Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The 5th Wave (Rick Yancey)

It occurs to me that the more closely I try to adhere to "what books are going to be big this year", the more unhappy I will be. If I don't like what the book is about, shouldn't I just avoid it? But no. Read The 5th Wave, they all said. It's gonna be big.

I mentioned previously how much I hate zombie apocalypse art. I suppose we can just say all apocalyptic fiction is not for me, because the same helplessness and "realistically, there's not a way out of this but maybe the characters will find a way" applies (but I still really don't like the zombie subgenre). So the fact that this book is an alien apocalypse novel should have been the reason I avoided it. But I didn't.

So. Cassie is one of the few survivors--the aliens have begun to eliminate humans through a series of Waves, premeditated acts of complete destruction. The aliens are very advanced, but aside from their apparent desire to eradicate all humans, not much is known about them. Eventually, Cassie and her father and brother Sam end up at a survivor camp; the military shows up, offering to take Sam to safety with a promise to return for the adult survivors. Sam gets onto a school bus and off he goes; immediately, the "army" shoots everyone else at the camp, except for Cassie, who manages to escape. With Sam's teddy bear in tow, she promises herself that she will find and rescue him.

I feel very torn about this book. The book is about 450 pages, but I read it in two days, so I suppose that says something about the readability? The book opens after four of the Waves have been started, and I have to say I was impressed with how Yancey handles the delivery of backstory--he very mixes it very naturally into the plot and I was interested in what was being said. This is particularly important because I've had some recent bad experiences with not-so-elegant backstory, so it was a relief to read Cassie's flashbacks.

And the action was interesting? Question mark. I honestly don't know if I found the plot that interesting (of course I'm going to have issues with it because it's an apocalypse and everyone should just die because that's how it realistically ends), but it moved along well; there are several changes of narrator during the book (whose identities I will not reveal because they seem pretty spoilery)--one of these narrators is a soldier in the alien army; these sections are tonally different from Cassie's, but it works. They're intertwined well and they stop the book from dragging. It's a little bewildering at first, but the changes come at good times, at about the time when I was getting tired of the events in that respective section.

The main problem, though, is how much I don't like Cassie. As (arguably) the main character of the novel, she is the most important, and unfortunately, she was my least favorite. Her narration is a curious mixture of airheaded statements and poetic musings, a combination which is very sour. I will mildly spoil and say that she ends up in a romance, a romance which may be among the most annoying I've ever read. Everything about it is "instalove"--there's no foundation for the relationship, no gradual build to feelings. Just instant, automatic passion. It feels very flimsy and allows Cassie to make lots of airheaded comments. She is just stupid.

In fact, I suppose my only real problem with the book is Cassie, but that's such an integral part of the book that I can't say I liked it. I didn't dislike it, but the best I can muster is a "meh". I'm sure fans of Divergent will gobble it up, and I'll say I found it better than Divergent--the characters as a whole are less annoying and the backstory is better-explained. But if you're highbrow, skip Yancey's latest. Not worth your time.

My rating: 3/5
The 5th Wave on Goodreads
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