The 5th Wave – Book Review

The 5th Wave Review by Casey Carlisle

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, dystopia

No. of pages: 457

From Goodreads:
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.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

The Fifth Wave combined many aspects I love, (and many I dislike) but enabled to keep me hooked until the last page. Rick Yancey brings the realism of survival at the feet of an alien invasion in bright, bloody and disparaging technicolour.

I know this book is currently in pre-production for a film staring Chloe Grace Mortez, one of my favourite young actors, and I’m hoping that some of the failings in the novel don’t make it to the screen – if they are able to ignore the large plot and scientific shortcomings it has the potential to outshine the novel ten-fold. Let’s hope it sticks to the original content and doesn’t stray into being too much like ‘Bodysnatchers.’

The 5th Wave Review by Casey Carlisle 09The story itself was highly entertaining, I love battles against the odds, and science fiction, so combining both of these ensured this title was in my library. The main character, Cassie Sullivan reacted to the events described in the novel in such a raw and organic way, it was easy to put myself in her place. Instead of being the big superhero, Cassie’s survival skill kicked in, tuning into that pre-evolutionary instinct to run and hide. It was this aspect that kept me reading. If she had immediately turned into a super soldier I would have discarded the book right then and there.

The alien invasion and military angle throughout the book made less sense. The premise of ‘waves’ from a technologically advanced species; especially after reading about some of their advancements (space travel, teleportation, biological warfare), a passive invasion, even on the pretence of being careful not to damage the Earth’s ecosystem was untenable. It is quite possible that from the unreliable and adolescent point of view of Cassie’s that the real circumstances were not so – but this fact is never made clear. In addition, the conspiracy and military actions were also far fetched for such a superior civilization. For me, these facts had the aliens looking stupid – almost juvenile. Granted the premise for the story is ingenious – conquering in waves – but its execution pathetic.

The other aspect that had me cringing, and as much as I liked Cassie, she came across as fickle in the face of the world ending with boy problems. It wasn’t handled well at all. With people dying around her, her family struggling to live, and hiding in a crumbling town, her woes that Ben Parish, the cute boy at school was just as important had me gagging. If Rick understood girls at all, he should have played with her vulnerabilities in relation to her wanting to feel beautiful, and for things to go back to normal when dealing with these feelings to avoid the sudden change of focus. It felt cold and unnecessary in the beginning of her story.

The 5th Wave Review by Casey Carlisle 02Other than that, the characters felt real and well-rounded. You could see motivations other than survival in different hues within the cast. The helplessness of human efforts, despair, self-sacrifice, came shining through. The graphic descriptions and action did not shy away from violence or impact of losing a loved one in the throws of war as things that occur daily adding a vulnerability and realism in Cassie’s world.

About two-thirds into the novel there is a change in point of view to Ben Parish (a.k.a. Zombie), which I felt was left too late in the story. You’ve invested a lot in Cassie and her plight, and then – yoink! Normally a change in storytellers play off each other, which this did to a degree – but I felt it cheated by using it as a tool to fill the reader in on important information on the invasion rather than develop Cassie’s character further.

The pacing of the novel was enthralling, granted there were a few spots where I put the book down because it was losing me, but overall I kept at it and completed the entire story in a few days. Rick Yancey’s style is pleasant to read, and certainly adds to Cassie’s inner machinations.

It reminded me a lot of the television series ‘Falling Skies’ and if you enjoyed watching that, then this is a book for you.

Judging The Fifth Wave solely on its storytelling, I’d have to reward it with four kisses rather than fall into a philosophical debate on advanced technology and civilizations. I’ve yet to read the next in the series, but will definitely give it a go, hoping that ‘The Infinite Sea’ uses the maturity Cassie has achieved to shed some light on the problems overlooked here.

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