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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave 1)

By: Rick Yancey

Release Date: May 7, 2013

Rating: 1 Star

Summary: 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 up.


Well this is awkward. Everything about The 5th Wave – an award winning male young adult author, a high octane alien invasion plot, the comparisons to Ender’s Game and The Passage – made it seem like it’d exactly my kind of book. But now that I’ve finished, I’m just so pissed with the whole thing I have nothing nice to say and really just want to punch something, and in fact, I dislike The 5th Wave so much I’ve somehow written not one but three angry rants – yeah, be warned, this is going to be brutal.

Rant Number 1: The Alien Invasion is Beyond Disappointing
The 5th Wave is not Ender’s GameThe 5th Wave is not The PassageThe 5th Wave shouldn’t even qualify as science fiction unless it’s being mentioned in the same breath as Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series (even Stephenie Meyer’s The Host is too good for this comparison).

Why? Because there’s just nothing here but a collection of alien invasion tropes leading to an actual plot that’s all over the place, part cringe worthy young adult ‘romance’ (which I never would have expected from a male author… but that’s the topic of the next rant), part bizarre military training sequence (hence the unfounded comparisons to Ender’s Game… see rant number three), all leading to a nonsensical alien conspiracy by a group of ‘Others’, who, if they’d really been studying us and planning our demise for as long as they claim, rather than the harebrained scheme they’ve concocted to ‘break’ humanity, should’ve just taken their cues from this awesome game:

In fact, I’ve seen my share of memorable alien invasion plots.Independence DayAnimorphsV. Between Falling SkiesWar of the Worlds, and Invasion America, Steven Spielberg has even done it three times. So at this point, count me unsurprised by the basic premise of The Fifth Wave, but even so I still wasn’t prepared for how derivative this book actually is *cough*infestation with obvious red herring*cough*.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly looking for new and original – I just wanted something that, I don’t know, isn’t a clichefest? Any serious, well done treatment would have sufficed… and yet, I’m wracking my head trying to think of anything else remotely this bad… and I just can’t. There just isn’t anything interesting about The 5th Wave that made me want to invest in the story – it’s great that Yancey seems to have latched on to Stephen Hawking’s idea that if aliens ever visited, we’d all be like the Native Americans during the colonial era, but the Waves themselves are just so generic compared to every other (imagined) alien attack that Cassie Sullivan’s descriptions of the ‘Other’’s invasion come across more like the melodramatic whining of someone too clueless and naive to appreciate the power of an alien invasion than the gritty recollections of a hardened survivor who’s experienced the horrors of the attacks firsthand.

Besides, there are only so many ways of describing how to squash a bug. Orbital bombardment. Biological warfare. A Fifth Column. Not only is The 5th Wave unoriginal, but it’s excessive. I got it, humanity’s beaten, there’s really no need for all of Cassie’s theatrics. Sure, she can pretend to be such a big expert on alien invasions, tell me how unprepared we are, how many people the ‘Others’ have killed, but she’s so keen on sounding like the big expert she thinks she is she ends up being just so repetitive and ridiculously genre unsavvy. Seriously, mope around too much bitching about it like she does, and it becomes a case of been there, done that, got boring, seriously stop telling me how terrible it is when I can imagine hundreds of worse scenarios. Face huggers anyone?

Anyway, Earth being invaded by hostile, advanced aliens isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. But not only is The 5th Wave completely derivative of the many, many alien invasion plots of years past, it just has a terrible protagonist in Cassie Sullivan who forcefully shoves the same old regurgitated crap down my throat in the most inane way possible. Ugh.

Rant Number 2: The ‘Romance’ is Beyond Terrible

“That’s my big problem. That’s it! Before the Arrival, guys like Evan Walker never looked twice at me, much less shot wild game for me and washed my hair. They never grabbed me by the back of the neck like the airbrushed model on his mother’s paperback, abs a-clenching, pecs a-popping. My eyes have never been looked deeply into, or my chin raised to bring my lips within an inch of theirs.”

That, if you couldn’t tell, is an actual quote from the book. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything as romantically challenged as The 5th Wave, and this is including Twilight here (did I just compare Twilight favorably to another book?!!).

Basically, I really really REALLY didn’t like Cassie Sullivan as a character (again, and for completely different reasons than from rant number one). For one, I’d be seriously concerned for any girl who responds to an impending alien invasion like this:

It’s the end of the world! OMG Ben Parish is hot!

WTF? And as if that wasn’t enough, Ben Parish isn’t even the love interest. The real love interest is a poor guy named Evan Walker, who may or may not be one of them. Who, I’m not kidding, tries to kill Cassie before growing a conscience and falling in love with her. And Cassie, of course, is the girl who’s never been in a relationship before, so she immediately loses all sense of self preservation and melts into his warm brown eyes and dimple. What is this? The Host? Did Stephenie Meyer write this?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, even if I weren’t inwardly cringing every time Cassie and Evan appear together, Rick Yancey really should be banned from writing female points of view. This, again, is an actual Cassie quote:

Time for the angrily-storming-out-of-the-room part of the argument, while the guy folds his arms over his manly chest and pouts.

WTF? Should I believe what I think Yancey’s saying about what girls think of guys?

In fact, I would be laughing at how bad Cassie’s point of view is if I weren’t still smarting over the insipid alien invasion plot that made me want to fling my copy of the book across the room (not that I can, don’t want to pay for repairs to the drywall). Double ugh.

Rant Number 3: The Comparisons to the Sci-fi Classics are Completely Unfounded
The days when alien invasion plots could stand solely on the invasion ended right around the time of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds. Somebody, unfortunately, didn’t get the memo. Since then, alien invasions have been pushing the boundaries of speculative fiction by exploring the paranoia surrounding sleeper agents (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), adult authority and its limits (Ender’s Game), and discovering the truth in the face of a complex government cover-up (The X Files), but although The 5th Wave borrows elements from all of these other alien invasion plots, I can’t for the life of me point to one alien invasion theme that this book does well. Evan being a human-alien hybrid struggling to reconcile his alien soul with his humanity? Shallow even in comparison to The Host. The conspiracy surrounding the ‘Other’’s infiltration of the US military? So transparent I wouldn’t even call it a conspiracy. Ben’s military training to take out the infested? Is that a joke? They even killed Kenny! Cassie’s struggle to survive the Waves, eventually learning to become a tougher person? Ok, that one’s done well, I’ll admit, until she runs into Evan and becomes a quivering mess of a character. Then, yuck!

Look, I’m not against borrowing plot elements from other sources. But when those elements mean something, when there’s a theme behind them, I don’t want to see a shallow treatment that does neither the source nor the adaptation any favors. And for The 5th Wave, that’s unfortunately the case. Triple ugh.

Basically, The 5th Wave is, in every way, an embarrassment to science fiction. Rick Yancey tried to work too many different concepts into this book, jumping all over the place, that the end result is not one of them is done well. I’m muy disappointed.

Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

Categories: Mitch's Musings Tags:
  1. May 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Bad compared to The Host? Oh my word…

    I pre-ordered this a while ago and fully intend to read it, but must admit that this review has left me wondering if that is a good idea. I guess time will tell whether I enjoy the book or not.

    • May 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      I definitely think you should still read it. I know I’m in the small minority who didn’t like this book, and chances are you’ll disagree. The other negative reviews I’ve seen have all focused on how this tries too much to copy popular ya and doesn’t work as well as sci fi.

  2. May 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I wasn’t blow away with The 5th Wave though I didn’t hate it either. I’ve not read a whole lot of sci-fi so can’t really compare it to others but I found it entertaining and was drawn into the story though I saw the twists coming. Great review and thank you for being honest.

    • May 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think my hopes were too high this would be different than what it turned out to be.

  1. May 10, 2013 at 6:24 am
  2. May 11, 2013 at 7:59 am

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