in failing that, tried to throw her into a hole in the washrooms. He is described as looking almost exactly like Ian, and can also sound like him when he is calm. He had a girlfriend named Jodi who was caught and implanted, and he tries to rescue her by removing the soul from her brain. Jodi does not regain consciousness, and so he replaces the very innocent soul named Sunny (Sunlight Passing through the Ice), who has grown to love Kyle through Jodi's memories. Kyle is also described as being very tall, strong and muscular.
Doc – A tall, slim human rebel who is a medical surgeon and serves as the rebels' doctor. In the book he is shown as very interested in finding out about how the souls invaded and tries experiments on Hosts with Souls inside them. Wanda offers him the information he is searching for, how to get a Soul out of a host without damaging either, if he takes her out of Melanie's body and buries her near Walter and Wes. He agrees but goes back on his word to bury her, and puts her into another host instead. Doc appears to have problems with alcohol. His real name is Eustace. Some of his characteristics were influenced by Meyer's younger brother, Seth.
Magnolia "Maggie" – Jeb's sister and Sharon's mother. She shows extreme hatred towards Wanda and never accepts her. Sharon follows her mother's lead. When Wanda is reborn in Pet's body, Maggie cannot maintain her former rigidity around Wanda, but still shows signs of dislike.
Sharon - Jeb's niece, Maggie's daughter, and Melanie's cousin. Like her mother, she shows much hatred towards Wanda. Her hate drove her to the point where she could not be happy for Jamie's healing and pounced at Jared for leading Wanda outside the caves. Her feelings toward Wanda soften the slightest amount when Wanda is reborn in Pet's body, because of the body's beauty. Sharon has a shaky relationship with Doc, after Maggie set both of them up together.
Petals Open to the Moon "Pet" – Petals Open to the Moon is a young, attractive soul who came from the planet of the Flowers before she came to Earth. Wanderer was taken out of Melanie Stryder's body and then re-implanted into the host body of Pet. Pet was taken out of her host and then placed into a cryotank, likely to be sent to another planet, either the Dolphins, Bears, Bats, or back to the Flowers. Her mother was Cloud Spinner, who is described as having red and silver hair with bright green eyes. When Wanderer is placed into the body once controlled by Pet, she finds that her new, 16 year old body is small and weak, but has silver skin with golden freckles, gray eyes, a round face, and bouncy curly golden hair. She is said to look very trustworthy and angelic. She lies that she is 17, turning 18 so that Ian will think that she is legal sooner.
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.
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.
She said in an interview that, if published, the first sequel would be entitled The Soul and the second The Seeker. 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, but she has not decided whether she will write them since The Host universe is a "dangerous place" where characters might die, and she is not sure if she wants to kill them off.
The Host was named one of the "Best Books of May" by Amazon.com, and also received praise about its ending saying, "Readers... will gleefully note that the story's end leaves the door open for a sequel—or another series." 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 is being developed into a film with Andrew Niccol attached to direct and Saoirse Ronan to star 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 is set for release 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 will serve as producer along Wechsler, Schwartz and Mae Schwartz.
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- ^ Twilight Lexicon | The Host in multiple forms
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- ^ Extra chapter FAQ
- ^ Best of the Month
- ^ The Host by Stephenie Meyer - book review
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