(The Host author Stephanie Meyer)
It turns out that those humans who knew about the sneaky
alien invasion beforehand are however more resistant to their new alien
overlords and Wanderer has a tough time taking complete control of Melanie
whose mind is still active somewhere in the recesses of Wanderer’s
consciousness. Later on Melanie’s feelings, emotions and memories become
intertwined with those of Wanderer’s, which is why Wanderer finally goes
off into the desert to find Melanie’s younger brother and boyfriend,
In the desert Wanderer/Melanie is captured by a group of
human resistance fighters who hide in some intricate underground caves.
Jared is amongst the humans and so is her kid brother.
Many of the novel’s 617 pages are taken up with
Wanderer/Melanie’s efforts to convince the suspicious humans that she
isn’t a threat to them because she still loves her old boyfriend and
brother. Wanderer has gone native as they say - but how to convince the
natives of this? Things become complicated when a protective human named
Ian falls in love with Wanderer, which means that we have a convoluted
“love triangle” in which two men loves two separate entities inhabiting
the same female body . . .
Reading The Host I kept on thinking how difficult
it will be to make a movie out of it. For starters, much of the “action”
(there isn’t really a lot of it to be honest) is internal and consists of
Wanderer and Melanie struggling it out for supremacy in Melanie’s body.
How to depict all their internal dialogue? I don’t know. The easy way out
would be to present Melanie’s presence as someone which only Wanderer can
“see” –a device which they use on TV shows a lot. But it is such a
creative copout that one really hopes that the film-makers never go that
route and come up with something more visually interesting.
The other problem is that about 75% of the action takes
place in underground caves, which will give the movie a claustrophobic
feel. Any screenwriter or director will have to their best to free up the
action to outside locations; otherwise audiences will feel as if they are
watching a filmed stage play.
"The book's alien heroine is so gosh darned altruistic,
self-sacrificing and nice that you want to throw up!"
If anyone can do this, it is the talented Andrew Niccol
who not only directed two bona fide intelligent science fiction classics
(namely Gattaca and
The Truman Show), but also showed a flair
for interesting visuals and storytelling techniques in Lord of War,
the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie about illegal weapons smuggling. Here one can
flashback to CG scenes of previous alien worlds where Wanderer lived for
instance – just the sort of stuff to put into the movie trailer as well.
The biggest problem though is that while The Host
is better than I expected, it still has some major flaws. Its biggest
problem is its “ain’t people just so gosh darned nice?” aesthetic.
Even the aliens themselves are so loveable that one wonders how they
managed to have conquered so many planets in the first place!
In Meyer’s universe people are all inherently good.
“Bad” people are just misguided and will soon overcome their prejudices
and accept our heroine, Wanderer / Melanie for what she is instead of the
group (genocidal alien invaders) she belongs to. Wanderer / Melanie
herself (itself?) is so darned altruistic, self-sacrificing and nice that
you’ll want to throw up. The Host comes across at times like the end
product of what would happen when The Simpsons’ goody two shoes
neighbor Ned Flanders decided to try his hand at writing science fiction!
The book’s last hundred or so pages is particularly hard
to stomach. One keeps on reading because one wants to see how the author
will satisfactorily resolve the impossible dilemma for her heroine – she
is after all a traitor to her own species and do not really belong with
the humans. Wanderer/Melanie is a metaphor for any persecuted minority
group (blacks, homosexuals, anime figurine collectors, etc.) who wants to
be accepted by the “mainstream”. (For more such metaphors, check out the
HBO series True Blood.) By her
own “Liberal” politics she has no reason to inhabit Melanie’s body, but in
Meyer’s fictional world people will easily overcome their own prejudices
and judge someone on their individual merits.
As you might have guessed by now, The Host isn’t
exactly V or any other action-filled alien
invasion tale. The human resistance aren’t machinegun toting mavericks who
blast away everything in their path even though there probably will be
times when you wish that they were. Instead it is an intelligent and
somewhat talky love story that descends into mawkishness particularly
towards the end.
One can only hope that director Niccol will focus on the
book’s strengths and lay off on the noble self-sacrifice a bit. In such an
event, The Host might just turn out to be one of the more
interesting science fiction movies to come our way in quite a while . . .