The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Genre: Science fiction, young adult, horror, aliens, war, action, post-apocalyptic, the weapon they have is intergalactic love
Rating: 4.89 out of 5 stars
Summary: When the Others showed up in their mothership above Earth to reveal that we are not alone in the universe, no one knew if they came in peace. Until they started systematically killing humanity. Cassie survived the first four killing waves, but the fifth may be on its way. It may already be here, but things get more difficult when the alien scourge uses our own humanity against us. In a world where even your fellow man may be the enemy, Cassie learns that the only reason to keep living is if you have something worth dying for.
I’ve explained this before and I feel the need to explain this again: when I read I do not read science fiction. It’s just not my genre. I don’t like novels that feature aliens and I especially do not enjoy anything that includes plots centered around the military or wars that aren’t set in Middle-earth. So you can imagine my disdain for Ender’s Game. And up until this week (with the exception of the graphic novel series Saga, anything by Ray Bradbury and Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series) that has held true in my book reading. Until Rick Yancey did the impossible and made me love all of these things.
The 5th Wave had me sucked in since hearing about it at last year’s New York Comic Con, where they touted it as a young adult alien invasion in trilogy form whose movie rights had been snapped up, even though its release date was still seven months away. With intriguing and creepy promotional posters I was pretty much hooked from day one. And the novel did not disappoint. Minus that Gary Sue love interest which I’ll touch upon later. Damn you Gary Sue.
I’m a firm believer in reading books by starting with the epigraph. If chosen correctly, it sets up the entire novel even before you get to the prologue. Yancey’s is one of these perfect epigraphs and starts his ambitious young adult novel with a quote from physicist Stephen Hawking. It reads: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Colombus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
See? Now you know exactly where the book is headed.
In the novel, the earth is under siege by “the Arrival” of an alien species with nefarious goals to kill all humans without damaging the planet’s natural resources in order to take it over for themselves. After ten days of hovering above earth- without communicating with the species it planned to destroy- these Others/Visitors then systematically begin to kill humanity in a series of waves. Rude.
The 1st Wave is an electromagnetic pulse that destroys all electronics, stalling cars, downing airplanes, and sinking ships, killing 500,000 members of the population. The 2nd Wave is a massive tsunami that destroys all coastal zones. The 3rd Wave kills the remaining 97% of the population left behind by the 1st and 2nd Waves. It arrives in the form of a disease called the Red Death, transmitted by birds which basically cause you to explode from every orifice, further spreading the disease. Side note: in the world, there are 75 birds for every person. Think about it.
The 4th Wave is the most mentally damaging of all because the people you meet could not be people at all. One in every three survivors are infected, becoming Others in the guise of humans, forcing the survivors to trust no one but themselves. This lonesomeness in turn puts them in danger of alien assassins. These assassins (called Silencers, Finishers, or Hunters) take down the remaining humans. In the horror genre, the humans are often the real enemies, but this time around you can’t even tell who is human and who isn’t, which is where the real problems arise. And in turn metaphors. So many many metaphors.
The book follows multiple point of view characters but the main one is Cassie, who I must say has a pretty awesome name. However unlike myself (Cassandra) she’s named after the constellation Cassiopeia, who according to Greek mythology was forced into the sky for bragging that her daughter was more beautiful than the Nereids (AKA sea nymphs). Pretty ironic that someone named after a series of stars in the sky finds herself one of the surviving humans in the fight against alien invaders.
Cassie spends most of the book looking for her brother Sammy, who has been taken away by some possibly evil, possibly not (depending on which POV you’re reading) members of the military. In the interim she keeps a diary, wherein she makes starling commentary such as, “If I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way … Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.”
In a word: she’s badass.
Through Cassie we also get to see how the planet reacted to the Others arrival. After the mothership (which is the size of Manhattan) takes residence above the Earth, the president goes into hiding, curfews are instituted, people flee to Disneyland to enjoy what could be their last days, political pundits and scientists take to the airwaves to postulate things and Twitter and Facebook become abuzz with theories and commentary. Think the arrival of the Royal Baby times ten million.
Yet another POV character is Cassie’s love interest from high school (who never knew she even existed), Ben Parish (not to be confused with Alan Parrish from Jumanji) who contradicts everything we seem to have learned from Cassie’s point of view. In her POV, we see the military stealing her brother and turning on the residents of a survivor’s camp, in Ben’s POV we see that same military turning children into killing machines to fight those the aliens have infected. Known as Teds in their colorful military language.
Throughout the course of the novel, Ben is transformed into Private Zombie and we are introduced to a computer system called Wonderland. Wonderland maps the memories of the humans hooked up to it which determines whether or not they are infected. Those who pass the various tests are then tagged with a tracking device and trained to be productive murderers. Assuming they don’t go crazy, which is referred to among the troops as “going Dorothy,” “off to see the wizard” or “on the yellowbrick road.” Basically, this novel is everything I wanted Ender’s Game to be.
Who can you trust? Who is the enemy? Who are the saviors? The fun in this novel comes in the fact that you as the reader don’t know. And in turn you are as confused and kept in as much suspense as the characters.
Unfortunately, all this amazingness is ruined by one tiny niggling thing. Enter Evan Walker, Cassie’s love interest who can make a burger complete with homemade bread appear in the midst of the apocalypse, a dude who can whittle crutches and dresses like the Brawny paper towel man. He’s too perfect and yes, that may be the point in a world that is now anything but perfect as well as be a hint at his true nature, but throughout the period where he is nursing the weak and injured protagonist back to health I wanted nothing more than for him to go away and never return.
Don’t worry though, he’ll eventually redeem himself. Kind of. The weapon they have is intergalactic love, you guys.
-Forced me to use words I hate like “unputdownable” which is true
-There are more POVs than I anticipated but there wasn’t one I didn’t like
-Never know who to trust and as a result the twists and turns are harder to predict
-Needs to be a trilogy to tell the full story, and I don’t even mind
-Cassie’s love interest Evan is a touch too perfect and it makes you want to punch them both in the face (hamburgerpocalypse!)
The 5th Wave: Book Trailer
No word on what the final two books in the trilogy will be called, but my bets are on The 6th Wave and The 7th Wave. Hey, if District 9 can have a sequel called District 10 I have no complaints here.