The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave had caught my eye a few times around the shop, but when my favourite customer described it as “Epic”, followed by one of my bestest booksellers also fully endorsing it, I picked it up come pay day. You should pick it up too… Because The 5th Wave is something refreshingly different from the Dystopian trend, something altogether more sinister…

The 5th Wave's chilling jacket.

The 5th Wave’s chilling jacket.

The novel is set in a world ravaged by alien invasion. Through flashbacks, we learn that the Others (as the aliens are referred to) have never stepped foot out of the colossal Mothership that orbits the Earth. No-one on Earth has ever seen one, but they’re still responsible for the deaths of almost the entire of the human population: 7 Billion people dead in 4 waves of attack. Wave 1, the power went out, planes fell from the sky, hospitals failed. Wave 2, a great tidal wave devastated the coastal areas of human civilization. Wave 3, the Pestilence, an incurable disease that causes sufferers to slowly bleed internally, killing almost everyone it infects. Only those lucky (or unlucky) to survive, or have a natural immunity remain for Wave 4, The Silencers, humanoid clones, zombies or some kind of alien collaborators, wiping out pockets of human survival & spreading mistrust wherever they’re seen. When the aliens look human, who can you trust? Safest option is to shoot first, and then the survivors are doing the Silencers job for them. Humanity is on the brink, a fraction of its former population, waiting to see if this is the end, or if the malevolent Others have a 5th Wave to come.

The novel follows 2 distinct characters, one survivor Cassie Sullivan who has lost her parents, & is trying to track her younger brother Sammy, taken by a shadowy military organisation. Hers is a struggle against Alien drones, paranoia & the elements for survival. The other character is Ben Parish, a high-school classmate of Cassie’s, who is now a new recruit in the last bastion of human resistance. His is a world of bitter resentment, of harsh military regimes & an overwhelming desire for revenge. Ben knows they have no chance of winning, but he know they won’t go out quietly.

Wow, so The 5th Wave. What a book! There’s really no Dystopia on the market right now like it, & that unique-yet-familiar survival scenario makes it a compelling read. The characters are multi-layered, with Ben being a great example of a believable, engaging character arc, coming to truly understand what makes us human: our compassion, our ability to care for others. Cassie is a strong female lead, who’s no-nonsense attitude & tendency to shoot first, question later, is a breath of fresh air for many leading ladies. She’s tough, but her obvious dedication to her little brother that shows a sensitive side to her as well. My only drawback was her “Romance” sections with the mysterious stranger Evan Walker, which whilst her distrust was perfect, her occasional swooning sections struck me as jarring with the way her character had been set up. BUT THEN, I’ve never been a big fan of romantic subplots, so maybe it’s just me. It isn’t a huge part of the story, more an opportunity to explore Evan’s backstory, which is… VERY fun. Very fun indeed. Ben’s military squad is full of brilliant characters, particularly Teacup & Ringer, both great powerful personalities, & his squad training & interaction lets the author explore the effects of stress on such fragile young personalities, harking back to Full Metal Jacket moments of post-traumatic stress, right down to a gruelling drill sergeant.

Obviously, the book deals with an oncoming 5th Wave, but it’s a much more twisted plotline than that, with little Sam’s abduction by a mysterious military organisation, Ben’s revelations about his own job description, & Cassie’s conclusion that a lack of trust will be the end of us all. It’s a gripping novel, great for fans of Science Fiction & action. The Others are brilliantly set up, truly terrifying antagonists, because their power is felt through their lack of presence. Not once are their intentions explained, they are simply a mute, genocidal force from the sky, & that is far more unnerving & intimidating than any horde of zombies, I find. Due to this lack of Alien entities, the book is a great one for people who aren’t normally willing to delve into the slightly more out of this world, since it focus mostly on survival based action & mysterious conspiracy, so Children who’ve enjoyed the works of Robert Muchamore are just as likely to enjoy it as those who’ve devoured Charlie Higson. The characters really do pinpoint some great social & moral themes, as with a lot of YA fiction, highlighting some very important ideas for young people to be exposed to, but delivered in a fast, action packed novel with more cliffhangers than you could shake a stick at (if you wanted to, I’m not sure why you would). It also remains fresh by switching character perspectives, occasionally working in angles from Sammy or Evan, in short explosive chapters that keep it interesting & build that relentless pace. The plots for both protagonists is brilliantly, slowly pulled together in a way that once I saw where it was heading,  meant I couldn’t stop reading on even if I had wanted to.

So, all in all, a GREAT book! New, original, fun, horrifying & gripping.

‘Till Next Time, Pilgrims.

D

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