This book is described as a “science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction”. That’s about right because the story doesn’t really revolve around the sci-fi aspect of it but rather on the human aspect. And yes, that includes the drama and, of course, romance! But hey! IT IS NOT A LOVE STORY! It is so much more than that. The love story can be your most favourite thing about it, however it is not mine and I don’t see it as the focus of the book.
This is a huge book so, if you like it, it’s gonna be a long amazing read. It’s also just one book. It doesn’t have any sequels like most fictions nowadays… or not yet, anyway. Stephenie Meyer promised a sequel to this novel ages ago but it was only recently that she confirmed that she’s writing The Seeker.
Back to the book.
Done with the whole colonisation stage… (You know, the messy part.) The earth is already totally occupied by these aliens who call themselves ‘Souls’, except for a few packets of resistance. These Souls are technologically-advanced and peaceful creatures who are trying to remedy a population explosion problem. (I’m not even exaggerating when I say ‘explosion’. These aliens have a huge reproduction problem, like, big time!) They have been invading planets through living inside its occupants’ bodies as hosts. They happen to pass earth and thought ‘This is a nice planet let’s go conquer it!’ which is good for them but not so much for humans. With them as the inhabitants, the world is at a state of utopia. Everything is shiny, serene and perfect which is not the usual kind of things that we associate with alien invasions.
This is where Melanie Stryder, one of the protagonists, comes in. She was just captured and the book literally started with a Soul, described as a beautiful silvery creature that slightly resembles a centipede, being inserted in her body. Mel is one of the protagonists because Wanderer is the other and the more prominent one. Wanderer – let’s call her Wanda because Wanderer really is a mouthful – is the Soul put in Melanie’s body. She’s put in there to dig into Mel’s memories to find other human rebels. But then there’s a bit of a problem. It is something that doesn’t usually happen but Mel is too strong and she refuses to fade away. So here we have a body with two beings trapped inside it.
Wanda is just getting used to her human body and Mel is understandably angry for being just a voice in the head, a grumpy and sarcastic one at that. Mel’s most recent memories are of her brother (Jamie) and boyfriend (Jared Howe) and those are constantly in Wanda’s head. Wanda eventually finds herself loving them too. She became torn whether to stay loyal to the Souls or find Mel’s family. The human emotions proved to be overwhelming and heart won over logic. They set out to find them and they did… along with a whole community of humans too.
Now, this is where things get complicated. And awesome. For me, it’s not until she found the humans that the story really develops. The premise of the book might be sci-fi – post apocalyptic, even. But when Wanda found herself around these threatened and at the same time threatening group of humans at the brink of extinction, the focus then became about humanity with all the negative and positive aspects of it.
There’s a lot of depth in each and everyone of the characters in the story. It provokes the readers to think why they are doing certain things or challenge them to understand why they are acting in a certain way. To add, the story is told in Wanda’s perspective hence the readers will see and experience everything through the eyes of an alien. Wanda’s new to everything ‘human’ and to see her immerse herself in it highlights the simple things that we won’t usually pay attention to since to us they are just natural or a part of being.
This is not a love story, as I’ve said in the beginning. Sure a love triangle involving only two bodies is problematic and rare. Nonetheless, much more attention is drawn to other kinds of human bonds which I found more integral part of the story.
There’s also the constant struggle inside Wanda. I don’t just mean the conflict with Melanie inside her head but also a real inner struggle with her own sense of emotion and logic. On one hand, she begins to care for the humans and starts to develop attachments she hasn’t done and experience before. But on the other, she feels guilty for betraying her own race and she begins to question her loyalty and whether what she’s doing is right for the greater good of everybody, humans or soul.
In the books, we see how friendships flourish and relationships break apart. We don’t just see kindness and hostility but also delve through the reasons behind them. We witness displays of the innate human curiosity. And finally, this book is an exhibition of human’s will to survive. Through reading the book, readers get to understand the very definition of what is human; experience what it’s like to be human; and see different ways of how to be human. This is what draws them in. This is why I love it.