Sunday, 22 December 2013

The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

For anyone looking for a great adventure/thriller – perhaps to replace that hole left by The Hunger Games – then look no further than The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. It seems a bit cliché to describe it as gripping or edge-of-the-seat, but that is exactly what this book delivers. It’s a little bit sci-fi, a little bit horror, a little bit post-apocalyptic, but mostly it’s just about a family trying to survive, trying to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

Cassie’s world has been destroyed. Four waves of terror spread across the world when the aliens came. First the lights went out. Then tsunamis spread across the land. The third wave was pestilence, the fourth the silencers. What will the fifth wave be and when will it come? Separated from her family, Cassie is living day by day, living by the principal of trust no-one. Which seems pretty sensible, except that sometimes you have to decide to put your faith in someone, sometimes you need that someone to help you survive. But is Evan the right someone for Cassie to trust? He saved her life, but is he telling her everything? Can he help her find her little brother?

Rick Yancey’s telling of The 5th Wave is done in such a way to make you 95% certain that you know what’s going on, who to trust, who to doubt, and right from the very beginning we know what the 5th wave will be, even if Cassie doesn't. And yet that 5% somehow takes on a disproportionate weight, making us question what we believe to be true, to want to shout out at Cassie and warn her whilst also making us want to believe the opposite. And thus, tension abounds, the heart races, and you just have to simply keep turning the page, and the next page and the next page and the next page.

Ironically, Cassie has never met an alien; as far as she knows they’ve never set foot on the planet, never shown their faces. Instead they wreak their havoc from above, watching, waiting, playing. This makes it seem so much more about humanity, about how we respond to apocalyptic situations, how we choose to treat each other, how we find safety or how we gang up against one another; what we’re willing to sacrifice. This is a story that has been told time and time again, yet Yancey imbues it with a fresh sense of adventure and trauma and tension. And, given as this is a concept that has been told time and time again, what does that say about our enduring fascination with the real subject matter: ourselves?

Whether you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, The Passage, I Am Number Four, The Host, or none of the above, read The 5th Wave. Whether you’re young or old, or even older, read The 5th Wave. It’s brilliant.

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