In this debut novel and series opener, humanity struggles to adapt to a strange, otherworldly entity’s presence and its self-imposed—but not entirely welcome—plan to save the world.
In the near future, numerous people experiencing a quick, stabbing pain in the abdominal area become part of a global event. Someone takes credit for the apparent attack, calling it a demonstration and promising to reveal all at the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly. It’s there that a “saucer shaped craft” arrives and a humanlike being emerges—the Voice of the Host. The Host has an ultimatum: earthlings will cease all hostilities or be destroyed, much like members of a violent faction whom the entity later kills simultaneously. Parts of the Host’s planet-saving strategy are beneficial, enlisting Wil, a Virtual (his time is largely spent in virtual reality), to combat starvation by developing optimum crop production in VR for real-world application. Many, however, are resistant to the Host, seeing it as either a dominating alien or some sort of demon. Col. John Harriman and others, meanwhile, hope to reclaim freedoms taken by the Host, which intends to implement a world government. Taking down the entity will necessitate studying its superior technology—as covertly as possible, of course. Brent delivers a worthy novel, with tension derived from the Host’s ambiguity and a dialogue-heavy narrative of characters’ varying theories. For example, there are alternating signs of extraterrestrial and religious origins; human Directors working for the Host have “halos” over their heads, which are reputedly devices linking each person to the entity. Two romances in the story are rather conventional (meeting the parents is a significant step in both) but nicely contrast with the titular character. Wil and Sonya, for one, meet in VR but gradually join reality, while sometime assassin Harriman and war correspondent Grace, with violent conflicts now absent, lose their livelihoods. Elucidation on the Host is striking, but the ending is truly remarkable and a stunning preamble to Book 2.
A smart, delightfully offbeat tale with shades of sci-fi and military action.