Why ‘The Host’ Is No ‘Twilight’—And That’s A Good Thing

As I wrote yesterday—and have said many times before—I’m deeply uncomfortable with many of the ideas in the Twilight series. But it’s easy for people to forget that those aren’t the only novels Stephenie Meyer ever wrote, and if they do, for them to assume that The Host, her science fiction novel, is as unnerving as Twilight. It’s not. In fact, while far from perfect, there’s some genuinely interesting world-building and stories about alien species in the novel. And I’m excited for the movie in part because it’s about how corrosive it is to deny someone control of their body and their mental autonomy:

The story is told from the perspective of Wanderer, a Soul, a member of an alien species that seizes control of the bodies of the species on planets it invades. But the Souls find that humans have stronger wills than great whales, or sentient flowers. And in particular, Wanderer discovers that Melanie, the woman whose body she occupies, has memories and a will, and is struggling to survive as an autonomous, uncontrolled being. Wanderer eventually comes to sympathize with her, and even to try to find a way to give Melanie control over her body and life again. And though there is a love triangle in the novels, it’s a much more nuanced one between Melanie/Wanderer, Jared, the man who loved Melanie before her body was given over to Wanderer, and Ian, who comes to love Wanderer for herself. It’s an important corrective to the drive towards bodily negation of Twilight, though I don’t know how much crossover there is between the readerships of each set of books. But if you were tempted to dismiss The Host because of who wrote it, it’s worth reconsidering at least the movie, even if you don’t want to commit to the novel.