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File:TheHostBookCoverSM 4380.jpg

The Host 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 with three bodies. (Apparently SMeyer is somewhat incapable of writing a story that does not include some sort of complicated romantic entanglement. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

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 will be released in spring 2013.

Tropes used in The Host (novel) include:

  • 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 possesed.
  • 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, period. Even the names are similar.
  • 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.
  • 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, their reproductive method, which involves suiciding queens splitting apart into thousands upon thousands of tiny little babies is... well, yeah.
    • Perhaps this is an indirect tribute to Orson Scott Card, a Mormon author 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. Definitely not copies, though, for two reasons: One, Yeerks are slugs, Souls are insects. Two, Yeerks are Always Chaotic Evil. Except for some...
  • Blue and Orange Morality: It's Utopia Justifies the Means and Humans Are Bastards 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.
  • 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 Distressed Damsel 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.
  • 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: Reproduction among the queens is a rather suicidal process.
  • Did Not Do the Research - In the book, when a human has suffered severe physical trauma, their strongest memory is always of that trauma and the events leading up to it. Which is precisely the opposite of what happens in the real world when you suffer head injury.
    • When Wanderer accesses one of Melanie's memories of being burned on a frying pan, she mentions that it was so bad that she "burned the fingerprints off". The way it's described however, Melanie shouldn't have held on nearly long enough for that level of burn damage to occur.
    • When a human is severely dehydrated (as Wanderer is when the wild humans find her), you DO NOT give them large amounts of water, unless you want to finish them off. They need to be rehydrated slowly, in a way that will keep their electrolytes in balance, otherwise they will die of water intoxication.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Ian.
  • Doppelganger Replacement Love Interest: A borderline case occurs towards the end, when Kyle's fiance turns out to be brain-dead, leading the humans to place the soul back inside of her.
  • Elaborate Underground Base
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French - When a Soul gets a new host, they automatically gain all of that host's communicative abilties, 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".
  • Expy - The protagonist, Melanie seemed to remind me of someone from another book Meyer has written recently... I just can't put my finger on it.
    • Naturally, it follows: Say Melanie's full name out loud. Now say the author's name. Do you hear it?
    • Also, the Souls themselves, who are a rehash of a very old idea[1].
  • Extreme Doormat - Wanderer. Even the human colonists eventually get annoyed.
  • Fantastic Racism - implied, in that it never occurs to the souls 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.
  • 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.
  • Genetic Memory - The Souls have a form of this, though given the way they reproduce, it kinda makes a vague sort of sense.
  • Heel Face Turn - Wanderer's joining the side of the humans. Also, Burns at the end of the novel.
  • Heroic Sacrifice - Melanie attempts suicide in order to prevent the hosts from using her memories.. Wanderer also attempts suicide, but Jared intervenes at the last second.
  • Honor Before Reason - Wanderer, who lies, badly and obviously, in order 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.
  • Humans Are Bastards - A position which is so, so subverted.
  • Humans Are Special - See "Sense Freak" entry below.
  • 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.
  • Indestructible Edible - Twinkies in an abandoned house.
  • Inspector Javert - The Seeker
  • Interspecies Romance - Does not always work out, though.
  • 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.
  • Jail Bait Wait: Jared refused to sleep with Melanie until she turned eighteen. Wanderer took note of this, and lied about her age so that Ian wouldn't have the same scruple.
  • Jerkass - The Seeker, again. Her host is just as bad.
  • Mauve Shirt - Wes
  • Meaningful Echo: "It's a strange world...The strangest."
  • 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.
  • 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 Plaything 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, its very likely their souls will become a couple. It happens even if souls haven't met each other before.
  • 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.)
  • 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'.
  • Planet of Hats - Every planet taken over by the Souls.
  • 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.
  • Really Seven Hundred 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Torture Technician - Wanderer believes Doc to be this at first.
  • Xanatos Roulette - Jared initially believe everything Wanderer does is proof that she's secretly a Seeker trying to infiltrate the group.
  1. The Goa'uld, the parasites from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Bodysnatchers, the Yeerks