THE FIFTH WAVE BY RICK YANCEY: A Good Book with Powerful Characters

If this book review turns out to be an unusually positive one, please do not resort to thinking I received financial benefit from Rick Yancey. To be honest, I felt an emotional connection with the author, because of an interview I watched with him. I watched one of his interviews in YouTube and in it he said something that piqued my attention. He said before being a full-time author, he was a government employee, working strict schedules for an average pay-scale. Nothing is wrong with working tight schedules or receiving a meagre pay cheque at the end of the month.  Perhaps, one should work on ways to come to terms with these ideas if one has a dream to chase and a light to follow.

I was writing at the time, and I thought, “Well, I need something to pay the bills, and I’ll just hang on to this until my writing takes off, or I actually get off my butt and get a master’s degree in English and maybe teach somewhere.” Then twelve years later, I was still there,” remarks Yancey in a detailed interview given to http://www.lightspeedmagazine. com/.
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Every human being goes through a set of affirmation techniques in one’s course of early adult life. In The 5th Wave, a Young Adult novel about alien invasion, Cassie Sullivan grows out of her worst fears through affirming her humanity, and this existential event is at the centre of the book. Evan Walker, the protagonist is an alien being in human form. His mission is to kill Cassie. She names his kind of killers Silencers. Cassie lives through the fifth wave of alien invasion. She lost her parents and young brother in the previous four waves.

In some uniquely uninspiring way, The 5th Wave does not hesitate to copy the tension between Bella and Edward from Twilight saga, where the male counterpart had to kill the female partner in order to satiate the mission bestowed upon him by the centre of his origin. It is some original commitment that Evan Walker and Edward Cullen are struggling with in each of these novels. Then there is the sexual tension. Although Twilight saga explored the sexual tension between the two characters, the driving force in The 5th Wave is the existential question of the encounter with the Other.

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Symbolically speaking, the Other could be anyone including the culturally, socially, and politically marginalized people. The 5th Wave asks the question of facing a ‘global’ Other. The 5th Wave works within the frame of sci-fi literature. It utilizes the same theme that one may see in H G Wells’ novels as well as in countless Hollywood movies ranging from Independence Day to to the cinematic representation of War of the Worlds. What makes The 5th Wave different from other stories on alien invasion is its tenacity in supplying alternative possibilities for the scenario. It’s not surprising if you found the book a bit spooky. The 5th Wave shares the knowledge of how insecure we ought to feel in our ordinary existences. An electromagnetic pulse, just as the one that appears in the book, could cut down almost all our technological implementations, in all walks of life. For example, patients will die on operation tables in hospitals, airplanes and vehicles may crash onto one another due to lack of any human control, libraries would be shut down and computers just won’t work any longer.

The 5th Wave follows the narrative style for a Young Adult novel. That does not mean there is an accepted way to write YA that is approved by the Committee of letters in the Indian Parliament. But there is always expectation from the reading community. In a YA novel, there should always be a young female protagonist, in search of something; sometimes identity, sometimes family members, as it happens in The 5th Wave. Cassie searches for her little brother Sammy. Look how important the notion of journey is in today’s literary super hits. The Alchemist has one, The Hunger Games has one, although this one is not through a longitudinal plane. The Games, still invokes the sense of a journey in all its grandeur and challenges.

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The 5th Wave is a good book that thrills, provokes thoughts and asks some simple yet elegant questions on life. In the beginning of the story, Cassie accidentally kills a soldier, who she identifies as the crucifix soldier. This accident changes her state from a ruthless killer to a caution human being caught in the web of several ethical and emotional concerns. This is the point where the story really begins. The beginning of The 5th Wave is located at the spot where Cassie is transformed by the weight of the act committed by her into a human being. After losing her father and little brother to unknown forces, Cassie creates the self-identity of the sole-survivor of the alien invasion. This brings up the issue of staying alive not for a personal reason, but for the entire human race. The only way Cassie could achieve this feat in an alien infested planet is to attack and kill anyone or anything that moves bringing thoughts of insecurity to her mind. Cassie uses her M16 Luger to perform all her early killings.

When she realizes that the soldier she met in the abandoned utility story is putting his hand in his jacket, Cassie pulls the trigger. That was part of the rule that she created as a defense mechanism. That was her special way of surviving. She was partly following her intuition and partly her wisdom. But she was wrong this time. The soldier she met at the utility store put could not react when the bullet from her M16 Luger separated his life from body.
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The lifeless arm of the soldier came out. It had a crucifix in it. Perhaps, that was his way of keeping himself alive; perhaps, it was his prayer. But this time, it didn’t work either. Cassie realizes that this was not an alien in human form, one of the Silencers, but just a man. Just a moment back, contrary to what she had thought, she was not alone in this blue planet. But she had just killed that last unknown partner in the death-game.

Throughout the rest of her battle, Cassie finds herself struggling with this moment. Can she even think about overcoming the impact of this moment? Well, if you want to know the answer, you must read The 5th Wave. It’s a good book. I am not saying this because Rick Yancey’s humble beginning appeals to my situation also. The 5th Wave is a good book because it delivers a good story in a readable language with powerful characters.   

Happy Reading.                     


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