Today in The Host, Wanderer and Doc start freeing the minds of humans whose bodies have been taken over by the enemy race that has ended human society. It’s like The Matrix, except with way fewer guns, and the only scenes in slow motion are the ones where Stephenie Meyer is writing exposition.
Chapter 53: Condemned
Wanderer basks in her triumph of having freed the first human from the soul that took it over by complaining about how fucking annoying she is.
Lacey was just as loud as the Seeker – and still a complainer.
God, Lacey, we get that you’ve spent years having your body taken over by a separate, parasitic consciousness that took your life and agency away from you, but quit complaining, you baby.
“You’ll have to forgive me for going on and on,” she insisted, allowing us no other options. “I’ve been shouting away in there for years and never getting to speak for myself. […]”
How lucky for us. I could almost make myself glad that I was leaving.
Okay, usually I’m misanthropic and cynical enough where I find this sort of thing really funny in kind of a dark humor way, but “misanthropic” and “cynical” and “dark” aren’t really words I’d use to describe, you know, Wanderer. Hell, I’d probably come up with the opposite of those words, like “affable” and “idealistic” and “has such a goddamn sunny disposition I want to punch her in the face”. Or something. Basically my point is gee, how out of character.
Lacey explains that she was a resistant host, like Melanie, and the Seeker couldn’t shut her up and that was why she was so obsessed with Wanderer, because she wanted to see if she would have better luck subduing a resistant host. And that’s a pretty reasonable explanation for why the Seeker was the way she was, although it doesn’t really make any sense why she would interpret Wanderer’s disappearance and likely attempt to make contact with her host’s human friends as a sign to continue to follow her and see if she had any luck subduing her resistant host. Because, you know, it doesn’t.
Ariel: Also, it doesn’t fully explain to me why she hated Wanderer so much. Lacey says it’s because Wanderer was good at handling Melanie and she was jealous of that? But all the Seeker ever did was point out how shit Wanderer was at being in a human body and threaten to take over her body for her instead. Which also makes no sense. Leave one horrible host for another?
Lacey then goes on to ask Wanderer why she’s doing any of the things she is doing (join the club, Lacey), and Wanderer explains that she and her host Melanie are friends. Lacey is skeptical. Meyer then goes on to somehow write a character even more unlikeable than the ones who are already in this book.
“Do you have anywhere better to live than these caves It’s so dirty here. Isn’t there a house somewhere, maybe? What do you mean we have to share rooms? Chore schedule? I don’t understand. I have to work? I don’t think you understand…”
After the successful extraction of the soul from her host returning Lacey back to normal, Kyle disappears in the middle of the night and people suspect he’s looking for his ladyfriend Jodi. This event that is the only thing with potential to push the narrative towards any kind of climax gets, like, half a page. The rest of the chapter is, of course, given to Wanderer narrating her feelings about whether anyone likes her and observations about the human condition and fast food.
To me, this was sort of a last meal – the final gift to the condemned.
Wanderer and the gang go to the local intergalactic airport (I guess) and Wanderer shows the team how to identify which shuttles go to which planets, and then they drive up in their van to the delivery truck for the Flower Planet shuttle, put the Seeker’s tank in the truck when no one’s looking, and drive off, because apparently it’s just that easy. (Ariel says: Everything is super easy when your enemies are really nice, trusting and nonviolent. This would be a horrible video game to play.) Then they go kidnap some Healers so they can remove the souls from them to see 1) if a host whose original consciousness is “gone” can come back, and 2) maybe if they do they’ll retain the soul’s medical knowledge because… maybe? Why not.
They extract one soul, with Wanderer teaching Doc how to do it this time. While this happens, the other kidnapped Healer comes to.
The Healer stared straight at me, his face childlike in his bewilderment. I knew why his eyes were on me – the lantern’s rays danced off both his eyes and mine, making diamond patterns on the wall.
“Why?” he asked me.
Then his face went blank, and his body slumped, unresisting, to the cot.
Guys, this soul knew Wanderer for a paragraph and immediately killed himself. New. Favorite. Character.
Chapter 54: Forgotten
Of course, Wanderer doesn’t see it that way, and proves that she doesn’t understand a single thing that’s going on in this story, despite pages and pages of thinking about it.
I so much wished that the soul had waited for an answer, so I could have tried to explain it to him. He might have even understood. […] If he’d really understood, I was sure he would have let the human body live.
The human who they removed the soul from still hasn’t said anything and Wanderer waits by her side, wondering if it’s too late for her.
Ariel says: It’s really great because Wanderer tries to guess this woman’s name like it’s that easy to do.
I touched her face now lightly, patting the soft brown hair, woven through with white strands, away from her face. “Julie? Brittany ? Angela? Patricia? Am I getting close? Talk to me. Please?”
It would have been even better if she had to guess a soul’s name, though, because you could just string any weird, random combination of words together and it would be a soul name. Poops on Cherries? Wings of Chicken? Lumberjack Pancake Mushroom? Celestial Wingdings?
Long past everyone else has given up on waiting, she finally begins to stir when Wanderer, thinking out loud (of course), says the word, “Summer”, so Wanderer thinks maybe that’s her name and calls Doc.
“Don’t, please,” the woman begged. “Not again.”
“Shh, Doc murmured. “Summer? […]”
“Don’t call me that!” the woman sobbed. “That’s not my name! It’s hers, it’s hers! […]”
“Of course not,” Doc promised. “What is your name?”
“I-I-I don’t know!” she wailed. “What happened? Who was I? Don’t make me be someone else again?”
Honestly? I liked this scene. This was the first time in a whole novel about a bodysnatching aliens who have taken over humanity and brought about the end of human civilization where there was any real sense of horror and bleakness. Seeing this woman come to after possibly an entire life of a type of slavery that has shut her consciousness out of her body and have no idea who she is captures the terror of the novel’s premise in a way the novel has previously completely failed at doing.
Ariel: I wish I could agree, but this made no sense to me. If the souls had been there for long enough and she’d basically be living as one with the soul from childhood, I could get this. But how could this woman not know her own name? I don’t know, it just didn’t ring true that she wouldn’t understand what happened or who she was if she was aware that whole time. Lacey and Melanie may have had very different relationships with their souls, but they were very aware of what was going on, and it was never mentioned that Lacey had any difficulty regaining control over her body. So now we’re suddenly meant to believe that some people don’t keep their own identity and they don’t disappear but they can’t distinguish between themselves and the souls? In the hands of a writer I was more confident in, I would be more likely to get on board.
“I’m Doc. And I’m human, just like you. See? […] We’re both just ourselves. There are lots of humans here. They’ll be so happy to meet you.”
She cringed again. “Humans! I’m afraid of humans.”
“No, you’re not. The… person who used to be in your body was afraid of humans.”
This is a character you can actually sympathize with and want to know what’s going to happen to her. So, naturally, Meyer immediately has Wanderer leave the most interesting thing to happen in this novel and spends even more pages having Wanderer run around the cave looking for people who she just can’t find anywhere. Then she finally finds them all around the entrance of the cave, where Kyle has returned with (presumably) Jodi and, god willing, the events that will bring about the climax of this goddamn narrative already.