Vacation, the perfect opportunity to catch up on some reading. Usually I only take light reading with me, because on vacation you get interrupted a lot and it’s hard to concentrate on a book. The last time I went on vacation, I also took The Host by Stephenie Meyer with me to reread.
This is a sci-fi novel, and I think it’s much better than Twilight. The characters are a lot more mature and the story doesn’t revolve around teenage angst. It’s still very psychological, but in a very different, less obnoxious, way.
So, the story is: earth has been invaded by aliens called souls. They are octopus-like creatures that invade their host bodies and basically take over. They come from a planet they call The Origin and have invaded several planets already. The story is set a year later after the initial wave and 90% of the world is already colonized. Those that remain are either hiding and trying to survive or “fighting” in the resistance. Though there isn’t much of a resistance. Basically all they do is hide out in groups and try to live of the grid. When possible, they go on “raids” to get food and other supplies.
Anyway, that is the setting of the story. The main character is a soul called Wanderer who has already lived on 8 planets and has now come to earth. She is put into Melanie Stryder’s body, who has been on the run with her brother since the beginning of the invasion. She’s part of the resistance and jumped into an empty elevator shaft to escape the Seekers (comparable to a soul police force). However, she didn’t die, they healed her and now Wanderer (or Wanda for short) is put into her body.
It becomes immediately clear that everything is not as it should be. Normally, when a soul is inserted into another body, they become that person (or animal or thing) and any previous consciousness is erased. However, Melanie Stryder refuses to be erased. She battles Wanda for control over their shared mind because there are secrets she needs to protect (the location of her brother Jamie and her lover Jared). The Seekers want Wanda to access Melanie’s memories in order to find the locations of the rest of the human resistance. Wanda is conflicted because she wants to be a good soul and do her duty, but at the same time she starts to see the “invasion” from the humans’ point of view. She also has trouble dealing with Melanie’s emotions, and more specifically, separating those from her own.
A lot happens (basically Wanda gets fed up with therapy and the Seeker hounding her) and they embark on a road trip. Along the way, Melanie’s memories are triggered and they figure out where the resistance could be hiding (Melanie, or Mel for short, spent a lot of time alone with her brother and Jared, but the plan was always to meet up with the resistance at their secret location). They decide to go out and find them, but are turned around in the desert. Eventually, they are on the verge of death because of dehydration and exhaustion, when they are found by Jeb (Mel’s uncle and leader of this group of human survivors). Uncle Jeb decides to take them in against everybody’s wishes. When they arrive at the caves, they meet Jared and Jamie and realise that they made it and are safe. At this point, the relationship between Wanda and Mel really becomes complicated. Wanda realises that nobody will believe that Mel is still alive in their head, but Mel is overcome by emotions and wants to run to Jared and Jamie.
Then the psychological part of the book really starts. Wanda/Mel are imprisoned by Jared (who thinks Mel is dead and that Wanda is there to torment him – and eventually lead the Seekers to them) and she spends a lot of time alone. When Jared leaves on a raid, Uncle Jeb takes over guarding her and slowly but steadily starts exposing her to the community. She starts working alongside the humans, and gets close to Jamie. Jamie is the first one they tell that Mel is still alive and sharing her body with Wanda. People start to adjust to her presence and she even starts telling stories of the planets she’s been on. But then Jared returns and it turns worse again: he cannot cope with people accepting her so easily and Kyle (another human who went on the raid with Jared) is enraged. He tries to kill her, but fails and eventually Wanda ends up saving him. At the tribunal (Wanda was a guest and it is forbidden to attack them) however, she refuses to tell them Kyle tried to kill her so he is pardoned. This is also where Wanda and Mel really clash for the first time and you can see their different personalities. Mel wanted to fight and kill Kyle, but Wanda didn’t know how and ended up saving his life when Mel would have let him fall and drown. At the tribunal, Mel wanted to shout out the truth, but Wanda, horrified by the violence, refused to speak up.
Anyway, life goes on for a while, until another tragedy strikes. There is a doctor in the compound, and every time the humans go out on a raid, they try to bring a few souls back. They are trying to figure out how to remove the souls from the human bodies but are failing. After another raid, Doc has failed once again and is taking it very hard. Wanda has realised that they are hiding something from her and sneaks out to go to the infirmary. They had covered up the human bodies, but not the cut-up remains from the souls and she freaks out. This creates distance between Wanda and the humans once again. She makes it clear that they cannot remove the souls from the human bodies without killing them and to keep the peace, they promise her to stop it (at least for a while).
Things settle down once again, until Jamie comes back from a raid with a cut on his leg. Everybody is treading carefully around her (most have accepted that Mel is still alive and that they both love Jamie very much) and when she finds out what has happened she’s really upset. However, it gets worse. The cut doesn’t heal and becomes badly infected. She wants to go out to the city and walk into a hospital to get the medicine Jamie needs, but the people will not let her go. They are afraid she will run off to the Seekers and lead them back. But Jared understands that she, Wanda, would never do anything to hurt Jamie so he decides to sneak out together. The “raid” is a big success. Wanda is a soul, so she is implicitly trusted by the other souls (they cannot lie, they trust each other completely). She just walks into the hospital (after she has given herself wounds comparable to Jamie’s) and gets the medicine. They return to the compound and save Jamie. Now the other humans realise that she can be of great use on the raids.
And this is where the story starts wrapping up. Wanda is conflicted because just by existing, she is preventing Mel from existing and being with the ones she loves. After an argument, Wanda banishes Mel from her thoughts and shuts her up. A few days later, she realises that she hasn’t heard from Mel in a while and she panics. She gets Jared to kiss her to bring her back, and she then realises that if she were to stay in Mel’s body, Mel would eventually fade away. So she decides to give up her biggest secret: how to remove a soul from a human body. She’s going to show Doc how on two conditions: that he doesn’t kill the souls but sends them to other planets without harming them and that he removes Wanda from Mel’s body and lets her die on earth. Mel and Wanda have a few big teary-eyed fights about this since Mel doesn’t want Wanda to die. In the end, Doc doesn’t keep his promise: Wanda is saved and put into a new body. This time a body that was inhabited by a soul since birth, so it doesn’t have a consciousness of its own that Wanda would be killing. And the all live happily ever after.
But of course, it’s not that easy! There are two huge (and terribly weird!!) love triangles woven throughout the story. As I said, Jared is Mel’s boyfriend and they are terribly in love. Wanda being in Mel’s body and sensing and feeling Mel’s emotions, also starts developing feelings for Jared. It gets to a point where she is in love with Jared (romantically) and Jamie (loves him like a sister) and she doesn’t know how much of that is Mel’s or hers. But Wanda herself also gets close to Ian, a human in the compound. He loves her for who she is (Wanda that is!) and she loves him as well. So when Mel gets her body back, she also has some residual feelings for Ian, since it was her body that came to love his (not that they ever did anything physical, except kiss once or twice). So when Mel has her body back and Wanda is in a new one they are both happy in their relationships. Wanda is with Ian and Mel is with Jared. But both the girls still have some feelings for the other guy and it is all very freaky!
In the last chapter they meet up with another group like them, who also have a soul living amongst them, hinting that in the end souls and humans may be able to live together in harmony after all. Let’s all say it together now: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Anyway, besides the clichés that were aplenty in this book, I really loved it. Meyer built her world and set the story neatly inside. Though it’s weird that this is going to be a trilogy. I felt like the story ended there. And should have ended there! But no, the book was successful so of course they have to get in a few sequels: The Seeker and The Soul. Anyways, that was my two cents. I am now off to watch the movie, which I expect will be horrible … I will let you know!
What did you think of the book? Loved it or hated it? And how about the movie adaptation?
As always: happy reading,