Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave pushes us into a world much akin to that of TV’s Falling Skies. I compare only so that you can have an embarking point for understanding the premise – beyond that, the similarities are sparse.
At its core, The 5th Wave is a Young Adult Science Fiction novel about alien invasion. Beyond the chilling prologue, we meet Cassiopeia (who prefers to go by Cassie), a girl who is both on the run and trying to save her younger brother. After a few chapters traveling in her shoes, we meet Zombie a high school athlete-turned-soldier, fighting in a child army for the last of humanity. With cold precision he becomes who he needs to be, suppressing his independence for survival.
The switch of perspectives was often harsh and jolting – it happened at just the point I did not want to leave the character I was reading, but then I would get hooked into the new perspective until the next jolt.
The 5th Wave is everything I love about Science Fiction. It is a sharp concern over what defines our humanity and how we determine those things in the darkest of times. It is about having the hope and optimism to keep taking the next step, despite the darkest demons surrounding us, vying for our destruction.
In this age of uncertainty, it is a reflection of current trends, not knowing who to trust, we are creating an unstable world for generations beyond us.
Yancey’s narration from the perspective of the characters is delightful, Cassie’s fluttering stream-of-consciousness fear and panic balance against Zombie’s calm and rational logic, the perfect echo of teenagers living through a global crisis and trying to survive to tomorrow.
The story weaves a complex and imbalanced uncertainty of good and evil that meshes with the greyness of reality. As our characters try to determine what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, we see them grappling the same issues teenagers who are not fighting aliens grapple with. Is killing right? Is killing wrong? What is a justifiable means to protecting family?
This thrilling novel gripped me for two days as I slide through each page swiftly, yearning to find the connections and completion of Cassie’s journey, as well as the discoveries Zombie makes in his new life as a solider.