Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Sphere • 640 pages • £14.99
Alien parasites that conquer Earth, taking over our bodies and erasing our minds? One woman trapped in her head as an alien controls her body? This must be horror, surely? No, it’s actually a romance combined with a touching survival story…
The conquering parasites known as “souls” bond with human hosts, erasing the former personality whilst retaining their memories. They’ve been to many planets, but Earth is the first where they’ve encountered a specific problem: sometimes the host personality doesn’t die.
We follow one such host. A soul named Wanderer, placed in the body of a rebel human called Melanie, is disturbed that Melanie remains alive within her, talking to her and filling her thoughts with the love she feels for her partner and brother – also rebels, who have so far escaped the souls.
The Host contains some interesting philosophical points. The souls believe they’re in the right, as they have no concept of violence, so their Earth is far more peaceful. Yet it still feels false: as Wanderer starts to question their premise for conquest, it seems that humans are unique in the galaxy in their personality, individuality and emotions – an all-too-easy get-out clause that exonerates them of blame for what’s essentially mass murder. And, of course, Melanie and Wanderer soon become friends, each appreciating the best of the other.
This is the main problem with the book – Wanderer is presented as too perfect and selfless a personality to be real. However, it’s still a well-written, gripping tale of human survival against the odds.