Check out our episode here! The Host by Stephenie Meyer
There was an alien invasion of Earth and we lost. Shit. Melanie Stryder managed to survive longer than most… but then when the aliens are finally closing in, she throws herself out of a window. Unfortunately for Melanie, the aliens heal her broken body and place a Soul inside her brain. When she wakes up, Melanie no longer has control of her body, but she hasn't disappeared like the rest of the human hosts do. The Soul called Wanderer is now the dominant personality in Melanie's body and it is her job to access Melanie’s memories and tell the Seekers where to find more humans.
The Souls have traveled millions of light years across the galaxy and conquered several planets. The Souls inhabit the bodies of each conquered planet's dominant species and, though they are invasive, they aren't violent. They are peaceful and value knowledge. Wanderer has lived on more planets than pretty much all the rest of the Souls, Earth being her ninth. She's one of the only Souls still around from The Origin, where all Souls come from, and she's also lived on Mist World with the ice-sculpting Bears, Dragon World, Singing World with the Bats, Fire World with its inhospitable ecosystem, the Planet of the Flowers, the Spiders' World with super genius spiders with multiple brains, and the underwater planet with the See Weeds.
Typically when a Soul takes over a Host, the original owner will lose their consciousness and who they are and drift away, though the Soul will always have access to their memories. Melanie is strong, though, and is still hanging around inside her own mind, attempting to block Wanderer from learning anything about the humans she knows, her brother Jamie and her boyfriend Jared. After a few weeks, Wanderer is able to access some of Melanie’s memories despite Melanie’s loud protests. Through these memories and Melanie’s feelings attached to them, Wanderer grows to love Jamie and Jared as much as Melanie. Through all this, Melanie's consciousness is kicking and screaming, refusing to drift away and she fights Wanderer for control.
A Seeker convinces Wanderer to visit a healer to be extracted and placed in a different host body because Melanie is getting to be too much. The Seeker will then be placed in her body to find out what she knows. On her way to the Healer, Melanie lets Wanderer see memories of her Uncle Jeb and tells her Jamie and Jared will be with him in a safe place in the desert, and that she can't let the Seeker find them. Wanderer agrees. She sneaks off into the desert and journeys for days, nearly dying before Uncle Jeb finds her. Jeb knows his niece is dead, that her body is now a Host, but he still takes her back to his “house.”
Jeb’s “house” is a series of lava tubes deep in a mountain. They are a natural maze where several families and other human survivors are living. The inhabitants all demand Wanderer’s death. They don’t want her going back to the other aliens and telling them where they are, but Jeb says it’s his house, his rules and she lives. This obviously doesn’t go down well, despite Jeb’s trusty shotgun in his hand, and it isn’t until Jared speaks up that the others calm down. If they kill Melanie’s body, then she will be truly dead. Jared hadn’t given up on finding Melanie, he still loves her and believed she must have been alive all this time, but then he backhands Melanie across the face. The alien may have Melanie’s face, but she is not Melanie.
Wanderer is isolated in a small cave and guarded by two brothers, Kyle and Ian. They do not like her at all. During the night the brothers attempt to murder her but she is saved by Jared. Wanderer tries to tell Jared that Melanie is still alive, still there, inside her mind, but Jared refuses to believe her. Melanie is keening and screaming for Jared the whole time he throws verbal hate at Wanderer.
Over the next few weeks, Wanderer slowly becomes accustomed to life in the cave, and the humans sort of get used to her. They haven’t even tried to kill her again. Jamie, Melanie’s little brother, started to secretly visit Wanderer but eventually was able to openly associate with her. Jamie likes her and seems to be able to recognize that it might be his sister's body, but there is someone else in control. Wanderer already has a soft spot for Jamie thanks to Melanie and Jamie becomes like a little brother to her too.
It is during a supply run being led by Jared that Jeb takes Wanderer out for a tour of the caves. He also shortens Wanderer’s name to Wanda and encourages her to teach the humans about the different worlds she has been on. Sharing knowledge and storytelling come naturally to Wanda and she does so each night after she has helped prepare the meals. Ian, one of her would-be murderers has also had a change of heart. He slowly starts to kindle a friendship between them, and possibly more. Melanie does not like this, nope, not one bit. She warns Wanda not to fall for Ian but Wanda is determined to make a life for herself.
After a few weeks, Jared and the other supply runners return and he is furious to find Wanda moving freely about the caves. Jeb explains to Jared that Melanie is still alive inside Wanda’s mind, but Jared refuses to believe it and tries to kill her. Ian stops him and kisses Wanda, which makes Melanie MAD, mad enough for her to gain control of her body and punch Ian. This is pretty strong evidence that Melanie is still alive in there.
Kyle, the other original would-be killer, tries his luck again while Wanda is bathing in the underground spring. Kyle attempts to drown her but Wanda is able to break free, but they both struggle on the ground that begins to break away and they slip. Kyle is about to fall to his death, but Wanda saves him and then lies to protect him. Ian comes in then and takes Wanda to see Doc in the hospital. While there, Wanda notices a section curtained off, both Ian and Jared refuse to let her near the area which makes both Wanda and Melanie suspicious of what they are hiding. Also during this time, one of the residents who has come to treat Wanda as a friend dies, and she spends most of her free time with him to ease his passing.
Ian confesses to Wanda that he is in love with her, not her body, but her as a Soul. This makes Melanie mad again. Wanda shouldn’t have let things go so far. This stops Wanda from responding to Ian in kind because she wants to respect Melanie, she is after all using her body. Funny though, because she has feelings for Jared, too, because of Melanie, but Melanie won't let Wanda touch him either.
Jared eventually goes out on another supply run taking Jamie with him. While he is gone, Wanda sneaks into the hospital to find out what has been going on. What she finds traumatizes her. Bodies of Souls are lying about, their silver blood splashed all over. They’ve been discarded like trash. This causes Wanda to spiral and she falls into a deep state of mourning. At first, the humans don’t understand, they tell her the bodies were covered but they are talking about the human bodies who died after unsuccessful Soul extraction. What Wanda saw were babies and blood and bodies of her own people, violent deaths that her species doesn’t understand or condone. For days Wanda doesn’t speak, she’s returned to the cramped little cave they put her in for her imprisonment, and she refuses most of the food and drink she is offered. Ian stays by her side the whole time. Melanie is quiet.
Jeb comes to tell Wanda that Jamie has fallen ill, he fell on his own knife during the supply run and is dying from infection. Melanie is quiet inside their head, but Wanda needs her help to figure out how to save Jamie. There's lots of kissing of both Ian and Jared to get her to show up again, but she finally does and demands Wanda get the supplies needed to help Jamie from the Souls. Wanda knows that the Souls' advanced medicine is the only way to save Jamie, but there's no way they'll trust her enough to let her leave the cave. Wanda talks to Jared and explains her plan. He agrees and they sneak out of the cave for a hospital.
Wanda gets Jared to hit her face to disguise the scars on it, she then brazenly walks into a Soul facility, asks to see a Healer, telling them she was hurt on a hike, and robs them of supplies. Stealing isn’t part of the Soul culture, so they wouldn’t suspect one of their own to do something like that. They return to the cave and within minutes, Jamie is healed. They now realize the benefits of having a Soul on their supply runs and that Wanda maybe isn’t so bad.
Wanda can shop in stores without raising suspicion and she can help them get past Souls without raising an alarm, so supply runs have just gotten way easier. When they return from one such supply run they discover that a Seeker has found the cave and has been imprisoned. It is the persistent Seeker who has been trying to find Wanda all this time. Wanda does not want the Soul to be murdered and makes a deal with Doc. In exchange for showing him how to safely remove a Soul from a host, he must send the Souls to one of the other inhabited planets. Wanda also adds that the Doc is to perform the procedure on her too, but to let her Soul die. Melanie is protesting inside their body.
Wanda goes on a supply run for medical aids and cryo tanks. The Souls are great organizers, so everything is neatly labeled, including the planetary destination of the tanks. Wanda shows the doctor how to remove a Soul and they send the one inhabiting the Seeker back into space. The Seeker had the same issue with her host personality that Wanda has with Melanie, but while Wanda and Melanie grew to know and accept each other, becoming sisters really, the Seeker's host is... well... she’s an entitled pain in the ass and the other cave inhabitants find her challenging. The Seeker's Soul is sent to the furthest planet from Earth.
There are other Soul removals with varying degrees of success. It’s a traumatic procedure and the host personality doesn’t always return. Kyle at one point runs off, returning days later with a Soul, Sunny, who has inhabited his girlfriend Jodi’s body. They extract the Soul but Jodi doesn’t reassert. Eventually they put Sunny back, and she and Kyle start a relationship.
Wanda has decided she has had enough of stealing Melanie’s life from her, that she needs to have her body back, so she asks Doc to finally remove her but to remember that he promised not to send her off to one of the other planets, but to let her end her wandering on Earth, the only planet where she truly feels at home. Reluctantly he agrees. Melanie is not happy, Ian is not happy, even Jared isn’t. If the procedure doesn’t work they will lose them both, but either way, they will lose Wanda who they now hold dear. Ian tells Wanda he loves her and Melanie “goes into the other room” to give them time to say goodbye.
Wanda undergoes the procedure but ends up waking in another human's body. Jeb explains they found a body for her after they removed a Soul and the body never regained consciousness. Ian has been cradling her in the stasis pod until they found a Host. Ain’t that sweet! Melanie walks up to Wanda and thanks her for never giving up on her and for giving her her life back. Wanda is reunited with Ian and they actually have a relationship. Jamie is unphased. He's just happy to have both Wanda and Melanie in his life. Some weeks later, out on a supply run, they are stopped by a group of humans, more rebels. The leader introduces them to his best friend but they aren’t to be alarmed. It’s another Soul, another alien gone native. Looks like Wanda wasn't the only one to find a true home on Earth.