[Review] The Infinite Sea – Rick Yancey

Book Title:                    The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2)
Author:                            
Rick Yancey
Number of pages:    
320

Synopsis:

the infinite sea- rick yanceyHow do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

(re: Goodreads @ The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey)


Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:

– Honestly, this is like a giant novella—95% of the main storyline remains unchanged.
– Ringer’s perspective is the main plot driver and the layers to her character are explored and fleshed out better than other protagonists.
– Romance involving instalove/love triangles is introduced for dramatic flare. Really, that’s the only reason I can ascertain.
– The prose continues to be a strong asset to this story if fluffy, thought-provoking, metaphorical writing is what you enjoy. The action is fun and worthwhile to read into even though the bulk happens closer to the end.

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Initial Thoughts

You ate the cake. It was of the ice cream variety. You devoured it quickly and it was delicious. But now you feel pain. A pain which cannot be easily remedied unless its origin is known and where the means of a cure can be applied. Food poisoning? Lactose intolerance? Perhaps your best guess will be enough (or maybe not). So you sit still and wait for the answer to come to you because it should come. Eventually.

Incoming: a whole lot of rambling because I don’t know what to make of this sequel that was superficially delicious in writing but after I om nom nom’d it all…there is this feeling that something is off about this read.

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


Afterthoughts:

It’s all connected. The Others understood that, understood it better than most of us. No hope without faith, no faith without hope, no love without trust, no trust without love. Remove one and the entire human house of cards collapses.

Literally: “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…okay…?” was my reaction to a lot of this book. A book that felt like two novellas and if not for the knowledge that this was entitled “book #2” I would have thought it was so. The big reveal, while thought-provokingly cool, felt diluted between filler content and doesn’t push the scope of the plot for a majority of the characters. At most, this book is a giant lull in plotting and is more of a bridge from book 1-to-3.  Don’t get me wrong: the writing continues to build the world and gives body to the work but the payoff isn’t worth the rest of the nothingness that actually happens. If I was given the reveal on a single page and the rest of the book was left intentionally blank, I think that I would have been more satisfied because at least it cuts to the chase. So why not a duology instead? Beats me.

Perhaps someone needs to edumacate me on why this book is so highly regarded (I’ve only [generally] seen glowing reviews). I am not faulting the writing itself because even though it reads like fluff, at least it’s glistening fluff; gloriously beautiful rhetoric’s of bedazzling sparkles. I have no distaste for the Ringer and Evan POV taking the reins in a lot of this book—I actually wanted more of Ringer—I think she’s just more interesting than Cassie (sorry, not sorry). The atmosphere still continues to be unsettling, gruesomely picturesque, and often tangibly real with its wear-and-tear setting—so it’s not that either. No. I think my problem lies with the uneventful moments that don’t do much story-wise. You can continually poke at the same question [most skeptical readers should have] from the first installment but the claim needs to be substantiated if it is to hold true for the remainder of the series. Because really: can you answer a question with a question? This book seems to do just that in many ways and it simply doesn’t create value towards concrete evidence to what many readers might be searching for after The 5th Wave. There is a lot of nothing, not-answers and lyrical flourishes which I’m sure were distractions to the core grit of the story. But I’ll never know.

This series looks at humanity in a roundabout way but The Infinite Sea takes a step back in direction than its predecessor. I implore the development of a plot that isn’t grounded on the basis of humanity itself being unknowing—such that readers should be blind to what could and should happen. Humanity is instinctive and one doesn’t truly question why humans continue to breathe; to keep on surviving. But if there is a need to survive, then there is a need to know, even superficially, what to survive against. Despite the unknowns that craft the setting, humanity’s future is often cultivated against its curiosity. By stagnating most of the characters to stay in one spot for the majority of the book (understandably regarding the dangers and perils of the outside world), the plot realistically remains unchanged. Derp–perplexing stuff, right?

The unfolding of some “important” events; such as the reveal that fandoms can calm their feels and shred the paperwork on their missing persons report, seems blown up more than it needs to be and the attention in concrete detailing needed to solidify where readers are heading isn’t truly evident until the lacklustre reveal at the end. And even then, I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort because it is something skeptics can guess at.

LE SIGH.

They can kill us, even down to the last of us, but they can’t kill—can never kill—what lasts in us.

Premise

Revised synopsis: They sit around and hark on each other for half the book. An old flame is rekindled. A bleak situation calls for an expedition into enemy territory. New friendships are formed and old ones are tested. Nothing swims in The Infinite Sea, the infinite sea, the infinite–.

Okay, but really: The Infinite Sea takes place immediately following the events of The 5th Wave. After barely escaping the explosion at Camp Haven, Cassie and others take shelter at a nearby hotel, waiting for Evan to rendezvous at their location. Miles away, Evan is battered from the strife at Haven and finds himself in close comfort with an old friend. Knowing the risk of staying at one location too long, Ringer is sent on a mission to find a better hideout. With the harsh winter taking its toll on the agitated group of kids, Ringer’s hope for salvation lands her right into enemy territory—and she isn’t the only one to get caught. She is taken into the depths of alien territory and is put under surveillance. But the promise that binds both Evan and Ringer is one they will both endeavour to keep at all costs.

We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart.

Narration/Setting

The narrative styling remains the key aspect in this series that I really dig. Anyone can argue that a chapter of nonsense from side characters serve no purpose in pushing the envelope of its core cast to delve deeper into the depths of their character to find growth. And maybe they’re right. But the resilience of these perspectives is that each voice matters; even if it costs screen-time for the main protagonists. This multi-perspective approach isn’t for all readers though; especially those who prefer to spend the entirety of a trilogy in a single voice (re: Sassy Cassie). However, the fact remains: even if readers create meaning and grow alongside the main characters, you should never sell the supporting individuals short for who they are to the trajectory of the plot. Live or die, they’re the nuances in the journey that make it what it is. The fellowship isn’t the same without Merry and Pippin; the Scooby Squad isn’t the Scooby Squad without Shaggy and Velma; and this ragtag group of misfits isn’t the same if Poundcake or Teacup weren’t stars in their own right.

There is a caveat in all of this where first-person POVs should dictate where they were in their past (through flashbacks or repressed memories), where they are now (for readers to empathize with their dire predicaments), and where they should want to go (where hopeful reading is involved). Only it doesn’t leave enough room and time for the audience to explore the characters against their current environment. Not only that, the plotless writing only hinders where we hope for them to go. Survive? Protect their humanity? Readers can pray for the safety in the unknown but it’s not enough with this kind of diverse narrative. This is further complicated by the writing being deftly ambiguous and metaphorical to the extent that this idea of a “plot” is trying to take readers somewhere without actually giving any information away. I suppose when Yancey wants you to know something, he’ll make it loud and clear. But this really hinders the desire to care for certain characters—it’s a real doozy.

One of the formatting changes I’d make is to actually say who the voice belongs to prior to beginning the arc. I mean, sure, the new chapter arcs would suggest a new voice but it can be a hassle to have to decipher who’s head readers are in. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t take away from the seamless fluidity when it jumps from one character to another in less than a chapter but I guess you take the bad with the good.

The setting and action sequences are all what you expect from Yancey. Sure the first half is a lot slower in pacing as with downtime and all but when it picks up, it certainly doesn’t disappoint (in action only). There isn’t much else I can say about that.

But you’re right about this: Some things, down to the smallest of things, are worth the sum of all things.

Characters

This sequel can be considered an undertaking to further explore the voiceless characters we only read about in action from the first instalment. The issue: within a week, it’s like all of these characters suddenly evolved into different people. It’s possible that traumatic experiences can drive this growth. Is it realistically fleshed out? I don’t believe so.

Half the book is given to Ringer and it is a decision I appreciated because it has become apparent to me that Cassie is not the iron-willed heroine she appeared to be in the first book. She is suddenly exudes a lot more damsel-y angst than anything else. But let me just talk about Ringer for a second and why I am glad that she takes the spotlight in this novel. She is more interesting to read into because her past actually explores the burdensome layers that make her the guarded female she has become. As a person of colour, she is also not stereotyped into being something she isn’t and she is certainly not hindered by romantic dilemmas as Cassie evidently is in this sequel. The only negative aspect to her perspective is that after her certain fate, there is some unexplained segments written willy nilly with only “thrilling action sequence” in mind that it leaves the plausible open for debate.

There is a lot of “bitch” calling in this book and readers need to consider it more than just a grain of salt. There are two sides to this that require consideration; and I’m surprised that Ringer didn’t beat the shit out of Cassie for her continued use of the derogatory term. Cassie uses it on a whim because she’s snarky—it’s in her character, fine. Ringer, on the other hand, has grown up being shamed by the word and is haunted by her past for it. Although she grows from this behaviour, the disconnect in semantically approving both uses of the term doesn’t stake a claim at what ought to be acceptable. Yes, the dialogue is raw and realistic and no one can take that away from this story. But one would hope that Cassie and Ringer, being strong female figures in their own right, would make a pass at changing this particular way of thinking—that calling someone bitch is supposedly justified behaviour.

I know they’re probably dead. And I know I’ll probably die long before I reach them, even if they’re not. But I made a promise, Razor. I didn’t think it was a promise at the time. I told myself it wasn’t. Told him it wasn’t. But there’re the things we tell ourselves about the truth, and there’re the things the truth tells about us.

If there was romance in The 5th Wave then The Infinite Sea is an ocean of love that panders at clarifying its indulgence into love-triangle and instalove territory. Not only are there two new character additions to compete with the already existing love-square but this new dimension only added unnecessary and unsupported drama to the mix of things. Seriously, what the hell?

Cassie goes from Ben-fawning to indomitable-creeper-Evan but still tries to maintain that almost-more-than-friendship connection with Ben. Remember the last scene in The 5th Wave? Yeah, Cassie and Ben is immediately struck down at the start of this book. I’m also still unsure why readers (or Cassie) is so googly-eyed for Mr. Indestructible over there.

Grace? Her backstory with Evan does nothing for the plot if Evan is going to wave his non-existent promise ring. As an antagonist? Okay, I can believe that, but here’s the kicker: the main threat to the group remains unchanged if Grace was swapped out for another baddie—the only difference is that it’s basically drama crafted through exploring a love triangle.

And Ringer, as much as I appreciated your perspective, what the heck was that with Gillette Quattro blade Razor? Not even a week has gone by since she and Ben were perhaps “something” and now that is all gone because of Razors voodoo signal tapping thing. (Not to mention that Razor is now the creeper-Evan Walker of this book with a masters degree in hospitality, presumably.) The best part with Razor was at the end of the book. It really validates his value to the storr and how much he was a scapegoat for the plot. It’s brilliant actually.

There’s this one particular scene in which Evan is now the Cassie of The 5th Wave (where he is injured and is being tended by a mysterious individual). But unlike The 5th Wave which tries to sell the romance as endearing shipworthy moments, The Infinite Sea challenges the same situation to be borderline abusive and predatory. In such cases, because readers are bound by this red thread of fate that binds Cassie and Evan, it is looked upon as a dangerous and aggressive relationship. Like, what? How can you 180-degree flip the scenario based on gender? I’m not sure about this commentary that teenage boys being predators are justified to be heroic, swoon-worthy, or simply acceptable while the female counterpart is looked at under a different light. It’s not fair to have it both ways. This is just a thought.

Overall

I read 80% of this book on the day it was released and only finished the rest of it recently. I’ve been sitting on this review because I’m not really sure what to make of it. If you judge a book on how quick you read it, then I guess I really enjoyed it. But in terms of its merits as a sequel: I’m not sure it was enough for me. And it isn’t because it didn’t live up to (or exceed) its predecessor either. It’s that this sequel isn’t the game changer I expected to read into to relieve some of the mysteries offered by The 5th Wave. So as negative as all of this sounds, by no means am I chirping the writing. Instead, I’m disappointed by the choices made in plotting to deliver the content that would honestly be more suited for a novella. If this was called The 5th Wave, #1.5, I’d have no problem bumping my rating up. But as a novel (and sequel), it didn’t really do much for the overall story…or maybe I just don’t get it.

The beautiful wooden board on a stand in my father’s study. The gleaming ivory pieces. The stern king. The haughty queen. The noble knight. The pious bishop. And the game itself, the way each piece contributed its individual power to the whole. It was simple. It was complex. It was savage; it was elegant. It was a dance; it was a war. It was finite and eternal. It was life.


// rant over.

This is a review two months in the making because I am pretty bummed. Not saying I won’t read “The End Begins” (I think is the title of the third installment) when it comes out in 2015 but I’m really hoping it will redeem itself from this sequel.

Cheers,
Joey

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9 thoughts on “[Review] The Infinite Sea – Rick Yancey”

  1. Thanks for writing this. I tend to really, really like ambiguity in my writing, so it was nice to get a reader’s perspective on when to be clear-cut.

    Really, the last thing Earth needs after an apocalyptic alien invasion is a love triangle.

    What about Evan was creepy? I actually heard nice things about him. Also, do the aliens ever make an appearance?

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    1. Thank you for potentially reading through that giant wall of text!

      With a sophomore book, ambiguity can definitely help push the dilemmas and hero problems into greater depth. But for this read, it’s basically that because -nothing happened- it’s more difficult to actually believe in the questions being raised. Does that make sense? It’s like 300 pages of blah and then there’s one page that’s basically supposed to game change everything–and readers are supposed to immediately buy into it. Some readers may be fine with this–and that’s okay–I just couldn’t buy into it.

      Haha, love triangles and instalove: I love to hate it but it was definitely bound to happen with big “franchise” titles. And even if it wasn’t written in the stars, I’m sure fandoms have already started sailing on their ships!

      Evan is a pretty big doozy of a character for me. With male YA leads, a lot of readers will probably swoon over him and see him for the “brooding, perhaps misunderstood guy that main girl #1 is helping change” and perhaps that’s where the nice things could come from (not saying he’s the prototypical one-dimensional male lead or anything). But it comes back to how some of his actions are non-consensual (not to mention he basically stalked her out and if I remember correctly, read her diary while she was asleep or out and about. This was before they met.) He takes care of her when she’s injured. Sure, some may view this as tender heroism or big-bro behaviour to keep her cooped up in a house [because injury] and changed her clothes for her [because obviously she was raggedy]…there’s still this feeling of authenticity missing for me that changes it into being creepy. I guess this was compounded by the fact that this romance is essentially instalove at its core.

      I don’t know, there are just some thoughts (and there are probably more).

      Aaaaaand your question regarding the aliens cannot be answered for the sake of spoilers haha.

      [essay response ends here.]

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      1. LOL, yes, I read all of it. It was funny.

        I’ve read a few series where the second book reworked the premise of the first and gave it more depth, and it worked, but, like you said, stuff happened. It sounds like the Infinite Sea has a bunch of belly-aching about how AMBIGUOUS everything is. Which is annoying. Also, I hate it when books spend hundreds of pages trying to find the meaning of humanity.

        Love triangles can work well if all the principles have good points and bad–oh, who am I kidding. They need to stop.

        Oh, if he’s stalking her and reading her diary without ever meeting her, and THEN he insists on changing her clothes and tending to her? Definitely planned. And creepy.

        One of the main reasons I read sci fi is for the aliens. So if I read 5th wave, I’d probably be rooting for them. I’m a bad human.

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        1. I’m pretty sure that if you just read book 1 and then skipped to book 3, you’d be alright. But I guess the purist in me would suggest other wise.

          I do hope you enjoy the series (at least the sequel) more than I did. Annnnnd perhaps forget about all of my ramble-y nonsense regarding these characters you have never met yet!

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          1. Oh, yes, I suffer a lot of angst and indecision over whether to finish series or skip books in the series and what have you. I’ll check your review of the third one when it comes out and see if the issues get resolved, how about that? 🙂

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  2. I couldn’t actually read the review, because I haven’t had the time to get the book read yet, but I just saw the picture and had to click on it! I’m commenting so I can remind myself to come read your review when I finally read the book. I am beyond excited since a loved, loved, The 5th Wave.

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