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The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Review by Gayle Surrette
Sphere Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781847441836
Date: 25 April 2008 List Price £14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /

Stephenie Meyer has become a name to reckon in YA circles following the massive success of her trilogy of vampire novels, Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse published here in the UK by Atom. She now sets out capture a more mature audience with her new novel The Host, "... a gripping novel of love and betrayal set in a future when the fate of humanity is at stake." - I bet she does it too! A lead title released by Sphere in hard cover.

Earth has been invaded by aliens. There was no war, no ultimatums, no space battles or destruction of property. By the time people started to realize that something was wrong, it was already too late. The aliens were already here and in charge. Of course, there were a few pockets of human resistance but they have no way to connect to other survivors and every raid for supplies is a chance they could be caught and made to give up their cohorts. Will humanity survive?

Of course, there have been alien invasion stories almost from the beginning of science fiction. There have even been invasions where the aliens take over humans as hosts: John W. Campbell Jr.'s "Who Goes There?" which was later made into the movie The Thing, the Goa'uld from Stargate SG1, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. I'm sure there are others, but the premise is that a person is taken over, the alien has access to the memories of the host, and thus is fairly indistinguishable from the original host. As the Goa'uld say "nothing of the host remains" or so it has been on all the previous planets taken by the aliens.

What Meyer has done is to give us the story from the alien soul's point of view. So we know what Wanderer knows. The problem is that Melanie isn't gone, and she doesn't want to share her body with Wanderer. Melanie won't give up her secrets, she can shield part of her mind from Wanderer. However, Wanderer is being pushed and closely observed by the alien version of security personnel who want to know where Melanie came from, and if there are others. Wanderer and Melanie must come to an understanding, an accommodation of sorts, or neither of them will be free. Melanie shares some of her memories of her lover and her brother and soon Wanderer doesn't know if she cares for them herself or if it's only Melanie's memories, but she feels she must now protect Melanie's humans from her own people.

Meyer takes time to build up the relationship between the alien and the host. She gives us glimpses into the culture and psychology of the aliens through Wanderer's memories. But she also leaves the information about humans mainly to be filled in by the reader. We know humans with all our warts and halos. The reader can fill in what might be happening to the aliens in the host bodies, at least some aliens, based on our own belief in the fighting spirit of humankind.

This is not an action packed thriller of alien take over. It's more a slow spiral of a story that circles round and round upon itself until it reaches a conclusion that, while satisfactory, is also open-ended, leaving the reader to wonder what happens next. Advertised as a romance with two bodies and three people, it's not so much a romance as a compelling story of normal people in extra-normal circumstances.

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