Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Host and Companionship

“Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation...” ~ Oscar Wilde

Suffice it to say that I'm not a big science fiction fan. Like many women, I find the idea of aliens, space ships, rockets, futuristic weapons, sea monsters, Big Foot, and the entire area surrounding Roswell, New Mexico to be a colossal annoyance. I have never watched the SciFi Channel on cable television. I had no idea that there were entire series that had garnered passionate followings. I was terribly disappointed to see how many recent films either had aliens on Earth as their 'surprise twist' at the end, or as the movie's entire premise. I was ready to walk out of the much anticipated final Indiana Jones movie, when the otherworldly zinger happened. I have never even seen E.T.

However, because I liked Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series so much, I was willing to give her newest novel, "The Host" a try. I was reluctant, to say the least. Yet, I'd heard Ms. Meyer's interviewed about how this novel came to be. As a mother myself, I could relate to her story. She was driving a long (and dull) distance with her boys in the back of the car. They had finally settled down and were watching a DVD on the integrated system. I remembered, when my children were younger, wanting to canonize the person who developed this. It prevented me from spending 10 hours in the car, dealing with arguments like "Mom! She's over the LINE!" or hearing "I'm not touching you!". Ms. Meyers then related her profound boredom at the monotony of the road ahead and wishing she had someone (over the age of 9) to talk to. The thought came to her: "What if there were two people living in my head?".

Therein lies the premise for "The Host". Once I got passed the slightly creepy and wee bit confusing first two chapters, I realized that this was an excellent story about two women, with different thoughts, different ideas and different priorities who come to love one another in a deep and true friendship. Some of their goals become common to one another. Others remain individual and intact. Rather than give a synopsis of the story, I'd prefer to reflect on how much I gleaned from a novel that I hadn't believed I'd enjoy. The relationship between Wanda (the alien who inhabits the host's body) and Melanie (the host herself) is both complicated and fascinatingly simple. They come to admire one another's strengths of character and conviction. They come to realize that each personality possesses gifts that the other lacks. They realize that together, they create a powerful and well balanced person. They give each other advice, understanding and unconditional love.

How often in life have each one of us wished we'd had someone to talk to? There are times when just speaking words loses meaning and intent. What would it be like to have a best friend who is so completely integrated into our thoughts, that she would understand our animus, our signification and our very heart's desires, without having to vocalize these wishes...and lose part of the "meat" in the telling? Many children have imaginary friends. Some children go so far as to want to set a place at the table for "Mrs. Bloomsbury" or make sure she has her own stuffed animal to sleep with. These children (myself included, though it's only in reminders from my mother that I know this happened) "see" their chimerical whimsies, but only in relation to these sidekicks existing outside of their own bodies. The difference in the idea brought up in "The Host" is: "What if your companion resided within?". There are those who would say this is the path that leads to madness or delusion...and they wouldn't be far off the truth. In centuries past, people who 'heard voices' were burned at the stake for being possessed by demons! And yet, it's fascinating to contemplate having another sounding board, another voice or another perspective to bounce ideas off, to keep us company or to have that deep sense of intimacy with. After all, aren't we all looking to be understood, admired and loved for who we are?

While science fiction is still not my 'genre', I did learn a great deal from "The Host". I learned that it's always a good practice to step outside our comfort zones, and to experience a different perspective. It also sent my imagination off, wondering what my internal duality would be like, if she existed. I can only hope she has more coordination and is better at balancing the checkbook.