*This review will contain spoilers!*
Forget about ‘Divergent’. Forget about ‘The Hunger Games’. Forget about all of the comparisons you might have heard since ‘The 5th Wave’ was released. This novel is absolutely astounding, ground-breaking, fabulously gripping… I don’t even know what to say. When I have my expectations raised highly by reviews that I’ve read, it’s a very rare occurrence that the result completely surpasses what I was anticipating, but this was a novel that I was so worried about being disappointed by but I was so extremely happy with.
‘The 5th Wave’ tells the story of Cassie (short for Cassiopeia, not Cassandra) Sullivan, a girl who believes she could be the last human left alive. Seven billion people have already been wiped out following the appearance of an alien spaceship less that six months before. The 1st Wave was an electromagnetic pulse, disabling humans in a way never experienced before. All the lights go off, the cars stop, the planes crash out of the sky and they are helpless and isolated. Estimated death toll? One hundred thousand. The 2nd Wave: a tsunami caused by the dropping of a large metal pole from the upper atmosphere, estimated to have wiped out nearly half of the human population. The 3rd Wave: a plague titled ‘The Red Death’, carried by birds and with similar symptoms to ebola. Estimated death toll: just under 4 billion people. As you can guess by the title of ‘The 5th Wave’, we pick up the story during the 4th Wave, following it through to the establishment of the 5th Wave.
Cassie is on a mission. Her father has been killed in front of her and her little brother has been taken by soldiers; taken to his death or taken as a prisoner, she doesn’t know, but she made a promise to find him and it’s a promise she’s damn well determined to keep.
Throughout the novel, we follow various viewpoints. Ben Parish, Cassie’s long-term unrequited love, living in the camp where Sammy has been taken, called Camp Haven, training as a soldier in a war he’s determined to win with a squad who are constantly on tenterhooks in fear of going ‘Dorothy’. The viewpoint of one of the aliens, called both Others and Silencers at various points throughout the novel, stalking Cassie but unwilling to kill her. Sammy himself, going through the entry procedure into the camp, giving us an insight into the workings of something that hopefully none of us will ever have to experience.
This novel is something else. Normally, if I hear the description of a novel as being end of the world due to aliens, I expect that I’m going to get bored quickly. I’ve read two other novels about aliens that stand out in my mind: ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G Wells and ‘The Host’ by Stephenie Meyer, and while in retrospect they’re probably both in the top ten books that I’ve ever read, at the time I just found them both so utterly unfeasible it took me weeks verging on months to read them. This is not the case with ‘The 5th Wave’. The characters are all so believably real that I genuinely felt pain at some of the things that they experienced (the death of Oompa and Ben ripping his sutures running around after being shot in the side both two particularly harrowing moments) and as the twists and turns were revealed one after another I felt both confused and betrayed along with them. For the majority of the novel we don’t actually know who the bad guys are. Cassie gets rescued by a handsome stranger called Evan Walker and it’s so conflicting to the reader and to Cassie while trying to decide whether we should trust him or whether we should shoot him in the head. All of the deception is mind-blowing; any notions you have at the start of the novel are sure to be ripped apart by the end of it, because there’s no way you’ll be able to guess what’s going to happen at the end.
Anyone who can make you empathise with the enemy is an amazing writer, so I have boundless amounts of respect and admiration for Rick Yancey’s writing.
I also adored the similarities between the characters narration. It didn’t seem as though Rick Yancey had run out of inspiration, it seemed more like all of the thought patterns of the characters were similar because of the fact that at the end of the world it’s survive or die, so instincts run rampant and are the only thing in the world keeping you sane. There were a few parallels between Cassie and Ben during the first two perspectives; the running/facing narrative that was so vital during Cassie’s face-off with the Silencer was referenced during Ben’s inner turmoil in hospital, while towards the conclusion of the novel Cassie’s references to chess mirrored Ringer, one of the soldiers in Ben’s squad.
Despite how much I loved the novel (and if I wasn’t reviewing it I wouldn’t be bringing these up, but they are genuine issues with it) there were still some problems to me. Some of the numbers that Cassie’s father conjures up out of nowhere seem unfeasible, an example of this being when he says that during the 1st Wave it’s only likely that one hundred thousand people died. If all electricity completely stopped, I can imagine a lot more deaths occurring. Imagine this: all of the planes fall out of the sky. How many planes could be in the air at that specific time, whether being small local flights or long distance flights, carrying thousand upon thousands of people. All of the people on life support, all the world over, would automatically be switched off. I don’t know if it would add up to more than one hundred thousand, I might just be imagining it as much bigger than it is, but with eight billion people on Earth all constantly moving and travelling or falling ill and dying it just seems that there would be more people in a position to be wiped out automatically due to a failing of electricity.
Furthermore, I disagree with people comparing this novel to ‘Divergent’ or ‘The Hunger Games’ because most of those comparisons are only rooted in the fact that this is an apocalyptic dystopian-ish novel being made into a blockbuster movie with a female lead character. However, if people were comparing it to ‘The Host’ I would not be so surprised. Evan Walker being an Other who felt more like a human, wanting to fit in and live in harmony. The love story between the two species. Leading the characters to believe that the Others manifest as growths on the brain. The downloading of their consciousness into their hosts. The quote “you’re a disease that will kill its host unless you’re wiped out”.
However, even with these negatives I still think this is one of, if not the, best book I’ve read in 2014. Some of the quotes really open your mind up. “Maybe the last one to die will be killed by the last one alive.” “The uncertain circumstances of your certain destruction.” “Choosing between your kind and another species wasn’t cruel. It was necessary.” “I am a shark. […] A shark who dreamed he was a man.” “There’s no real difference between us, the living and the dead; it’s all just a matter of tense: past-dead and future-dead.”
Yes, there are things wrong with this novel, but no novel is going to be absolutely perfect. But in my opinion, this is the closest I’ve been to finding the perfect book in a very very long time. The sequel, ‘The Infinite Sea’, was released just over a month ago, but I haven’t had the chance to purchase it yet, but I can’t wait. Leaving Cassie and Ben is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do: there are so many questions I want answered, so many things left up in the air, so many things that are going to bug my brain until I can read the sequel. If you haven’t picked up the novel yet, what are you doing. Go and read it, right now. Right this very second. The movie featuring Chloe Grace Moretz isn’t out for another couple of years, but it’s going to be massive, mark my words.