is a 2008 Science Fiction
novel by Twilight
creator Stephenie Meyer
, and was both her first sci-fi work and her first adult novel.
It takes place After the End
, where a successful infiltration-style Alien Invasion
means the Puppeteer Parasites
have made the world a more pleasant and peaceful place where they can just sit back and enjoy life
... aside, of course, from that pesky handful of "wild" humans, who caught on sooner and have still managed to avoid capture. Enter "Wanderer", a "Soul" (alien brain parasite) who's been unusually restless, going from one world to the next... and enter Melanie Stryder, one of the few remaining wild humans, who's just been captured sneaking around Chicago and is now Wanderer's host. However, it turns out that knowing
your body's going to be taken over by a Soul allows one to fight back
, and Melanie fiercely resists giving up intel or her mind in an effort to protect both the man she loves and her younger brother from sharing the same fate.
This means trouble for Wanderer of course, since not only are human senses and emotions more intense than any other body she's ever experienced, so too are human memories more ridiculously vivid - and Wanderer finds herself inevitably growing to love Melanie's man Jared and brother Jamie, even though she's never met either. Eventually she even grows to consider Melanie herself a friend, despite originally wanting her to disappear. This combination leads her to risk absolutely everything to find Jared and Jamie... which gets more than a little awkward when she actually does
succeed in finding them, only to be kept as a prisoner since, duh, she's one of Them
now. Just to let you know exactly where all this is kind of headed towards, the novel's premise is often somewhat accurately summed up as being "a love triangle with two bodies"; "somewhat", because by the end of the book it's actually more like a love quadrangle
It turns out to be an odd entry into the SF genre, though, because the aliens are actually "altruistic" and "kind"
by nature, but unfortunately suffer from a seriously
inverted case of What Measure Is a Non-Human?
They're clever when it comes to technology and have "peacefully" conquered countless worlds and many of them have lived for literally thousands of years in different hosts... but it's yet to occur to them that, you know, maybe their hosts might deserve to have free will too. Which makes things more than a little uncomfortable once Wanderer realizes that she actually considers humans to be likable in their own right, and becomes torn between being loyal to her own species and betraying them for the sake of largely unrequited inter-species love.
The film version
of The Host
was released on March 29, 2013 and was written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca
, In Time
This book provides examples of:
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Ian and Kyle have black hair in the book. In the film, they're both blonde.
- Wanda's replacement body is brunette instead of blonde.
- Burns was a redhead in the book, but has brown hair in the movie.
- Aerith and Bob: The Souls, some of whom retain names they had in previous lives on other worlds (Fords Deep Waters, Sunlight Passing Through the Ice), and some of whom decide to take the names of their human hosts.
- Aggressive Categorism: Sharon and her mom keep clinging to the hatred and suspicion most people felt against Wanderer even long after the suspicions have been proven wrong and the hatred abandoned by almost everyone else. Towards the end, their failed attempt to keep Wanderer alienated from the community only make them alienate themselves from this same community. However, it should be noted that we only get to see their pettiness from Wanderer's far-from-impartial perspective.
- Aliens Speaking English: But only the ones who've got human hosts, and only because their host would have known it first (assuming that the host did speak English, of course. The story's set in America, though, so for our purposes it's a moot point).
- And I Must Scream: Happens in a few cases, although generally it seems that the human's mind is destroyed upon them being possessed.
- The Alcoholic: Doc has shades of this.
- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: The Souls completely neglect to realize that there might be something about humanity (or, hell, any species that isn't their own) worth saving, at least at first. The human version of the trope also makes a bit of an appearance, but given that the Souls not only stole our planet, but also our entire way of life, virtually all of our infrastructure, and the bodies of many loved ones, and are still somewhat set on capturing the rest of us and making us hosts as well... you can kind of see the logic in not particularly liking them much, no matter how "altruistic" and "nice" they may otherwise be.
- Author Avatar: Melanie Stryder. She just spoonerized the name.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Brothers Ian and Kyle spend most of the story against one another, especially where it relates to Wanda, and it gets to the point where Ian is briefly the main person trying to kick Kyle out of the caves. Just when you think they are going to fall into Cain and Abel territory, they get moments that reveal their bond and love for each other.
- Bad Liar: Wanderer, mostly because Souls (with the exception of Seekers and members of the first wave) never needed to lie.
- Benevolent Alien Invasion: The "souls" see themselves this way, at least.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: Melanie and a few other people attempt suicide to prevent being captured and taken over.
- In the film, Melanie's father shot himself in the head for this reason when the Seekers showed up at their house. Later, two of the human resistance's red shirts drive their truck into a wall after the Souls have them cornered.
- This is actually brought up by Wanderer as something that her race finds profoundly frightening, since they see themselves as helpful and altruistic.
- An example of this happening on another planet is mentioned by Wanderer near the beginning - an "entire forest" of "See Weeds" starving themselves of sunlight and dying before the souls could use them as hosts, as they couldn't physically run (what with being sentient plants).
- Betty and Veronica: Subverted. Ian and Jared fit the bill all right, the subversion being that the Archie is actually two people in the same body with Ian only interested in Wanda and Jared interested in Melanie. Honestly, it could be viewed as a metaphor for a guy loving you for your mind/personality vs. a guy loving you for your body.
- Big Brother Mentor: Jared to Jamie.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Leaving aside the fact that they have no eyes (or mouths?), have blood and other tissue that's silvery in color, and are effectively a very squishy, gracefully flowing centipede with brain-controlling tentacles, there's also their reproductive method, which involves the queens essentially committing suicide by splitting apart into thousands upon thousands of tiny little babies is... well, yeah.
- Perhaps this is an indirect tribute to Orson Scott Card, another Mormon author best known for his sci-fi writings who created an alien species who also reproduces in a way that is fatal to the mother. Only grosser. Really.
- Or perhaps these aliens are expies of the Yeerks. Silvery-gray in color? Check. Control other species' minds by wrapping their bodies around them? Check. Reproduce via suicide? Check. Never realized that their hosts might be anything more than meat until forced to confront the fact? Check. Definitely not copies, though, because Yeerks are slugs, Souls are insects. Also, the Yeerks are far less benevolent than the Souls.
- Black Dude Dies First: Subverted. The one black man present in the human colony does not die first. He does, however, die the only violent death onscreen, when the Seeker shoots him.
- Blondes Are Evil: Inverted. Wanda's replacement body is extremely blond and so girly and precious she Tastes Like Diabetes.
- Blue and Orange Morality: It's Utopia Justifies the Means and Humans Are the Real Monsters vs. Aliens Are Bastards and Humans Are Special. Both sides are shown to have their good and bad points, and the aliens and the humans genuinely don't know the other side's motivations and think they are in the right.
- Body Surf: Wanda ends up doing this when her friends swap her into another vacated body.
- Broken Aesop: Free will is more important than a utopia, and living parasitically in a host body is immoral. Which is why we'll move Wanderer against her express wishes into a different host body, ruining another alien's happy life in the process.
- Cain and Abel: Kyle and Ian just skirt being this. Jeb and Maggie also come close, in a rare brother-sister variation of the trope.
- Chickification: Wanderer is a strong, intelligent Soul who has been on more worlds than most and is held in high regard among the Souls. She once defeated a Claw Beast on the planet of the Bears, transplanted a friend into it on the spot, and rode it into the city. At the end of the book, she's implanted in the body of a petite young blonde girl and can't even carry her own sleeping mat without the help of her man.
- Melanie gets it as well. She starts out as a strong survivor who opted to jump down an elevator shaft to save herself from being assimilated. Any time her boyfriend appears onscreen though, or comes to her mind, she makes some pretty stupid decisions, including letting Wanderer know where her colony of "wild" humans are hiding (keep in mind that Wanderer's job is to find and assimilate them as well).
- Her decision is justified. Melanie sends Wanderer her memories and emotions and shows the "wild" human colony's location only when she is sure that Wanderer cares deeply about her boyfriend and brother. Wanderer wouldn't be able to betray them, which Melanie knew, having constant connection with her mind.
- That said, Melanie is still heavily dependent on Jared, to the extent that she only bothers trying to "talk" when he is around. He even has to pull off a heavily subverted Damsel in Distress rescue when she's not responding in Wanderer's head.
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Meyer has a tendency to do this pretty much every single time she writes fiction, but at least here it's not quite to the level of being Strangled by the Red String.
- Cool Big Sis: Melanie and, by extension, Wanda for Jamie. They are a bit overprotective, but given the environment, it's understandable.
- Crazy-Prepared: Melanie's relatives, but especially Jeb - he completely overhauls a cave system to make it inhabitable, solely because he thought he'd need an Elaborate Underground Base someday.
- Death by Childbirth: The soul's reproduction system is a suicidal process for the Mother.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Ian.
- Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: A borderline case occurs towards the end when Kyle's girlfriend turns out to be brain-dead, leading the humans to place the soul back inside of her.
- Elaborate Underground Base
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Seeker.
- Also, Doc. Wanda actually asks him why that is, and it turns out he finds his real name embarrassing. It's Eustace.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: When a Soul gets a new host, they automatically gain all of that host's communicative abilities, which leads Wanderer to often mention translated idioms from previous alien cultures that she's lived in... which leads to a running gag with her noting that "it sounds better in Bear".
- Extreme Doormat: The normal way for souls to behave towards each other, much to the annoyance of the human characters when watching it on television or interacting with Wanderer. On top of Wanderer's natural disposition, add that she is constantly terrified and uses it as a survival strategy to avoid antagonizing her (understandably) hostile captors. She gets better about it as she feels less threatened and learn more of human culture. At the end, it is revealed that Wanderer was actually far LESS doormatty than the average Soul all along. The new character Sunny is portrayed as not only being far worse than Wanderer in this regard, but also as being the normal and average for her species. It becomes rather obvious that if Souls and Humans are ever going to be able to coexist on Earth, it will take not only Souls protecting the Humans from other Souls, but also Humans protecting the Souls from other Humans.
- Fantastic Racism:
- It never occurs to the souls (including Wanderer, at first) that maybe they shouldn't be taking over the minds of every species they run across and essentially wiping them out. One species commits mass suicide to escape them; rather than rethink their system the souls cheerily continue infesting the ones who didn't escape in time, pausing only briefly to regret the waste of host bodies. They also tend to babble about humans being violent, while at the same time making an organized effort to "discard" all "wild" humans.
- Even after Wanda comes to the conclusion that Humans Are Special and shouldn't be hosts, she doesn't extend the same consideration to the other species that the souls have conquered. For that matter neither do the humans, who are more than happy to ship disembodied souls off to other worlds to inhabit hosts there.
- The Seeker, at at least in the film, makes a point to mention that Earth is the only planet that they have done this on where the inhabitants were not symbiotic with the Souls.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: Also somewhat implied (at least if we give Meyer the benefit of the doubt). No way are any habitable, carbon-based-life-supporting planets within 5 years' travel of Earth without it, even if they are Generation Ships.
- It's outright stated that, even with faster than light travel, the closest planetary system takes at least a decade to reach (the furthest ones require centuries). On this point at least, Meyer has done her homework.
- The Film of the Book
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Kyle and Ian. Maggie and Jeb are a subversion in that Maggie comes across as rather level-headed while Jeb comes across as somewhat crazy. However, Maggie is the foolish one as she lets pride and stubbornness rule out basic logic, while Jeb is the responsible one who views things from all angles and is quick on his feet.
- Forced Kiss: Jared does this to Melanie, during their first meeting.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Doesn't really happen, but it's kind of the same deal with Melanie and Jared.
- Gambit Roulette: Jared initially believe everything Wanderer does is proof that she's secretly a Seeker trying to infiltrate the group. This starts to annoy the others since he keeps it up way too long and even Jared starts to realize how ridiculous he's being.
- Genetic Memory: The Souls have a form of this, though given the way they reproduce, it kinda makes a vague sort of sense.
- Going Native: Wanderer. Later also other Souls, such as Sunny.
- Good Versus Good: The conflict between soul society and the free humans gradually develop into this, as Wanderer teaches the humans how to gain the moral high ground by getting rid of souls without harming them, thus denying soul society their excuse to identify themselves as the peaceful side of the conflict.
- Guilt Complex: Wanderer feels that everything that goes wrong is her fault. Sometimes she's right to feel that way but most of the time it's the complex.
- Half Way Plot Switch: Happens twice. It starts out being about an alien adjusting to life as a bodysnatcher, then devotes the entire second act, and much of the third, to developing platonic and romantic relationships with the rebels, before focusing on saving the humans near the end.
- Happiness in Slavery: Sunny really enjoys being kidnapped. Well, except for when people argue over her or insist that they should set her free or at least let her out of the cave.
- Heel-Face Turn: Wanderer's joining the side of the humans. She is not alone in this; other souls like Sunny and Burns do the same.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Melanie attempts suicide in order to prevent the hosts from using her memories. Wanderer attempts suicide, but the others intervene at the last second.
- Heroic BSOD: Wanderer has one when she discovers the doc is attempting to remove souls from humans, killing both in the process. She hides herself away for two days and doesn't talk to anyone.
- He Who Fights Monsters: The Seeker is this, with the humans being the monsters.
- Honor Before Reason: Or rather Empathy Before Reason. In either case, this is Melanie's view on Wanderer trying to protect the life of a guy who repeatedly tried to kill her.
- She also tries to trade her life to save the life of the Seeker, who has hounded her for months and killed one of her friends.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Kyle and Jodi/Sunny. This also is the fate of Ian and Wanda in Pet's body.
- Humans Are Special: According to Wanderer, who has experienced being most of the sentient races of the known universe, humans have more individual variation and a deeper range of emotions than any of the other species. However, this assertion might be unfair to those other races, since they were never truly given a fair chance to express themselves. And Wanderer is emotionally biased in favor of humans anyway. In any case, humans are objectively special in the sense that they are the first species to resist possession.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Played perfectly straight and completely deconstructed. On an individual level, Humans are far more violent, hostile, hateful and generally dangerous than the naturally meek and friendly Souls. On the society level, humans have in the past committed genocide against their own species and harmed the environment of their own home world. Souls would never do such a thing, and can't imagine themselves doing such a thing - thus refusing to realize the truth about what they have become. They are oppressive genocidal tyrants now, and the few of them who start to realize it are having a very hard time living with themselves.
- On a meta level, this is where The Host connects to Twilight. Both stories are about love between a creature who is monstrous but kind and his comparatively meek and fragile little lover, and about his struggle to contain himself and his people so she doesn't get hurt. In both cases, it has nothing to do with gender, it's all about species. However, it just so happens that the male happens to be of the monstrous species (vampire in Twilight, human in The Host) while the female just happens to be of the meeker species (human in Twilight, Soul in The Host).
- Human Popsicle: Or, rather, Alien Popsicle. The Souls go into suspended animation when traveling between worlds, since the trip can take up to a century.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Wanderer
- Indestructible Edible: Twinkies in an abandoned house.
- Inspector Javert: The Seeker
- Interspecies Romance: Does not always work out, though.
- In-Series Nickname: Some souls have these since their names tend to be mouthfuls. We get Wanda for Wanderer, Sunny for Sunlight Passing Through the Ice, Pet for Petals Open to the Moon, Fords for Fords Deeps Waters and Burns for Burns Living Flowers.
- It Has Been an Honor: Doc says a variant of this to Wanderer, right before her Heroic Sacrifice.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Wanderer gives up on retaining Melanie as a host for Melanie's sake, effectively trying to commit suicide because she doesn't even want to take over another host (she now sees it as cruel and unfair to the host)... but also largely to give Melanie back to Jared and vice versa, making it a sort of double I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
- Jailbait Wait: Jared refused to sleep with Melanie until she turned eighteen. Wanderer took note of this, and lied about her new host body's age so that Ian wouldn't have the same scruple.
- Jerkass: The Seeker, again. At least in part because her host is just as bad.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kyle, though it takes a while for the "heart of gold" part to show up.
- Long Lived: The Souls. Other alien species are implied to be this as the Souls claim that humans have some of the shortest life cycles in the Universe.
- Love Redeems: The main reason souls mistreat humans and humans mistreat souls is that they fail to form emotional bonds with each other across the species line. As the cause melts away, so does the effect.
- Love Triangle: In two bodies! The triangle being Melanie/Jared/Wanderer.
- Love Dodecahedron: In three bodies! Ian loves Wanderer who falls for him in return but Mel is so steadfast in her love for Jared that the body causes Wanda not to respond to Ian and forces her to have feelings for Jared. Jared loves Melanie but there are hints that he is starting to fall for Wanderer as well.
- May Fly December Romance: Wanderer and Ian.
- Mauve Shirt: Wes
- Meaningful Echo: "It's a strange world." "The strangest."
- Meaningful Name: Wanderer. Lucina's son, Freedom.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: This is very subtle, but present still. Almost all of those who die are male, and they get killed off before we really get a chance to know them much.
- Mercy Kill: An old man in the human community is painfully dying of bone cancer. Jared steals enough painkillers for Doc to give him an overdose.
- Mighty Whitey: Race and species inverted with Wanderer in Mel's body. Also gender inverted, since the traditional Mighty Whitey is male.
- Mind-Control Eyes: A Soul-possessed human's eyes develop a silvery eye shine (given that the Souls' tissue and blood is silvery in color, this may or may not make a slight bit of sense). This is somewhat portrayed on the book's cover, though, as only part of the pupil appears silver, instead of the "all of it" kind of portion you'd get from eye shine. This is likely to show that Melanie is partially in control.
- The Mind Is A Play Thing Of The Body: The Souls are strongly affected by natural instincts and sometimes memories of their hosts. If a human host loved someone before the transformation and this feeling was mutual, it's very likely their souls will become a couple. It happens even if souls haven't met each other before.
- Moe: Invoked by the choice of Wanda's final host, who is so petite and pretty that other people will naturally want to protect her and not suspect her of anything.
- Moral Dissonance: The Souls consider themselves peaceful, loving, and perfectly moral, despite the fact that their primary activity appears to be wiping out other sentient species (that is, the species still exists in a biological sense, but the individuals composing it are functionally dead. At best, it's slavery on a grand scale, but since what happens to the individuals is closer to murder, "wiped out" isn't pushing it too far.)
- Moral Myopia: To the Souls, having the host gain control of them and thus erase their identity is considered a Fate Worse Than Death. The Souls doing this to their hosts is, of course, nothing of the sort.
- Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: The Souls that didn't take their human host's name have these, such as 'Sunlight Passing Through the Ice', 'Glass Spires', and 'Rides the Beast'.
- Noble Savage: How Wanderer see the free humans... well, most of the time, anyway. The way Sunny reacts to being kidnapped into their community, she probably feel the same way.
- Only You Can Repopulate My Race: This was what Melanie and Jared thought while they were together. It turns out that there are other non-possessed humans in the secret camp. It makes one wonder if they stayed together because they were so used to being alone or if they truly were in love.
- Planet of Hats: This is how every planet taken over by the Souls is described. A deconstructed trope, since it is also mentioned that the stereotype doesn't really fit at all. The planethattery is all about giving new people a simple and efficient, although inaccurate, summary of the species that inhabit the planet.
- Puppeteer Parasite: Played straight but very oddly, with the invaders being basically kind, caring, albeit not always particularly perceptive individuals who just aren't really aware of just how atrocious their treatment of other species is. Some of the hosts survive the process, others do not. It depends on what the plot requires.
- Race Lift: In the book Melanie is described as having tanned skin and is part Latina on her mother's side; in the Movie she is played by the very white Saoirse Ronan (who is Irish, making this also crossover into Fake American).
- Really 700 Years Old: Wanderer claims to be thousands of Earth years old, though she admits that she's lost count of her real age.
- Red Shirt: Walter. Up until his death throes, the only real characterization he has is "Supports Wanderer." When his death scene rolls around, it just serves to illustrate how caring and sensitive Wanderer is.
- Sense Freak: Understandable, since in the story, humans have the most (and most vivid) senses out of any species the Souls have ever taken as hosts. Wanderer's even warned about it ahead of time; apparently it's in the brochure.
- Humans are the only species the souls have ever encountered who have a sense of smell distinct from a sense of taste.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Ian and Jared. This is also the relationship Ian has with his brother, Kyle.
- Separated-at-Birth Casting: Jake Abel and Boyd Holbrook as Ian and Kyle O'Shea.
- Sharing a Body
- Starfish Aliens: According to Wanderer, there are a grand total of, uh, exactly zero remotely humanoid species in the universe other than humans. So much so that they have to give new names to different species due to new mouths.
- Stealth Pun: The See Weeds.
- Stockholm Syndrome: We never get to know how much of Wanderer's transformation is caused by this dynamic. It is definitely not the only factor, and the reasons why she came to the desert in the first place are surely more important. But the classic pattern is definitely in place as she is captured, subjected to systematic torture and then gradually introduced and accepted into society. (While they don't beat her up very often, the constant sensory deprivation, permanent threat of death, rough living conditions and constant bullying could break almost anyone down.)
- Some people think this could be the reason behind Melanie and Jared's relationship. Jared forces a kiss on her upon meeting her and Melanie is initially disgusted by this. However, after he allows her and her brother to stay, then Melanie gives into his desire for her.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Especially when it comes to medicine, which is almost ridiculously effective, ridding the body of infection, fever, cancer, whatever, pretty much instantly.
- Symbiotic Possession: Wanda and Melanie finally become friends after Wanda spends some time with other humans.
- Take a Third Option: The humans do this when they implant Wanderer into another human host whose original personality didn't survive rather than either killing her or sending her to another Soul controlled planet like she wanted them to.
- Tastes Like Diabetes: In-universe. Souls kept television around after taking over the planet, but every single pre-invasion show (save, briefly, for The Brady Bunch) was booted off the air and replaced with the Souls' original programs. All of them fit this trope.
- Time Abyss: The Souls. They have been around for several thousands of years and can live forever (though they can be killed by outside means). They even spend up to centuries in hibernation when they are traveling in space. At one point, Wanderer, who has lost track of her own age she's been around so long, can only pinpoint an event as being "after the dinosaurs lived on Earth".
- Torture Technician: Wanderer believes Doc to be this at first.
- Totalitarian Utilitarian: Deconstructed, with how the Soul society is anything but totalitarian. On the contrary, their complete lack of Big Brother Is Watching You is what makes the rebels able to operate in the first place.
- Totally Eighteen: Wanderer lies (to everybody in general, and to Ian in particular) about the age of her new host body - in this way, and for the associated reasons.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: The aliens certainly believe that it does.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Given that the story is told from the first-person perspective of an alien, there's a lot of subtext in the characterizations that isn't readily apparent. This leads to characters like the Seeker, Maggie, Sharon and Kyle coming off as two-dimensional Designated Villains. Meyer could have put more work into fleshing out their motives and histories.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": As the souls are beginning to realize that adult humans are now growing resistant to alien possession, they instead pick up the habit of systematically "discarding" all adult humans. The horror and true meaning of this practice is only dawning to some of the Souls, and only gradually.