Thursday, April 9, 2015

The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey, has been out awhile (since May 2013), long enough to already have a sequel (The Infinite Sea, published in September 2014), but though it caught my eye way back when, I didn't pick it up until this year. I gave it only three out of five stars for various reasons, but none of those reasons was my interest once I started reading. The book hooked me quickly and fascinated me throughout. It's one of those suspenseful, mysterious stories where you don't quite know what's going on until near the end, a little bit like The Maze Runner in that regard. But as with The Maze Runner, I wasn't completely satisfied.

The 5th Wave sets the stage with an alien invasion that has progressed in waves: 1) total blackout, 2) coastal areas flooded, 3) worldwide plague, 4) snipers killing the human race one by one. Cassie has lost everyone and everything she knows in this hopeless battle for survival and now waits in hiding, wondering when and what the 5th wave will be. There's no one she can trust; the aliens look just like us. There is no place to go; the aliens attack where humans congregate. There is hardly reason to keep trying to live, but humanity is stubborn that way, and Cassie has at least one reason. Though the outcome looks bleak, Cassie is determined to go down fighting.

Cassie starts the narration, but the book veers off from a focus on her later on so that you begin to wonder if she really is the main protagonist we're rooting for or just one of several. The story starts getting into different characters' points of view, which broadens the story quite a bit but creates some confusion as to Cassie's significance in it. Once you get used to the idea, however, some of the other characters' plots are similarly intriguing.

In some ways, the story is what you'd expect from an alien invasion story. In every one, the humans don't go down without a fight, and somehow they end up triumphing. The funny thing is, the book is trying so hard not to be like those stories. Cassie's musings even make fun of people's perceptions of aliens before the attack. She says the stories are all wrong; we never had a chance. But, of course, someone must survive, or we wouldn't keep reading. So, as much as the story strives for originality, it has to follow certain formulas, at least a little, in order to even retain an audience. I don't have a problem with this; I simply find it ironic.

(Minor SPOILERS this paragraph.) As I said, I was thoroughly intrigued by the book's premise and mystery, and captivated to the end. But I can't say I loved the book. Some time has passed since I read it, unfortunately, and I couldn't tell you exactly what threw me off most. The story goes to dark places. I don't usually mind darkness, but it gets a little brutal and graphic and leaves you feeling, at best, uneasy. At one point, you get vibes of the Holocaust. There's a lot of death, and if you thought The Hunger Games was brutal because kids were killing other kids, you won't like this. There's the violence, but then there's the romance, which borders on Stockholm Syndrome, though no one is actually a captive in the situation. There's probably a better term for falling in love with your savior, especially when the two of you are the only ones around. Anyway, it's a bit clichéd: girl is rescued by handsome stranger, who also happens to be the only other person she's sure is alive, and falls in love with him after he cares for her injuries. It's hard to swallow at first. Maybe it was because I want romance in my novels that I eventually got used to the relationship, even if I found it strange sometimes.

A movie adaptation is in the works. I can only wonder what it will be rated, though I am curious enough to consider seeing it. The book's sequel is available at my library, but I haven't quite felt the urge to pick it up.

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