Friday, May 16, 2008

Humans Battling Mind Controlling Aliens: a Struggle of Cardian Proportions (Part I)

A few months ago I did a series of posts on Orson Scott Card and his influence on Stephenie Meyer. (See posts I, II and III.) Their stories are built around the issue of society building; groups of people are thrown together, who may not have any particular love for each other, yet come to form a bond with one another and, from that bond, create a small society or even a family. This issue could have been explored further though I moved on to other things. Little did I know that Meyer would thrust me back into this issue by making her next book even more explicitly “Cardian” than even Twilight. There are things on the surface of Meyer’s new novel, the Host, which call attention to Card. This is a work of science fiction and the back cover of the book has a blurb from Card, praising Meyer. At a deeper level though Meyer has, once again, studied Card and has proven herself to be a most diligent and worthy student.

In what has now become her trademark, Meyer takes a stock horror story and fashions it as a charming and utterly captivating romance. The Host deals with an invasion of earth by aliens, known as Souls, which insert themselves into the bodies of human hosts and take control of them. This type of story has been done many times before. Such aliens have appeared as the villains in Robert A. Heinlein’s Puppet Masters and more recently the Animorphs series by K. A Applegate, to name some examples off the top of my head. For those of you who do not remember, the Animorphs was a series of children’s books that dominated the field of children’s literature back in the late nineties, before the rise of Harry Potter. In Meyer’s telling of the story these parasitical aliens are not evil beings out to conquer and enslave humanity. On the contrary they are creatures with highly developed moral sensibilities. They follow a strict code of Utilitarian ethics; their actions serve to create the greatest level of happiness for the greatest amount of beings. By taking over earth they have created a better, more ethical humanity in which people love one another and strive to serve the common good. The Souls, having conquered earth, have not destroyed human culture. On the contrary they continue to live as a human society, albeit a perfected one. Their hosts continue to live their human lives, holding down human jobs and raising human families.

The main character of the novel, Wanderer, is a Soul inserted into a young woman named Melanie Stryder. This should have allowed Wanderer to live a perfectly happy life inside Melanie’s body and with Melanie’s knowledge and memories. The problem for Wanderer is that Melanie has refused to go away and continues to live on. Worse, Wanderer finds herself inundated with memories of Melanie’s former life particularly of her younger brother, Jamie, and the man she loved, Jared, both of whom are now living in one of the last hidden free human holdouts. Haunted by these memories, Wanderer finds herself taking on Melanie’s connection to them and searching for them.

In a sense this is a story about three different characters in one body. There is Wanderer, Melanie and Melanie’s body. The lines between these characters are blurred, creating a, fourth, completely different character. Wanderer is now living in Melanie’s body, but has to deal with Melanie speaking in her head, which of course used to be Melanie’s head. Furthermore Wanderer is affected by the fact that the body she lives in is Melanie’s. This places certain constraints on Wanderer; by taking on Melanie’s body she is no longer Wanderer as she was but another version of Melanie. The conqueror, by the very act of conquering, has been conquered.

(To be continued …)

1 comment:

Whitney Johnson said...

Really, really interesting.

Look forward to reading the book!