Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Penguin Books
Where I Received the Title: Library
I first heard of The 5th Wave on an episode of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy and learned this is being promoted (and funded) as the next The Hunger Games. Its alien invasion theme is reminiscent of golden age science fiction and I was eager to read it, seeing it as a potential gateway for younger readers into adult science fiction.
The comparison to The Hunger Games is fair in many respects. One of the primary viewpoint characters in The 5th Wave is Cassie, a teenager who manages to survive the first four waves of an alien invasion. Like Katniss in The Hunger Games, Cassie has a younger sibling that she will risk death to keep safe. Both protagonists find themselves in a love triangle amidst their dystopian environments and struggle to know if their star-crossed lovers are loyal or not.
Yancey’s writing style reminded me of a lite version of John Scalzi — soft science fiction focusing on character growth with bits of humor tossed in. Even the prose was similar, with chapters often reading like smaller vignettes of a larger story arc. It was effective in making this a page turner (I very easily finished the novel in a day), but the lack of continuity made the novel at times feel gimmicky.
Where I think The 5th Wave fell short of The Hunger Games (or a novel such as Old Man’s War) is in the relationships between characters. Cassie is saved by a seventeen-year-old named Evan, who falls in love with her from afar. This relationship never reaches any point of credibility, nor does Cassie’s boy-crush on Ben, the other main viewpoint character in the novel.
For someone who has now read many science fiction novels, this one just didn’t do a whole lot for me. The story is plays on a common trope without offering much new or inventive. It has some good action, but doesn’t rise anywhere near the level of The Hunger Games. Frankly, I don’t really understand what the aliens are thinking. They want to take over the Earth due to their planet dying and they have this phenomenal technology that allows them to transfer their consciousness from an alien body to a machine and then to a human body, yet they are completely inept in military strategy. They spend six thousand (!) years studying the human race before embarking on a series of attacks that are ineffective in containing them.
I do hope this novel helps science fiction gain a little more popularity and for those foreign to the genre, this may be an enjoyable read. I actually enjoyed the time I spent reading it, but it didn’t leave me with any sort of lasting impression. For a teen looking at getting into science fiction, I would be more inclined to suggest a work like Ender’s Game, but The 5th Wave is highly readable as well. If you’re an adult science fiction fan, don’t expect much.