The slew of post-apocalyptic media out there makes me realize how screwed I’d be in the event of an actual apocalypse. I have no survival skills and I’m not familiar with any weaponry. Anyway, I picked up The 5th Wave based on reviews that said it didn’t suck, in fact was quite good, and it had a badass teenage heroine à la Katniss. Were these reviews right? Well, yes and no.
Aliens have finally come to Earth, but instead of bringing gifts, they set off a deadly series of events. Here’s a wave-by-wave program to take out the human race:
The 1st Wave: Shut down the technology.
The 2nd Wave: Cause tsunamis that wipe out densely populated coastal areas.
The 3rd Wave: Release a disease that is fatal to most of the remaining humans.
The 4th Wave: Use snipers to hunt down any survivors.
In a matter of months, Cassie Sullivan lost both her parents and saw her little brother get taken away. Some people might have just lost it, but for Cassie, that’s not an option. She swore to Sam that she’d find him again, so she has to stay alive at all costs. After everything she’s witnessed, her number one rule is trust no one.
I have mixed feelings about Cassie. On one hand, I really like her narrative voice. Sure she’s scared, but she’s also determined to survive, and she has this grim sense of humor about her situation. On the other hand, she’s kind of passive and only starts kicking ass towards the end of the book. (There are some awesome action scenes here, by the way.) I was more than willing to forgive Cassie for weird behavior because 1, she’s still a kid and 2, she wasn’t prepared for this. (Like I said, I’d be fucking dead in her position, so I can’t judge.) But then her character fell a few notches for me when some annoying YA tropes raised their heads.
Warning, the next paragraph is pretty spoilery. I’ve hidden the really big one.
During the first act, Cassie’s unease is depicted so well that it’s contagious. Then we go into the tension-killer that is the second act. After she gets shot in the leg, Cassie is found and nursed back to health by dreamy Evan Walker. To say the least, it’s a drastic shift in tone. Now she’s in a cozy farmhouse with a super-hot guy who’s happy to wash her hair and feed her freshly baked bread. (That weird noise you hear is the sound of my eyes rolling.) Some of the revelations about Evan concerned me. Turns out he is a Silencer, and killing Cassie was one of his assignments. He shot her in the leg because he couldn’t bear to shoot her in the head. Is a guy watching you, following you, and dear God, attacking you just par for the course these days? Then there’s the not-so-subtle buildup to a love triangle. It’s a-comin’. Lord have mercy.
So, what did I like? There are multiple narrations, which I wasn’t expecting but are really well done. Another survivor, Zombie, is being trained as a soldier alongside children, and his story alternates with Cassie’s. Like Suzanne Collins, Rick Yancey had the knack of creating many characters that I actually got attached to, and when some of them died – yes, died – I was genuinely moved. The end of the book is packed with awesome action scenes. But what really gripped me was the suspense. The aliens aren’t just able to look and act human, they also know how humans think and react. Who can you trust in a world like that? That was enough to get me past the YA cliches and fails in logic. Hopefully some of the remaining questions will be answered in The Infinite Sea.
Three and a half stars.