Never ever make a promise you can’t keep
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Penguin Books
„The 1st wave took out half a million people. The 2nd wave put that number to shame. The 3rd wave? That took a little longer, twelve weeks…four billion people… In the 4th wave, you can’t trust that people are still people. And the 5th wave? No one knows. But it’s coming.”
A statement. A fact. Rick Yancy’s The 5th Wave is a riveting exploration of one of the ways the world, or maybe just humankind, might end. While it may not present the reader with an original doom’s day scenario, it does make your heart race and mind leap into a dystopian world where you can trust no one but yourself.
Cassie(short of Cassiopeia - the queen sitting on a throne of stars - not Cassandra) Sullivan is a sixteen year old at war with a superior race dead set on doing what Christopher Columbus did to the Native Americans to all humans - which is to pick them off one wave at a time until there’s no one left but traces of a civilization gone extinct. After surviving the 1st wave under the form of an EMP that left the world in darkness and sans electricity, the 2nd in the form of powerful tsunamis and the 3rd called the Red Plague which left you to bleed to death through every orifice in your body, the heroine, her father and little brother Sammy are left to fend for themselves in a world that seems plagued by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They leave their home behind for the comfort of Camp Ashpit only to be separated by Colonel Vosch. The kids are sent on school buses to Camp Heaven as First Priorities, while the adults are left behind to be exterminated like cockroaches via a handful of bullets and a Green Eye (highly powerful alien bomb). But Cassie manages to get away after seeing her father die from afar at the hands of the man that was supposed to guaranty their safety. Roaming the woods in search of shelter and trying hard not to get killed by Silencers (mercenary humans inhabited by aliens) or any other human-human or human-alien she struggles to keep her humanity while the constant fear for her life and the paranoia set in by the lack of trust in anything and anyone strangle her humanity bit by bit. Soon after killing a young soldier she falls prey to a Silencer named Evan Walker, who after shooting her in the leg and leaving her to bleed out and / or die of cold and dehydration comes back for her and nurses her back to health. Bonds are forged between the two but their strength is the same as sand castles in the tumbling waves – threatening to crumble to pieces under many half-truths.
After Sammy reaches Camp Heaven he is implanted with a microchip in the back of his neck and send into brutal training as all the kids on the premises are clay in the hands of Colonels like Vosch bent on shaping them into merciless, stone cold killing machines.
While the main story may be about the alien invasion, it is set as a backdrop for family drama and a sister’s constant efforts in trying to find and rescue her brother from the clutches of those that are not what they seem to be. There are other smaller vines that intertwine with the main theme of the story and they bring forth subjects like love and doubt – in one’s self and in others.
Advertised as being as relentless as The Hunger Games and as menacing as I Am Number Four, the book borrows some ideas from the more popular young adult books to hit the market in the past years, but also reminds the reader of classics like Ender’s Game, even if opinions tend to go both ways in terms of appreciation of the work of fiction created by Rick Yancey.
I for one am no expert in dystopian stories or end of the world scenarios, my experience with them being mostly made up by movies. So maybe my lack of knowledge has led me to rate the book with 4 out of 5 stars. As a newbie to the genre I found it highly entertaining because the points of view from which the story is told vary throughout the chapters and so you see everything through the eyes of a devoted sister (Cassie), a scared almost hopeless toddler (Sammy), a teenager torn by the guilt of running away when he should have stayed (Ben) and that of an alien invader meant to kill “natives” that in the end gives into his human feelings and falls in love with a strawberry blonde girl (Evan).
I don’t know if inserting a love story into the mix was such a great idea because it distracts you from all the chaos that surrounds all the other characters, but even so it tends to emphasize the human aspect of both races. Also the ending to the book seems a bit unpolished as bombs go off in the background and our beloved characters make a run for it in a Humvee. Maybe the open ending serves as an open door for a sequel? Who knows?
All in all it was a good exercise for the imagination, that, truth be told, inserted one too many images from The Walking Dead into the description of abandoned cities and scenarios where people turned against people. I liked the adrenaline rush of knowing that death could creep behind any corner or turn of page, but as Cassie wooshed through the trees of the forest for safety so did I through a captivating story.
I’d close off with the book’s trailer but it’s scarce in images and in feelings so instead I leave you with one of my favorite bands and a video of another kind of Apocalypse. It only seems fitting since the emotion it strikes in me is almost the same one I imagine Cassie having while fighting tooth and nail to get her brother back. So instead of Sing, there’s Hope.
The pace of the story, the many angles from which what happens is presented to the reader.
The not so subtle borrowing of ideas from other authors and their respective books. A little originality wouldn’t have hurt anyone.
Dystopian world, SF fans or just curios folk like myself.