We’ve been working on The Host for about four weeks now, so here’s a quick recap of everything that’s been up so far! A bodysnatching alien race called Souls have taken over species across the galaxy where they assume individual lives and try to live out their hosts’ lives as closely to how the host species would have. This makes sense to them. Our main character is a Soul named Wanderer who, in order to gain intelligence for the Souls, has taken over the body of a rebel named Melanie, a young female human who rebelled against the invasion and was in love with a man named Jared, which is important somehow. But it’s going badly because Wanderer didn’t account for human feelings.
This is the plot so far of the book we are reading.
Chapter 5: Uncomforted
In this chapter, we skip ahead in time a little bit and Wanderer is going to her Comforter, which is the Soul-society’s version of a therapist. The most important bit of information we can get from this is that, yes, the chapter title is actually “Uncomforted”. All of the chapters have been titled with a past participle. This one has been creatively titled “Uncomforted”. I wonder if Wanderer’s trip to her Comforter is going to be fruitful?
“I understand. It’s difficult for you to come here. You wish so much that it wasn’t necessary. It’s never been necessary for you before. This frightens you.”
I stared down at the wooden floor. “Yes, Comforter.”
“I know I’ve asked you to call me Kathy. […] You are not at ease with human names yet, are you, Wanderer?”
We find out that Wanderer is happily teaching classes as a Professor of History. Also, Kathy has a romantic partner named Curt, and they met each other because their hosts were a married couple. I don’t even know what to make of this. What the hell are the Souls even doing? They make no sense as antagonists because their motives are too ethereal to be malicious. They just seem clueless.
“Did you know I came to Earth in one of the very first placements, before the humans had any idea we were here? I had human neighbors on both sides. Curt and I had to pretend to be our hosts for several years. Even after we’d settled the immediate area, you never knew when a human might be near. So Kathy just became who I was.”
Then why the hell do they bother?!
Aside from how I’m still baffled why the novel’s antagonist is an alien species that’s very into role-playing and that’s about it, I’d like to draw your attention to the “had to pretend to be our hosts for several years” part. I can’t fathom how that could have played out, given how unintuitive Wanderer is and still needs to think about how to smile. Of course, Wanderer falls victim to what I like to call “post-Twilight literary theory”, where young female characters are depicted as emotionally weak since, you know, the last time this author tried writing a book. To support her anti-feminist archetype, Meyer falls back on the “only weak people seek out therapy” stereotype.
Okay, I realize I got really English major on you in that last paragraph, but – no, really – she spells out the “only weak people seek out therapy” stereotype just in case you don’t get it:
I stared at her, surprised and suddenly more respectful. I’d never taken Comforters very seriously – never had a need for them before now. They were for those who struggled, for the weak, and it shamed me to be here. Knowing Kathy’s history made me feel slightly less awkward with her. She understood strength.
Sure, there’s a valid argument to be made here that Wanderer’s opinion about seeking help are wrong and she realizes that they’re wrong, but I feel the need to stress that she has very wrong reasons for reaching that conclusion because she’s still focused on weakness and strength as black and white things. The message here is that therapy is for wimps, but this therapist is a badass on the side, so they’re okay.
Wanderer starts talking about her feelings… for Jared. Or, rather, Melanie’s feelings for Jared. Kathy freaks out because the host is still “that… present” after all this time.
“Wanderer!” Kathy exclaimed, horrified. “Why didn’t you tell me it was that bad? How long has it been this way?”
Which actually is a pretty okay metaphor for how therapy should work. They talk about how bad it is, whether Wanderer is unhappy (Jesus, Kathy, have you even met Wanderer?), and whether she should be transferred to a new host.
“Maybe it’s an accident, maybe it’s fate, but it appears to me that the strongest of our kind is being hosted by the strongest of theirs.”
Jesus, Kathy, have you even met Wanderer?
Chapter 6: Followed
Ariel mentioned yesterday that she couldn’t tell if this was the same therapy session or a later one. I can’t tell either. Kathy talks about how she can’t do “quick fixes”, Wanderer talks about how she’ll be better about making appointments. Our context clues are useless. Stephanie Meyer has taken down two English majors with Bachelor’s Degrees.
They try to figure out how to keep Melanie a more docile host. Wanderer talks about how Melanie is easier to control when she’s lecturing as a professor because Melanie gets bored, and because that seems to work Kathy suggests that Wanderer find other ways to keep her bored more often, such as… making more friends?
“You said Melanie grows bored during your working hours… that she is more dormant. Perhaps if you developed some peer relationships, those would bore her also.”
Yeah, I bet you thought I was oversimplifying my summary to try to make fun of the story, but NOPE actually what’s written in the book. If you need to keep people bored, make them interact with people more often! Although to be fair, I guess anybody who’d be friends with Wanderer would be pretty boring.
Also Wanderer needs to get laid.
“Haven’t you come across anyone that your body has responded to in the present – on a strictly chemical level?”
I thought her question through carefully. “I don’t think so. Not so I’ve noticed.”
“Trust me,” Kathy said dryly. “You’d notice.”
Goddamn, I wish Wanderer had a male host. Wanderer’s reaction to its first erection would have been hilarious.
Kathy suggests that maybe they’ll find this Jared that Melanie keeps dreaming about and maybe he’ll get implanted with a Soul that maybe Wanderer will fall in love with. Which is a lot of maybes. Wanderer/Melanie gets caught up in their emotions/the stupidity of Kathy’s plan and runs off crying and throws up.
I felt sick. I remembered what it felt like to vomit, though I never had. The cold wetness dewed on my forehead, the hollow sound rang in my ears. I was pretty sure I was about to have that experience for my own.
The Seeker from earlier in the novel shows up right now – for some reason – and Wanderer/Melanie tries to strangle her before Wanderer stops. The Seeker thinks Wanderer is just sick, but we know what’s up, don’t we?
They keep talking. The Seeker makes fun of Wanderer for not having been able to get her more information about the human rebellion from Melanie’s memories, and, uh, guys, I told you from the beginning, she’s seriously underqualified for this job having never been a human before.
The Seeker sighed. “I expected more of you. Your track record seemed so promising.”
Her track record that does not include the job you need her to do that millions of other Souls are known to be capable of doing and do so every day? Yeah, it’s a mystery.