[Review] The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

Book Title:                    The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave Series #01)
Author:                            Rick Yancey
Number of pages:    457

Synopsis:

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.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.

(re: Goodreads @ The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey)

Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
  • The world and plot is quite familiar – aliens, post-apocalypse, aliens, world domination, romance. Cool beans.
  • Story-telling through varying perspectives; a mix of characterisations (fresh and prototypical).
  • The writing is purposeful, connected, and tension-seeking even in downtime.
  • Formulaic YA romance; which ship to sail on?
Initial Thoughts:

I know what you’re thinking: a narrative similar to Meyer’s ‘The Host’. And you’re absolutely right. And wrong. At the same time. Page turn. But it takes the alien invasion we know so well—sort of well, and integrates it’s own spin on things.

Oh. The feeling of staccatos above is just how many sections read. You can love or hate it, but I wasn’t too bothered by it.

With trending YA post-apocalyptic dystopian literature, it is relevance that makes this genre of narratives all the more compelling and frightening. Relevance to world-building (especially if it’s of a contemporary nature); relevance to human dynamics; and relevance depicted through multifaceted storytelling. My superficial expectations.

So does the 5th Wave’s initial instalment hit most of the marks? Yes and no.

I’ll tell you why.

Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.

Afterthoughts:

[“In case you’re an alien and you’re reading this: BITE ME.”]

We’re immediately immersed in the current state of whatever-is-left in the world explored through Cassie Sullivan: a careful, determined, and snarky individual–the beginnings of many heroines. Being in her head was a myriad of extro-and-introversion. Well, probably more of the latter. But this is much like individuals today, so that’s cool. Check, relatable.

[“I don’t move. I wait behind my log, terrified. Over the past ten minutes, it’s become such a dear friend, I consider naming it: Howard, my pet log.”]

At first, the narrative unfolds through present and flashback, changing multiple times, to detail how crummy the world has become. The segue into the flashbacks is rough at times where it felt as though a small teaser of information was given and that was all we had (or should have) to know. Well there’s actually more. But you’ll only be given these pertinent details when it’s necessary for it to be known in a later section. This was purposeful and consistent even when the POV changes (also multiple times) throughout the thirteen arcs.

The first arc concluded with this popular quote:

[“But 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. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.”]

As much feels as it gave me, I was more reacting like: “Aw, shits about to happen!”

The following arcs introduce the other voices: Zombie (Ben Parish), a silencer (who I assume to be Evan Walker), and Sammy Sullivan (Private Nugget), with mainly Cassie and Ben driving the story from their perspective.

The quad-perspective narration was definitely a highlight for me. Of course, there’s initial confusion at times with not knowing whose head I was in, but they were standalone voices with their own story and journey to tell. These are (fictionally speaking) real people with real struggles, not typecast as minor characters part of a wider story that can be killed off on a whim. While this can be a double-edged sword, there is a greater sense of intimacy in following the minds of multiple characters as opposed to vicariously understanding one. But (there’s always a but), as much credit as I can give to this multiple POV approach in driving variants of the same story, my main problem was that (at times) some characters seemed rather flat in their POV. But I think this is just first book woes. I hope so at least.

Sammy: His perspective was both a hit and miss at the same time. For the most part, he portrays himself true to his age; his actions and reactions imply that. But by the same token, some of his narratives detail context that would be normally out of basic understanding for a six year old in particular. At least I thought so. I’m sure I couldn’t remember Luke Skywalker’s name or understand video surveillance systems. I barely remembered Barney’s name, probably, maybe. No judgment.

Zombie: All the stage-five clingy-girlfriend daydreams courtesy of Cassie’s monologue could not have foreshadowed this guy any sooner. But his story grew on me. His past highs were high and now he’s on the low. And despite being the brooding older-brother type, he showed some emotional depth.

Evan Walker: Your prototypical calm, brooding, mysterious guy with a bod. My problem with him is not because he’s currently one-dimensional to me, I’m sure that will be fixed with time in the coming books since his perspective narrative was only one chapter in this instalment. It’s his actions prior to and after meeting Cassie (explained below). Though, I don’t put all the blame on him.

Cassie Sullivan: Remember what I said about Cassie being that strong female heroine? Yeah, I’m not so sure anymore. To me, initially, she gave me that Katniss (Hunger Games) vibe of survival in this post-invasion world. So while she still has her witty rhetoric’s, after meeting Evan, she suddenly feels dumb down for me. The once strong headed girl, immediately exhibits jelly legs for Evan and relies on him more often than not. And what’s with her hot and cold personality? Oh, of course:

Evan and Cassie, specifically: Did I fail to mention that Evan practically knows a large chunk of her life story (he read her diary). And also has creeper-stalker tendencies. Seriously, red flags. I mean, she already had trust issues before meeting him (the rules of surviving: don’t trust anyone), but in the remainder of the book, she seemingly lets him in every time. Am I the only one that thought their relationship escalated too quickly? Now I’m not sure if this is going all Disney on me (find a significant other and happily-ever-after), but some of the realism is being lost here. Things are falling into place too easily and too predictable if he is the be-all-end-all ‘ship’. At least Evan doesn’t know if she loves him or not. That’s cool.

As the plot is largely driven by this ragtag team of misfits, there’s so much to be said for each one. Remember, this isn’t a standalone novel. So while the individual growth on these characters hasn’t been as significant as I would have liked, I guess something has to be said about these kids who were once strangers to one another growing collectively. The fact that they’re each their own last and best shot at humanity, there’s no greater hope for them than their unity. Well…it’s pretty cheesy, but that’s how it is.

The pack of aliens on the other hand confounded me at times. I’ll tell you why:

There are all these variables to consider when we look at the aliens (or the Others, as they’re mostly referred as by Cassie) and their intentions. We know they watched humans for thousands of years. We’re told they don’t want coexistence, that there are only a few hundred thousand of them left. We know they’re just matter; phantoms of consciousness that require a host. But by the same logic, they’re wiping out billions of humans with each wave; the fourth and fifth wave seeming like a step back in this master plan (using the remaining humanity against itself) as they gather children and teenagers only (<18 specifically) and killing everyone else off. They then send said adolescents through Wonderland, a memory mapping program, and train them to do their bidding.

[“You are the human clay,” Vosch whispers fiercely in my ear. “And I am Michelangelo. I am the master builder, and you will be my masterpiece.”]

But why…why so much work? They exude a sense of almightiness but they’re so meticulous and careful in rolling out this master plan. Are they even the prototypical extraterrestrial? So many questionable things about this and yet that’s what’s (kind of?) exciting: the unknown.

Yet in the whirlwind of some predicable character plots that will probably have readers laughing in the face of non-exciting “I-saw-that-coming” developments, if it were just a search and rescue story, you’d be right: the story is over. Yet I would imagine that would only treat the symptom, not the problem. So then the unknown works and the story is far from being over.

This novel is a good read especially if you’re in it for the long haul. It’s not stellar, but it’s not far off from what you’d expect in this genre of literature. It doesn’t end on a particular cliffhanger but there are so many open avenues of narratives that would urge for one. Spoiler alert: Yancey is secretly Commander Vosch — all the important facets of the story are already known to us:  he’s molded the clay and now comes the intricacies, the detailing. This is purposeful and speaks to him as a writer. And so I read on.

//end nonsensical rant.

I thought it was totally rad when I was reading this book, my power goes out for nine hours starting at roughly 10pm. Awkward. Looking outside my window, I wondered if I felt the same sentiments as those facing the first wave. Nah.

Grace me with your positive/negative thoughts, and chirp me out to continue this dialogue!

Cheers,
Joey

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