Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: May 2013
Hardcover: 480 Pages
The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a planned series
How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): Print ARC
Why did I read this book: It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Rick Yancey‘s. The Monstrumologist books are among my very favorites in current YA SFF, so when I learned the illustrious Mr. Yancey would be taking on the apocalypse, alien invasion style, I was ecstatic. When the glowing reviews started to roll in, I was even more excited for the book – to put it plainly, The 5th Wave was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2013.
Sometimes I think I might be the last human on Earth.
Seventeen-year old Cassie (for Cassiopeia, not Cassandra or Cassidy) is all alone in the world. Camped out in a solitary stretch of the woods, it has been weeks since Cassie has seen another person – for all she knows, Cassie may just be the sole remaining human survivor of a swift, brutal mass extermination.
Just a few months earlier, the Arrival of the Others was a global sensation, inciting political mayhem, hope and fear. And just ten days after the Arrival, the 1st wave strikes – a concentrated global EMP, destroying all electronics in a single fell swoop, and killing half a million people.
Sometimes in my tent, late at night, I think I can hear the stars scraping against the sky.
In the 2nd wave, three billion people are killed in a single day. Using a powerful tactical strike, the Others create a massive earthquake and tidal wave that literally wipes out every person living within 60 miles of an ocean coast.
Bye-bye, New York. Bye, Sydney. Good-bye, California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, British Columbia. So long, Eastern Seaboard. Japan, Hong Kong, London, Rome, Rio. Nice to know you. Hope you enjoyed your stay!
With the 3rd Wave, the remaining four billion humans on the planet are battered by the Red Death – an avian-carried superflu, with a 97% mortality rate. In twelve weeks, the humans lucky enough to survive waves 1 and 2 meet bloody, painful deaths.
Whatever you wanted to call it, after three months, ninety-seven out of every hundred people were dead. That’s a lot of bloody tears.
Cassie loses her mother to the plague in the 3rd Wave – but otherwise, she and her family are lucky. With her father and her six year old brother Sammy, Cassie and her family leave their home and strike out on the road, looking for other survivors, and banding together in a hidden woodside refugee camp.
It is here that the 4th Wave strikes – a devastating blow that Cassie and her family never could have anticipated.
In the 4th Wave, you can’t trust that people are still people. But you can trust that your gun is still your gun.
The 4th Wave leaves Cassie completely alone, the sole survivor of the massacre of the human refugee camp. Cassie watches in horror as her father and every other human refugee is gunned down in cold blood by the same soldiers that took Cassie’s little brother away to supposed safety.
Alone, terrified but determined, Cassie has her journal, her M-16, and Sammy’s ratty stuffed bear in her backpack and a desperate promise to keep. Alone, Cassie strikes out of the woods to find and rescue her brother, no matter the cost.
The newest novel from Printz Honor author Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2013; though it also was a book that I approached with a healthy dose of apprehension. The waves of hype accompanying this book is staggering, and as of late I’ve been burned by the dreaded hype machine.
Well, folks, I’m thrilled to tell you that The 5th Wave is the real deal. Rick Yancey delivers an alien invasion book that is both familiar and unique; unexpected in all the right places while still playing by the most gratifying genre tropes; stylistically beautiful without sacrificing any of the action that the blockbuster apocalypse novel demands.
In other words: The 5th Wave unequivocally kicks ass, and I loved the ride.
Inherent kitschiness of the numbered “waves” aside, the premise of this novel is utterly superb, and a science fiction mainstay. The aliens are here, and they are not friendly. While alien invasion stories have been done (and done, and done), The 5th Wave excels in the plotting and premise department because of its surprising narrative style and unique twists on the human genocide. Most alien invasion stories pick a single method of destruction (e.g. blue particle deathrays focused over the major cities and hubs of the world, tripods crawling, gassing and incinerating hapless humans in their wake), The 5th Wave shows an elaborately planned slow game from our alien conquerors: darkness, tidal waves, pestilence, and aliens wearing human flesh. The kicker, of course, is the eponymous 5th wave – will there be one, and if so, what form will it take? This is a terrifying reveal – one that isn’t exactly unexpected from the reader’s perspective, nevertheless horrific when you realize the brutal totality of the last wave of human extermination. While the alien motivations are familiar, the execution of this plan to eradicate humanity is ridiculously – terrifyingly – good.
A large part of the success of the premise and plot is thanks to the novel’s memorable and effective narrative style. While the description of the book suggests that this is Cassie’s first person story, it’s actually an alternating point of view adventure, involving not only Cassie, but her brother Sammy, and two other surprising perspectives along the way (I won’t spoil who or why they are surprising). Of course, Cassie is the star of the book, our heroine, who is terrified and so alone, but smart, funny, and so bloody determined to keep her promise and make her way to Sammy that it is heartbreaking in its plaintive desperation. This determination and survival instinct is, to me, what makes Cassie so memorable – there are so many chances for her to collapse of give up, so many turns where she could have been reduced to Insipid YA Dystopia Heroine. You know her. The sweet, pretty girl that (thanks to no action or intelligence of her own) manages to Save the Day and score the Superhot Dude of her Dreams without actually DOING anything or having to get her hands dirty. No, Cassiopeia has blood on her hands, and while she does become entangled in a bit of romantic nonsense, her story is not about being saved by the Hot Mysterious Guy – it’s about her promise to her younger brother, and her boiling rage at those who have killed everything she loves. I should also mention the other main character of this piece – a human young man that loses everything and is thrust into a supersoldier program, honing him and other survivors into hardened killing machines, hungry for revenge against the alien Others. This particular character’s story is as painful as Cassie’s, and while she recuperates from her near-fatal injury, it is his narrative that propels the story forward.
Which brings me to the only real thing I wasn’t crazy about in the novel: I was completely taken aback by the romance that blossoms between Cassie and Evan, how she’s incapacitated for so long and dependent on Evan for his help. To me, this is a potential goldmine of a relationship fraught with tension, secrets, and layers – but the romantic attraction is so rushed and out of place with the rest of the book. (In fact, if I’m being honest, it felt like the romance was amped up to keep with the pattern in so many other post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA novels.) That said, I like that Cassie keeps her head on straight and always questions, never accepting Evan at face value. And, while the action slags with Cassie healing and the winter’s onslaught, the narrative is nicely countered by the action we see with our soldier character’s training and gradual awareness of the truth.
What else can I say about The 5th Wave? I devoured this book, I loved this book, and I cannot wait for more.
Without a doubt, The 5th Wave is of the very best books I’ve read in 2013.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
ALIENS ARE STUPID.
I’m not talking about real aliens. The Others aren’t stupid. The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog. No contest.
No, I’m talking about the aliens inside our own heads.
The ones we made up, the ones we’ve been making up since we realized those glittering lights in the sky were suns like ours and probably had planets like ours spinning around them. You know, the aliens we imagine, the kind of aliens we’d like to attack us, human aliens. You’ve seen them a million times. They swoop down from the sky in their flying saucers to level New York and Tokyo and London, or they march across the countryside in huge machines that look like mechanical spiders, ray guns blasting away, and always, always, humanity sets aside its differences and bands together to defeat the alien horde. David slays Goliath, and everybody (except Goliath) goes home happy.
It’s like a cockroach working up a plan to defeat the shoe on its way down to crush it.
Additional Thoughts: We are part of the official The 5th Wave blog tour! Our stop is this Saturday – we’ll have a post about our survival pack picks, plus a chance to win the book.
Rating: 8 – Awesome, leaning towards a 9 and easily one of my favorite books of 2013
Reading Next: Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
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