Review: The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
View all my reviews

3.5 Stars because the ending saved the whole story from the flopping 2 stars. It takes a lot of risk and guts for an author to pull off 300 pages of boring talk about military drilling, injury recovery, and basically no action but the results forgave (mostly) everything. For a hulking book of 480 pages, the first several hundred were prepared as a setup for character development and mapping out the intricacies of the training/journey. Although I quit twice before I finally picked this book up again, the final 15% of action sequences were well worth it. The plot pacing formula is very similar to Angelfall by Susan Ee which is a brilliant, wonderful book that starts out with a bang and ends with a bang. The middle teeters for so long with minor exciting scenes to keep the reader mildly interested and then the cliffhanger ending reels the reader into shock. At least, that was how I felt when I was (on-and-off-again) reading The 5th Wave.

I have always been curious about Yancey when I came across his book The Monstrumologist but I was 30 pages in before I quit out of sheer discomfort. It turns out that horror was not my forte and at the tender age of 16, I was not into watching or reading gore and nightmarish creatures. I was way into the zone and I did not like it despite how compelling the writing was.
It just happens that The 5th Wave had the excellent writing but disposed of the horrific element so I’m super glad that I finally can experience the author’s ingenuity.

Strengths:

The two shifting narrators were easily distinguishable simply by their ‘voices’. They talked differently but not too deviant enough to think the author was trying hard to make it so. The unique blend of determination, bleakness, and feelings of despair between Cassie Sullivan and the other character Ben Parish was compelling and contrasting in their situations.
Cassie, who’s on the search for her missing young brother, is frightened but has a core of steel reinforced by her previous karate experience.
Ben Parish, who never had any combat skills, begins a rigorous process to gain sharpshooting skills and becomes molded into an intimidating soldier.
It’s really interesting juxtaposing these dual purposes and showing two different sides of humanity and their ways of coping with grief and loss. Ben is brittle despite his former ease and sociability as the popular football jock in high school and the death of his family was a huge blow that has forced him to reevaluate his reason to keep living. Cassie has lost nearly everyone incrementally due to the 4 waves. But instead of breaking her, the hardships whittled her down to the quintessential persistence and dogmatism to forge on with her lucky M16 rifle. As I said, the 300 pages weren’t boring but they failed to keep my eyes glued to them when I had other better reading options like Cress available. The huge plot twist that heralded the book title of the 5th Wave is not really a twist because a huge hint was dropped early in the beginning. I assumed so but I hope others did not guess it or would at least enjoy the unraveling of the process and the direction it gave the characters.

When both point of views finally converged, I was beyond excited because that’s when it was smack-dab in the middle of the climax, to use a lack of a better term. BOOM. That’s when the true badassery of Ben/Zombie reveals itself and the fierceness of Cassie induced me to cheer on and read like there’s no tomorrow. KABAM! Don’t forget Evan who is a killing machine! Pew Pew Pew!!…Anyways…

The romance was not too shabby and thank goodness it did not take center stage because there was not enough chemistry or positive attributes in the love interest to qualify as romance material. However, I did enjoy learning more about the aliens, how they resolved to destruction and obliteration of humanity, and their superior intelligence. It was nicely glossed over but I’m still curious about them because there’re questions (Exactly where do they come from? Why did it take them so long to invade? Why did they have to observe the Earth for thousands of years? What happened to their home planet? Why did they choose Earth?) that still go unaddressed. There are no gaping plot-holes which is always a bonus when it comes to the landmine of mind-boggling science fiction.

Weaknesses:

  • Minor Spoiler: Cassie’s brother is the sole remaining family member and thus her reason to survive and act as protectorate.
    This is a plot device regurgitated so often in books such as Angelfall, The Hunger Games, and Blood Red Road.
  • Despite being apocalyptic times, Evan Walker, the walking hottie with precise shooting, good hygiene and cuticles, and soft hands just did not appeal to me. The fact that he was romantic is mostly likely due to taking care of Cassie and feeding her during her brief confinement to the bed for her injury. It makes me derisive to think that that itself warrants a crush but I’ll have to dismiss that since Evan is her only companion and he does have a nice personality.
  •  I wished the author didn’t drop those huge hints and implement dramatic irony. When the characters finally discovered what was really going on, I just did not feel it because I was not shocked enough. The characters would stand rooted to the ground in disbelief and I would only sigh for them because it took them long enough to figure it out. They’re by no means dumb and in fact, they’re exceedingly clever because it’s hard to match up the clues but when the big reveal was all done without any flair 200 pages ago…well then.

I am, however, in the right mindset to read the sequel The Infinite Sea because Rick Yancey sure is a good writer. The cliffhanger ending may also have something to do with that. I’m too curious for my own good and I’m up for the challenge of reading the second book.

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