The X-files

The Host
Episode: 2X02
First aired: 9/23/94
Written by: Chris Carter
Directed by: Daniel Sacheim

One of the weirdest episodes of The X-files.

On a Soviet ship, a seaman is pulled into the sewage system and the body is found later in a New Jersey sewer.

Mulder is frustrated with, what he thinks, is a mindless assignment, since the X-files is closed. He tells Scully the he's thinking of quiting. However, Mulder receives a mysterious call that tells him he has a friend in the FBI and that the X-files may be opened soon.

Scully performs an autopsy on the dead soviet man finding a large live flatworm, or fluke, inside the man. Meanwhile a sanitation worker is attacked by something in the water and emerges with a large wound on his back and later complains of an odd taste in his mouth. The man goes home and while in the shower he starts to choke and coughs up a fluke that slides down the drain.

Mulder investigates a sewage processing plant and he and a worker see a creature and manage to catch it. The Flukeman is primate-shaped with no sex organs and a worm-like mouth.

While transferring the Flukeman, it gets out and attacks the driver and hides in a nearby port-o-john where he is sucked into a sewage tanker. Mulder tracks the tanker, determined to catch it before it escapes. he goes with a worker to look for it. The worker is attacked and Mulder jumps in the water to help him. He sees the Flukeman enter a drain and he drops the gate therefore cutting the Flukeman in half.

We see what is left of the Flukeman drifting down the pipe and the eyes open -- it's alive.

Important Quotes:
Norman (1st worker) -- "Hey, Agent Mulder. What would you like us to do with the body?"
Mulder -- " Wrap it up and send it to the F.B.I., care of Assistant Director Skinner."

Scully -- "Is this seat taken?"
Mulder -- " No. But I should warn you, I'm experiencing violent impulses."
Scully -- "Well, I'm armed, so I'll take my chances."

Scully -- "Apparently, it had attached itself to the bile duct and was feeding off the liver."
Mulder -- " Lovely."
Scully -- " Believe it or not, something like forty million people are infected worldwide."
Mulder -- "This isn't where you tell me some terrible story about sushi, is it?"

Scully -- "Radiation. Abnormal cell fusion. The suppression of natural genetic processes. Mulder, nature didn't make this thing. We did. "

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Back to The X-files: Season 2

Meyer, Stephanie. The Host. 1st ed. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

A little background. In 2005 Stephanie Meyer released her first novel, Twilight, which reached #5 on the New York Times bestseller list for young adult novels. It and its two sequels, New Moon and Eclipse, have spent a combined total of 143 weeks on said list, or so says Wikipedia. These books may not have necessarily been written for high school girls, but this is the audience among which they became the most popular. My wife, who teaches high school students (at least half of whom are female), was loaned the books by a student and gobbled them up in a matter of days, eager for more. The fourth book in the series, Breaking Dawn, is not set for release until August, and so my wife sought out more books written by Meyer, and came upon The Host. We ordered the book to our Amazon Kindle and it was quickly gobbled up in a similar fashion.

Now, I had little interest in the teen drama Twilight series (featuring both vampires and werewolves), but I was assured that this new novel was written for adults. So, I picked it up and likewise finished it in about a week. So, on to the review.

A brief synopsis. Fear not for spoilers, although this will be a bit more than a standard Amazon tagline. Earth has been invaded by an alien race calling themselves Souls. The invasion was complete before humanity even realized it had started. Souls are tiny, silvery, centipede-like, and have a parasite/host relationship with other intelligent lifeforms. When inserted into a human body at the base of the neck, they latch onto the victim's brain with hundreds of antennae, gaining complete control of the body and replacing the already present consciousness with their own.

When the novel opens, there are few "free" humans remaining. Those left are hunted down and implanted with Souls, who then search the memories of their host and lead the way to more wild humans. Melanie Stryder is one such unwilling host. Wanderer, the Soul given Melanie's body, soon discovers that her host refuses to fade away. Instead, Melanie is ever present in Wanderer's mind, filling it with her thoughts, emotions, and memories of her still human younger brother and love interest. Wanderer eventually succumbs to Melanie's overwhelming desire to be reunited with her loved ones, and sets out to find them herself.

The Host is a page-turner. It's a fairly quick, easy read; the 600 page text is divided into nearly 60 chapters. This makes it easy to pick up and read piecewise, since you're never far from a good place to stop. Of course, that's not really true. The majority of these chapters end in such a way that makes it nearly impossible not to keep going. If you find yourself able to stop reading, it's probably a good time to do so, because otherwise it's just going to pick right back up and you'll be forced to read for hours to come. The plot rises and falls like a roller coaster that's been squished together; you'll be climbing the next hill before you reach the bottom of the previous one.

The story is believable, assuming one accepts the premise, even if the settings and situations are sometimes stretching it. There are plot holes, but they are few and easy to overlook. The Souls and their society are very well imagined, and, while I could have read more about how they live and function and whatnot, the average reader is not nearly as big a lore nerd as I. Nonetheless, the reader is always informed of everything they need to know relevant to the story, and usually more.

The characters are very well developed, and as you see how intensely they can care about one another, you will start to care about them aswell. Dialogue is done well for the most part, with a few awkward moments which actually tend to add to the realism rather than detract from it. The back-and-forth between Melanie and Wanderer in one mind is done particularly well.

This is definitely an adult science fiction novel with a broad audience. That said, there are times when sappy teen girl fantasy moments sneak in, which I assume comes from the author's previous writing experience. (I'm not trying to knock on the Twilight series here as I have never read them; just going off what my wife has told me.) And, while these emotions remain a focal point of the story, such scenes do not. You will care about these characters.

A sequel is a certainty. I knew this before researching for this article and finding that it was already in the works. The Host could serve as a stand-alone novel, however the ending is very open and the "Epilogue" reads more like chapter one of a new book than a tying up of loose ends. Just as many new questions are raised as lingering ones answered. It's like Meyer just didn't want to stop writing, and nearly launched into a new story on the spot.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. It's a very refreshing change from my usual hard sci-fi selections, and I eagerly await more.

Because these humans could hate with so much fury, was the other end of the spectrum that they could love with more heart and zeal and fire?

This too is a review of Stephanie Meyer's novel The Host.

This book has a rare distinction: I have read it twice in the period of 12 months. The last time this happened was from pure desperation, as there was only one book written in English within my grasp. I honestly cannot remember the last time I reread a book so quickly when not under duress. This is not to say that The Host is the best book I've read in recent years, but it is a good indication of its addictive qualities. Yes, even more addictive than Twilight, at least if you are over the age of fourteen.

The first time I read this book I ran directly to E2 to write a review, only to find that santo had written an excellent review, one that was right on the nose, and one that I couldn't improve upon. However, upon rereading the book, I have a few comments that may be worth reading.

The first time that I read The Host, it was due to severe Twilight withdrawal. While as a general rule I do not read teenage romance novels, The Twilight series is surprisingly good, once you push your way through the first few chapters and adjust to the angsty teenager vibe. Make no mistake, the series is low literature, formulaic pap, and emo to the extreme -- but it is also highly addictive. After four books of sparkling vampires, The Host was a godsend. It was written for adults! It took more than one sitting to read! It was wonderful!

My second reading was not preceded by 3000 pages of tween Gothic novel, and as you might expect, it paled in the lack of comparison. The Host is a good book. I recommend it next time you are on vacation or sick in bed and need a good distraction. It is not as good as I remember. It is still highly addictive. I will read it a third and a fourth time.

Somewhat more interestingly, this book is a clear indication that Mrs. Meyer is a fan of Robert Heinlein. Heinlein popularized the idea of small, slug-like aliens that could take over the bodies of humans in his book The Puppet Masters (another book that is well worth reading). In The Host the human resistance is led by a classic Heinlein libertarian, Jeb. He is a friendly, liberal, uncompromising, highly individualistic patriarch, always wise and fair, unpredictable and steady as a rock. He is what the Old Man in Puppet Masters should have been. While Stephanie Meyer's characters are much more emotional than Heinlein's ever were, the highly developed ideals of honor and fair play, and the careful social posturing and slow compromising, are all very Heinlein-like. If Heinlein had ever written romance novels, this is what they would have been like.

What Heinlein would not have done is to humanize the aliens, to bring them into the story as full partners, to show you their side and make you want things to turn out well for them. The Host has a lot more depth and complexity than your average Heinlein novel. While Heinlein might be described as a writer of sociological science fiction, Meyer is much more a writer of psychological science fiction, and as always, she glorifies in making impossible resolutions between conflicting groups, whether it be vampires and werewolves or aliens and humans.

And yes, I think this book counts as a romance novel. A good one. It also counts as a science fiction novel, also a good one.

AKA: Gwoemul, or 괴물 ("Monster")
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Writer: Joon-ho Bong, Won-jun Ha, Chul-hyun Baek
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language   
Language: Korean
Runtime: 119 minutes (aprox.)
Release date: 2006

The Host is a monster movie that had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and is to date the highest grossing South Korean film of all time. Although clearly paying homage to other monster movies, from Alien to Godzilla, the film also manages to be a political satire and a dysfunctional family comedy at the same time.

Minor spoilers ahead (from the first 20 minutes of the movie)

Starting with a flashback to 2000, the film shows an American scientist giving the order to dump gallons of leftover toxic waste down a sink drain, where it will flow untreated into Seoul's Han River. We then see present day Seoul, where the Park family runs a snack shack on the shores of Han. While patriarch Park Hie-bong watches television with his 13-year old granddaughter Hyeon-seo, his son Gang-du (who seems to suffer from narcolepsy and possibly a developmental disability) attempts to fulfill orders, delivering snacks to park visitors. A crowd gathers on the banks of the river to watch a bizarre looking yet graceful something that plunged into the water from the underside of a bridge. Gang-du tosses a soda can into the water, and an appendage grabs it. For a brief moment, the crowd tosses their snacks into the water, hoping to entice the creature to make an appearance.... and then it does. An enormous, loping multi-legged and tentacled amphibian that would not be out of place in an H.P. Lovecraft story goes on the rampage, destroying property, vehicles, and innocent bystanders. It also snatches up Hyeon-seo and disappears with her into the river.

Victims of the monster attack are placed in quarantine, and here is where the film takes a different direction than a by-the-numbers genre picture. The government announces to the victims, and to the media, that the civil emergency du jour is an outbreak of a deadly virus, and not a monster, and certainly not the result of any nefarious environmental contamination by the American military. The Park family, wracked with grief over the loss of Hyeon-seo, decide to defy the quarantine and aim to recover the girl's body. So the pointed satire shifts into a family drama/comedy as they attempt to overcome their family issues and individual flaws as they (and not the military, or any scientist, or upstanding young hero with a brash attitude and perfect hair) take it upon themselves to track down the monster.

The creature (designed by Weta Workshop in New Zealand, and brought to life via CGI by The Orphanage in San Francisco), makes several more appearances throughout the movie, and Joon-ho Bong works the tropes of the monster movie genre in an attempt to fulfill audience expectations-- and many critics have praised the film highly for its scare factor. But thinking back to my experience watching the film: it felt like a character study of a family whose drama often crossed the line into comedy, with the monster as the mcguffin (albeit a gorgeously realized one that you can't take your eyes off of). Though the combination of genres was at first disconcerting, and they conflation of the two lead to some surprising plot twists, both the family drama and the monster movie plot come to satisfying conclusions, making The Host a very entertaining two hours.

Hollywood wouldn't have dreamed of something like this in a million years, so of course, they optioned it for an American remake. Universal Studios won the rights, and for a while Gore Verbinski was attached as a producer.

Richard Corliss. "Host with the Most." Time. March 8, 2007.,9171,1597534,00.html (Accessed November 26, 2010)
Dana Stevens. "Beastly Good." Slate. March 15, 2007. <> (Accessed November 26, 2010)
Internet Movie Database. "The Host (2006)." (accessed November 26, 2010)
The Host (Official Web Site). (Accessed November 26, 2010)

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