Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Science Fiction / Romance
Narrator: Kate Reading
Length: 23 hours (624 pages)
Publisher: Books on Tape; Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: May 6, 2008
Content Warnings: violence, bullying, body horror, gun violence, death, grief, xenophobia
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.
I read this book once when it was published in 2008 and figured it was time for a reread since it tends to be rated higher than the books in the Twilight saga (which I reread in 2020) and a new favorite author recently cited The Host as a major source of inspiration. I didn’t remember much from my first read (and I seriously misremembered the ending), so it was almost like reading it for the first time.
This book has such a unique concept, depicting an alien invasion of Earth by a nonviolent, symbiotic species. The backstory and world building are so imaginative. Even though this species has colonized many other species on many other planets, they encounter a unique obstacle in human hosts with consciousnesses who refuse to let go.
Wanderer is one such “soul,” driven on a mission to find her host Melanie’s brother and former partner, who are part of a human resistance. At times, it is difficult to distinguish where Wanderer ends and Melanie begins, and vice versa, leading to a complicated tangle of emotions and (of course) a love triangle. The story explores concepts of self, soul, love, and family in thoughtful ways. It is slow at times, but balanced with action and romance.
However, I DO NOT RECOMMEND the audiobook. I like Kate Reading as a narrator for high fantasy, but alien romance not so much. Her narration made it difficult for me to connect emotionally with the characters and lessened my enjoyment of the book. If the book were not so long, I would have switched to the physical book, but I just didn’t have time.