Wanderer is a Soul, a parasitic alien who has lived through multiple lives on multiple planets before coming to earth to invade a new host, a girl named Melanie. Earth has been mostly taken over by the new alien race, so that human bodies walk around controlled by the Souls who live attached to their brains. The Souls are meant to take over their bodies completely, while the human brain/soul disappears, but Melanie won’t disappear. She fights, and soon Wanderer can no longer be sure what parts of her are herself and what parts are Melanie.
I picked this audiobook up on a whim while browsing at my library a few weeks ago. I read the first two Twilight books a couple years back and wasn’t terribly impressed, so I didn’t expect that this was one I’d listen to for more than a few minutes. Doubly so because I’m not really a science fiction person unless it concerns a dystopia. But from the very beginning of this book, I was hooked. The story is intriguing, the narration is perfect, and the science fiction elements are very light. The focus is on the human/emotional aspects of the situation rather than the science parts.
The Host is told from Wanderer’s point of view, which made it far more interesting than if it had been told from a human’s point of view. Through Wanderer’s eyes, you see both sides of the story – that of the Souls, and that of the humans whose bodies are being used as hosts. While it might seem black-and-white from either groups’ point of view, neither group is really bad. Neither group is better than the other. Both have their good and bad points, their strengths and weaknesses. Much of the story is about relationships between people, relationships of many kinds: romance, friendship, parent-child, and more. It explores if people from different worlds – in this case, literally – can really come to understand each other despite extreme prejudice on both sides.
The Host also puts an interesting spin on nature versus nurture, in that Wanderer, and other souls, inherit memories and feelings from their hosts. It also discusses several other difficult topics, such as euthanasia and sacrifice of one for the good of a group. Two different types of romance are also contrasted, an intense, fiery, uncontrollable love and a strong, stable, constant love. I personally prefer the latter, and I have to admit, I fell completely in love with Ian (and I’m not saying any more than that!). The fiery love between Melanie and Jared actually felt forced and a little silly to me, and is probably my only qualm about the entire book. It was the only relationship that didn’t feel as real as all the rest of them.
The ending of the book is perfect. I know people complain about epilogues a lot, but I really enjoyed this one. It was long, drawn out, just like another chapter. I don’t want to give away details, but I think it ended in exactly the right way, in a way that took a difficult situation and said okay, maybe we were all wrong, and maybe working together we can make things right. Hopeful, but not without loss, either. I was disappointed to find out there are sequels planned. While I would love to read more about all the characters, who feel very real for me after spending four weeks listening to their saga, I thought The Host was a perfect standalone novel and I don’t want a sequel to ruin it, especially just for the sake of sequels.
I’m so happy this was my first book of 2011! It was a perfect opener.
Performance: This audiobook of The Host is about 23 hours long, read by Kate Reading. It was a very, very slow read, so I listened to the entire thing on double-speed, which brought Reading’s narration to a normal spoken-aloud speed and truncated the audio to half its length. Other than the slowness, I think Reading did a great job. She was able to perform subtle voice changes for each character and she put a lot of emotion into what she was reading. When I was done listening, I immediately wanted to listen to the book all over again, both for the story and for the audio. I’m very glad I chose the audio version of this book, because I’m not sure I would have gotten as much out of it in print.
Note: I relistened to this book in Feb 2016 and it was just a wonderful the second time around!