Author: Rick Yancey
Publication Date: 05/07/2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Blurb(GR): 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 up.
This book is damn near perfect in so many ways. It’s impressively well-written, compelling, and maybe not entirely original, but still doesn’t feel too derivative. So why didn’t I enjoy it more? I’m not sure, but while I acknowledge that this book is great, I can already feel it receding rather quickly from my memory.
But anyway, let’s focus on the good for a while, shall we? Good point number one: this book has aliens. And these aliens are especially frightening, because they manage to take down 95% of the human race without ever being seen. Good point number two: this book doesn’t really have aliens (at least not until the end). Yancey understands that the most frightening thing in the world is that which cannot be seen, or measured, or predicted – that which we are constantly forced to imagine and wonder about. His aliens are insidious planners who prey on human weakness to great effect and that aspect is deliciously twisted.
Good point number three: there are multiple narrators who are used effectively and feel distinct. First, he gives us Cassie, who is one of the most enjoyable people I’ve had spring up in my head in a long time. She’s brave but not arrogant, sarcastic and silly, and feels genuinely like a young girl (which I sometimes find impressive when the author is an adult man). The other main point of view, Zombie, feels entirely different and is most definitely his own person. I enjoyed him a bit less than Cassie, but his sections still contributed well to the story. And there’s a much smaller third point of view, Silencer, whose voice is poignant and mysterious.* I hope we get to see more of him in the next book. (I actually hope we get to see a few more of the minor characters as narrators in the next book.)
(As a mid-paragraphs aside here, I just want to add that this book is far less tragic romance-driven than the blurb above might lead you to believe.)
Good point number four: the writing is just flawless. The voices are bright and three-dimensional, the dialogue is entertaining and quick, the action is thrilling, and even though the ending is left just a bit open (just exactly the right amount), the story has a really nice beginning-middle-end cohesion. The parallels that Yancey draws between Cassie and Zombie feel downright literary. Actually, with the multiple narrators, the fast-paced writing, and the “sci-fi with a touch of the literary” feel, this book reminded me just a bit of The Knife of Never Letting Go. *Braces self for storm of people leaving this review to go pre-order this book* Only, (and I can whisper this now that all of those people have left) I think this book is better.
So why the hell couldn’t I get into the damn thing? Why was it so easy to set aside (and to set aside for hundred-page-long descriptions of made up sports, no less)? The only excuse I can come up with is that…I’m a lifelong sci-fi fan. I know that makes no sense, but just bear with me. I’ve been spending time with aliens since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Over the course of the past…let’s say 27 years, I’ve gotten to know the genre pretty well. And, I think it’s possible that, like the sexual sadist who must go to greater and greater heights of violence to reach fulfillment, I have become jaded. About sci-fi. It’s possible that I’ve reached a point where nothing less than slavering mosquito women or giant living whale airships will pique my interest, is what I am saying. And while this book is great in many ways, it also feels very approachable and commercial and just…not…weird. And I like weird.
*Our good friend Nomes reminded me in the comments that there's also one chapter narrated by Cassie's brother, Sam.
Perfect Musical Pairing
The White Stripes – Fell In Love With A Girl
I think that for me, this book is a 3.5 but I'm going to give it a 4/5 because I'm being silly and it deserves it.
Also, this ARC is too good not to pass on. Who wants a copy? U.S./Canada only and the giveaway ends at midnight on 04/03/2013. Have at it!