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Stephenie Meyer fans just witnessed something of a miracle last month. Her fifth Twilight book, Midnight Sun was finally released after over a decade of waiting. For a long time, many of us had given up on reading Twilight from Edward’s perspective – see how she proved us wrong? The release quickly became a bestseller, soaring to No. 1 on the book charts within its first week as it surpassed one million copies sold. Amidst this comeback for Meyer, I can’t help but be reminded of her 2008 book The Host, which I was in the middle of reading when Midnight Sun was first leaked online.
While Meyer is undoubtedly most famous for her take on vampire lore, The Host is her own spin on the science fiction genre, that is (brace for it) arguably more clever than the romance between Edward and Bella. Meyer even told The Guardian she hopes it's the book she's most remembered for.
At a thick 600 pages, the Twilight author changed things up with a post-apocalyptic story centering on an alien race known as “Souls,” who have invaded Earth and placed themselves inside the body of humans. The story centers on “Wanderer” or Wanda, who takes over the body of Melanie Stryder, a young woman who will not let Wanda make herself at home in her body. Let’s talk through what happened to The Host and why it's time for the author to revisit it after Midnight Sun.
The Host Was Supposed To Be A Trilogy
Although The Host book stood well on its own, the idea of Stephenie Meyer building the story into a series has been exciting to fans – especially ever since she announced plans to create a trilogy that would round out with The Soul and The Seeker. Here’s what Meyer said in 2013 on the heels of the The Host movie adaptation:
Once you’ve created characters that have life to them, unless you kill them all, you know where their stories go. You’re always aware of what happens next. I’ve got outlines for the next books. I would hope that this would be a three-book arc, but we’ll see.
The Host is an interesting premise on its own, but there is a lot that could be explored further past the events of the first novel. The 2008 book is this mind war between Melanie and Wanderer. During the time they share the same headspace, Wanderer comes around to appreciating humans and the Earth her people have been decimating. The war between the humans and the alien "Souls" was not over by the end of The Host and a trilogy could fully explore this world that Stephenie Meyer has created and these existential questions that were only beginning to be discussed through the sci-fi romance.
The Host Book Vs. The Movie
The Host was always a more understated aspect of Meyer’s career, but interest majorly fizzled out after a movie adaptation was released in 2013 starring now Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan as Wanda, William Hurt and Diane Kruger. The movie that cost $40 million to produce only managed to make $63 million at the box office, placing the returns for the film basically at zero. It was a huge flop. The movie also earned a nine percent on Rotten Tomatoes, making the Twilight franchise's critical acclaim look like high-brow cinema in comparison. Despite its killer cast, yes The Host is still awful. But it was also handled incredibly poorly by Gattaca and Lord of War writer/director Andrew Niccol or at least the Hollywood executives at large.
There are many problems with The Host movie, but the worst offense is it was treated like Twilight by another name. It does share some elements of the franchise on the surface, such as a young woman being at the center of it and Wanda/Melanie are faced with a couple of love interests despite a supernatural situation. But the tone of The Host book was a lot more introspective and gripping than Bella’s story. It’s not as self-indulgent as Twilight is either. Melanie is dealing with the loss of her own life and the family she doesn’t want to lose because of Wanda’s allegiance to her alien race. The Host movie also lacked vision to make a complicated story about a woman trapped in an alien’s head work. It’s a tough premise to make pop on screen as it is, but the 2013 movie just made it all-out laughable.
Why It's Time To Give The Host Another Chance On The Page And On The Big Screen
Just because The Host did not get a fair chance to appeal to mainstream audiences through a film adaptation, that doesn’t mean Stephenie Meyer should give up on the franchise as a whole. Now more than ever, there’s an interest to revisit the author and alongside her aspirations to explore Twilight with two more books (or perhaps before), there’s still a fanbase for The Host trilogy that should be realized on the page. It's not an easy ask, especially considering how long it took for the author to finish up Midnight Sun to begin with.
On the film side of things, The Host has proven itself a difficult property to adapt, but with the right eye on the project it could be a worthy franchise to pursue as a trilogy. Not every book adaptation benefits from going page by page with the script and I believe that would be the case for The Host. While you’re reading a book you have the benefit of being inside the character's minds, but when there’s a voiceover speaking to a person and then reacting to it, it becomes incredibly awkward to view. I’d imagine if The Host focused on the Wanderer’s perspective instead, with Melanie haunting her mind being revealed over time and being experienced from the alien's perspective it could have been much more effective and get across the book's messages.
The truth is, the odds are truly against The Host until Stephenie Meyer choses to continue to pen the franchise. Midnight Sun could offer confidence in the writer to pursue more projects and attention to a new era for her would best be put to use (especially if she’s tired of Twilight) by going back to her imaginative sci-fi franchise.
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