Monday, January 13, 2014

The 5th Wave: A Review

The 5th Wave
Written by: Rick Yancey
Narrators: Brandon Espinoza, Phoebe Strole
Audiobook: 457 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Language: English
May 2013
Genre: YA Fiction/Series/Aliens

The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

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 upGabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

I have always been one of those people that thrives on the multitasking. When I am reading I am probably also listening to music while I do it. I will have the TV on while I craft (which is why I can probably tell you the plotlines of many shows though I have never really given many my full attention), and on occasion I fall asleep much better when I can hear the sounds of E playing on the Xbox from the front room. So, what is a girl to do when her new job is…quiet?

Back when I worked in a cubicle, Audiobooks were my friends. I remember cast recordings of some of my favorite books, hell I even fell in love with Harry Dresden because James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) read them. I will say that the reader can make or break the book for me though. And even make a mediocre book just a little bit better.

Right before Ender’s Game arrived in theatres, Audible had the full cast recording of the book available on Soundcloud for free. Score. I fell in love with the Enders Game one because of the full cast recording and decided to give Audiobooks a go again. While I love my Spotify playlists or listening to my nerdist podcasts, audiobooks are a nice change of pace. Whoo hoo variety.

The Fifth Wave had a snippet available on Soundcloud and I was hooked. Alien invasion. Okay, that works for me. Might be a nice change from all the supernatural creatures or creature free dystopias I have been reading lately. I have always kind of enjoyed the alien invasion shtick when done right anyway.

Told via multiple characters, the book begins with Cassie as she recounts the horrors of the first Three Waves of an Alien invasion even as she recounts her horrific present. Cassie has one mantra, fight until you can’t. And find Sammy, her little brother. Alone in the world that is left with a teddy bear and an M-16, Cassie does what is necessary and trusts no one. Not exactly the life she had imagined year ago. She was supposed to be trying to talk to her crush Ben Parrish and living a normal teenage life. But not anymore. Now everything is different. She wonders if there is anyone left out there.

When she is shot and rescued by Evan, she thinks she can trust again. Can he help her find Sammy? Is there hope after all? During her story we also meet Zombie, a young man who thought he knew who the enemy was. Recruited to become part of the war he has been healed, broken down again, only to become a killing machine. But for who? And what does humanity really mean? Can you lose it? Can you gain it?

Things I loved: The Waves. Not a bad strategy really. Yancey did a great job of creating a thoroughly ominous mood. The destruction and devastation is done and while I would love a good sci-fi action movie sort of play by play telling instead of the info dump sessions between chapters, this isn’t about the first four waves. This is about who is left. And in particular Cassie, Zombie and Sam. But back to the Waves.

The First Wave: Destroy the technology that we can’t seem to live without. We rely heavily on technology. We are glued to our cellphones, portable devices and not just for entertainment. I think about our banking structures, our cars, even our medical technology. You want to create panic and chaos. Yep this would be my first wave as well.

The Second Wave: We tend to build our biggest cities where the shipping lines are. This is logical. However, this also means if natural or in this case unnatural disasters occur in the forms of massive tsunamis along our coasts, the Others succeed in wiping out a good deal of the already panicked population. And this would work in not just the United States but around the world. (I keep thinking of Deep Impact which E and I watched and giggled over this past weekend).

The Third Wave: Plague. We have had Bird Flu, severe influenzas and Swine Flu outbreaks. Would we at all be surprised if the Others gave us our own hidden smallpox blanket to try and wipe out even more of humanity? Super flu, biological and genetic warfare, yeah not hard to imagine is it? This is far easier, all you need is time. Just wait and until the majority of the population dies off. Then you have the survivors left. They could still be a problem though.

The Fourth Wave: The Silencers. Pick off the survivors one by one. Death by drones, snipers and more. Don’t let the survivors band together. Keep them running. Give them no hope. Their time is done.

The Fifth Wave: Use your enemy, manipulate them, train them and teach them to finish your job. But do it all without them ever knowing you pull the strings.

Sure the book is full of the alien invasion tropes, but I still liked it. I like that Cassie hates birds. Not only did they have a role in destroying the only world she has ever known, but birds have got to be frustrating for her too. They feed on the dead. They glide silently above you not unlike the Silencer drones always setting you on edge, always having you run for your life. For those who know some alien, many people who say they have been abducted comment on owls a lot as if they are the representation of something alien. Yancey brings this up in the prologue as well, silent owls watching over those who sleep unaware of what really happened. And something did. I thought it was a nice touch.

Who can you trust when the enemy looks just like you do? Is the only way to stay alive to stay alone and destroy any threat you see? Can you trust the soldier with the gunshot wound who begs for your help? Is it a trap? Can you afford to take that chance? How does humanity survive, how does it band together to overcome when you cannot trust anyone? Perhaps even yourself? This is a great tactic/tool for the enemy and these are just great questions, great themes to explore and that is why I like the book. Its dark, incredibly depressing and isolating. And that is why I kept reading.

Back to the waves, there are some that don’t think using children in a war would be effective. Really? These are real world tactics and being employed by not so amazing people right now and in eras since passed. It is hard enough to shoot another adult, but a child? Even if you hesitate a fraction of a second and that child hesitates not at all, who wins? The experience can dehumanize anyone and maybe that’s the truly terrifying part. Children are supposed to be hope. But what if you take even that away?

Cassie is both accessible and frustrating. I can relate to her. She is a fighter, loyal and above all a survivor. Phoebe Strole does a great job with her “voice” making her flawed but likable. Maybe it’s the snark. I am always a sucker for the snark. But she also makes me want to hit her. But I will get to that.

Things I didn’t love so much: Like most reviewers I will agree that the biggest weakness of the book was the romance. I tried to suspend my disbelief. Why would Cassie fall for the hot stalker type? Was it because he reminded her of her life before the waves, when a teenage girl could care about boys, where hot chocolate and a warm blanket was extreme comfort on a Winter’s day? Or was it simply her need to have contact with another person, that you are so damn tired of being strong and being alone and lonely and that absolute rock that a simple chance to forget all of it was too hard not to jump at it? And yet Evan puts out so many neon signs of get the hell out that I am angry at Cassie for staying so long. How can she not feel like a pet? How can that not just feel wrong for her? But she still falls for him and suddenly I lose respect for Cassie. The romance doesn’t ring true. I cannot believe it no matter how much I try to reconcile the whole thing and I really did try, but ultimately that makes me love the book just a little less.

Another reader pointed out that because from the beginning you are told to trust no one, when the twists come it really doesn’t come as any real big surprise. I mean we all saw that coming right? From a mile away and with neon signs. It’s kind of like watching an M. Night movie and not anticipating the twist. You know it is coming. It always does. (Though to be honest back when M. Night made decent films…yep I even dug the Village, that the films were so much more than their theme…ghosts, aliens, fairytales, god, etc).

Buy or Borrow: Buy. It was worth the money I gave to Audible and I am really curious to see how the next book turns out.

Part of: Series

Also Recommended: Other great alien fiction includes The Lorien Legacies (I am Number Four) by Pittacus Lore. For lone girl against the world I would recommend The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell and for more Rick Yancey try The Monstrumologist series.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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