There are two reasons I needed to read The 5th Wave. One is that it’s going to be a movie, and that’s always exciting in teen books. But the greater reason was that I loved Yancey’s writing in the Monstrumologist series, which was alternately suspenseful, grotesque, and comic.
The 5th Wave is sci-fi rather than horror, but it will not disappoint fans. The tradition of alien invasions, the decimation of the human race, and frightening body snatching lives!
An alien species has come to take over the earth. They don’t want to enslave the human population. They want to wipe it out. And they do this in waves. Most of the world’s population is easily eradicated by plague in the 3rd wave. The mother of protagonist Cassie is one of billions killed. But in general the family is strong and ‘lucky’ (we have to use that word loosely here). Cassie, her father and her little brother Sammy survive. But luck runs out as the waves of killing continue, each using a different method of murder. The aliens are intent on destroying every last human being.
As bad turns to worse for the family, five-year-old Sammy is taken to what Cassie at first believes is a safe military base with army protection. But horrifying events lead Cassie to understand that Sammy is in danger and must be rescued. She also comes to understand that the aliens have been able to meld into the consciousness of the humans—bringing a 4th wave of killings.
Who can Cassie trust? She has no idea since all of the bad guys look like people. She takes her M-16 rifle, her bowie knife and a few other essentials like Sammy’s beloved teddy bear. She faces off with everyone she meets. It looks like she may lose her battle when a “Silencer” has her in his sights.
While Cassie battles for her life, “Zombie,” known as Ben when he was in high school, is tormented over the fact that he left his younger sister to die while escaping the aliens. He had always been a football star and the secret crush of many girls—Cassie included, although Ben never knew it. But despite his big reputation, the alien invasion showed him to be a coward. He needs to make amends. He decides to stand and fight. But in doing so, he realizes that he may well be working for the enemy by taking innocent lives.
High school housekeeping: This is traditional sci-fi fare, and a lot for fun for fans. While the enemy is uncertain, and the stakes of being friendly are high, it’s every man (and woman) for himself, with lots of fast-paced action. Readers of the Monstrumologist series might miss the cleverly misconstrued conversations, but the essential struggles are here: against other life forms, against one’s own doubts and fears. And most important, the big questions are once again asked. Are some people more valuable than others? When danger lurks, who is saved? What, in fact, does it mean to be human?