Arts & Culture » Lit

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Book Review


Author Rick Yancey sets an impressive pace. He published 13 novels in 10 years. His 14th, The 5th Wave, just hit the stands. And not only is it Yancey's fourth overall series, the pacing of his prose is just as furious as his pace at the keyboard.

The book begins, as they say, at the end--humanity's end, to be specific. After an enormous UFO enters Earth's orbit, humans are hit with a technology-crippling electromagnetic pulse. Massive tidal waves are triggered, a plague descends and, finally, an army of embedded faux-humans rise up as assassins.

In the first chapter, readers are introduced to one of The 5th Wave's main characters, a teenager named Cassie, as she is on the run from these killers. Cassie is hiding in the woods and searching for her brother, whom she last saw through the back window of a school bus being driven by soldiers. Cassie's memories serve as a backstory that set the stage for a series of vignettes from other intersecting characters. The tight, action-packed plot and characterization don't let up for a second. Everything from the vivid imagining of alien technology, to Cassie's joking references to her M16 assault rifle as her "bestie," keep the story hustling along.

It's a book tailor-made to be a movie. In fact, the rights have already been sold and development is under way.

That's not to say The 5th Wave is perfect. Though the plot twists are engaging in the moment, the book's closing third makes one question why such a technologically advanced alien civilization would engage in as convoluted a master plan, unless they, too, like humans, love dramatic twists. There is also more cohesion of thought and shared knowledge existing among the disparate characters than one would expect in a post-apocalyptic society without media or communications.

Sad as it may be to critics like myself, the book's best description may come from its own marketing blurbs, which call it part Ender's Game, part Starship Troopers and part Invasion of the Body Snatchers. These are hyperbolic keywords meant to catch the ear of sci-fi fans, for sure, but it's also a fairly astute assessment of the material. The series is likely to be seen as the heir apparent to the young-adult throne, recently vacated by The Hunger Games.