Book review: The 5th Wave
If books could be compared to works of art, then Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave would definitely be the Starry, Starry Night of Young Adult dystopian fiction.
Disclaimer: This review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Penguin Books)
For the last couple of weeks or so, Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave has been the subject of discussion amongst many of the book blogging community members I regularly chat to.
Words such as brilliant, phenomenal and gobsmackingly awesome were being freely tossed around, while others made mention of this novel definitely being a strong contender for the book of 2013.
Now, I’m no fan of the hype monster, and would probably have read this at a later stage once all the hoo-ha surrounding this book has simmered down, but hearing one book blogger’s opinion – she regularly recommends fabulous books to me – about this being her best book of the year so far; well, it definitely gave me pause.
With a certain amount of trepidation (I always feel this way about books that fall prey to mass marketing), I decided to jump on board and see what all the fuss is about.
I’m very glad I did, because The 5th Wave is undoubtedly the best dystopian fiction novel I’ve read since both Divergent and The Hunger Games.
In fact, I’m going to just go all out and say this: The Hunger Games and Divergent are two of my favourite dystopic novels, but even these two books pale in comparison to the undeniable brilliance of this novel.
At first glance, Yancey’s The 5th Wave may seem like your standard sci-fi novel about alien invasion.
Now, I’m quite aware that books about aliens invading and destroying earth have a certain clichéd ring to it, and that it’s generally a subject that would probably only appeal to a niche group of readers.
In fact, though I am a huge fan of YA sci-fi and dystopic fiction, when I first picked this up, even I wasn’t quite sure whether this book would leave me with the same feelings of excitement that seems to have befallen everyone else.
Having read this now, I can definitely say that you don’t have to be a fan of this genre in order to enjoy it.
The phenomenal storytelling and the clever, intricate and twisty plot, combined with an incredibly well-developed cast of characters – each with a fiercely strong will to survive – will grab hold of you and keep you in its grip right up until the end of page.
Better still, you'll find yourself thinking about both the story and characters long after you've finished reading it.
The book doesn't start off with a bang.
It starts with a wave; a ripple in the atmosphere.
Silent, deadly and insidious.
The First Wave
An electromagnetic pulse takes out half a million people. It kills the lights, renders electronic devices useless and causes a blanket of darkness to cover the earth.
Still, as far as things go, it's not all that bad. Bad yes, but nothing in comparison to the waves that follow.
The Second Wave?
Lasts a day, is not as silent and kills double the amount of people it did in the first wave. And all The Others - as they soon came to be known - had to do was cause a shift in the plates of the earth that would result in massive shock waves.
Take into fact that many of the world's population live along coastal lines, drop a rod the size of a supernova onto the earth, create super waves that results in a massive Tsunami and you'll have wiped out at least another 60 million people.
The Third Wave
Possibly the longest, but deadliest wave to hit. The Fourth Horseman is what the survivors call it. Either that or The Red Tsunami. It's also here where people learn to start hating birds.
You would too if you realised what kind of vessels they've been transformed into. The deaths that occur here are bloody, painful and tantamount to experiencing one's body eating itself from the inside out.
Made you squirm, didn't I?
You're lucky if you survive this. Of course, by this time, most of the survivors are in any case wishing for death; such is the nature of these lethal assaults.
The Fourth Wave
"We are humanity", the safe haven claims. The only problem is, how do you trust that slogan when you're not even sure that the humans you're surrounded by are, in fact, human anymore?
And the 5th Wave?
Forget everything you know. Because that which is coming may have been around for a lot longer than what anyone could have suspected.
And in the midst of all the devastation, is 16-year old survivor, Cassie Sullivan who made a promise to find a way back to her brother. The previous waves have taught Cassie that depending on yourself is a must, and that being alone is better than trusting anyone.
Yet when she meets Evan Walker, for the first time, Cassie needs to decide between surrendering herself to the elements and choosing to place her trust in a stranger who may or may not hold both her and her brother's salvation in his hands.
If you're looking for a book that will keep you up all night, blindside you with its unexpected twists and turns and leave you feeling completely exhausted, but utterly satisfied and demanding more, then Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave is a book that you definitely should be reading.
The first in a trilogy, this sci-fi novel is a mind-bendingly brilliant read that will take you on a psychological yo-yo ride from beginning to the end, and will still leave you wanting more.
The brilliance of this book does not lie in the idea of there being green, bug-eyed monsters running around in broad daylight and causing havoc and destruction wherever they go, but rather in the opposite.
The Others are not your run-of-the-mill aliens. Instead, they're presented as these omniscient and omnipotent beings that know each and every human being's move, lending a menacing, sinister and chilling atmosphere to the entire book.
You'll be reading this book with the feeling of an impending sense of doom, because you'll come to realise that The Others are very, very smart.
The whisper of their presence and not their physical forms, is in itself an effective weapon; a perfect breeding ground for birthing raging doses of paranoia amongst the survivors.
After all, who do you trust, when you can't trust your own race? And trust, in a world where you've been stripped bare, is a commodity that cannot be freely dispensed.
You'll be dragged between feeling sympathy, despondency and desolation as you watch the various cast of characters struggling to survive.
You'll also be rooting fiercely for the brave characters that feature in this book. A standing ovation goes to Ricky Yancey for creating some of the best female characters I've ever come across in fiction.
Brave. Heroic. Go-getters. The female protagonists will have you cheering them on all the way. It's also a great testimony to Rick's writing that he doesn't create characters that are perfect - instead, these characters are the kind of characters who feel real fear in the face of death, who act out because of that fear and whose trust issues have them lashing out at one another.
They've got the kind of depth that you don't often see in a lot of dystopian novels these days. Because the thing about this is that when you're in an environment where everything is demolished and taken away from you, you don't automatically become a superhero.
You fight, you cry and you die a little inside. And then you get up and do it again.
Because that is what true heroes do. And that is what this book is essentially about: the resilience of humans and their will to survive.
Do yourselves a favour and get yourselves a copy. It's the best book I've read this year so far (and I'm not even talking about the romantic aspect here, which in itself was a feature that only enhanced the book).