Book Reviews · Nerdy Basement

The 5th Wave Trilogy – Book series review

Hollywood is all about phases. The problem is that they don’t understand how fast a phase would pass, most of the time before they can milk more money out of it. Years ago, it was the paranormal YA phase, with Twilight surprising the shit out of everyone by making it huge in the box office. One too many paranormal YAs made it to the screens big and small riding the Twilight wave, but none of them quite made it that big. There are good and bad things that came out of it. We had the bad on one corner like almost all the vampire YAs, maybe except Vampire Academy which was actually a pretty fun flick. But movies like Vampire Academy and Mortal Instrument didn’t make it big, not because they weren’t good YA films, but it was just more of a wrong timing and too huge of a box office expectation. Then came the Hunger Games, and it created another wave. This times it’s dystopia YAs. And after four years, they still keep pushing out movies set in dystopia in a rapid fire pace. A while ago I watched yet another movie like that riding the Hunger Games wave, appropriately named ‘The 5th Wave’. The movie wasn’t that great but it had an interesting enough idea to make me want to read the books.

When I found out that it was yet another YA trilogy, I groaned inside in frustration. It’s not that I have anything against trilogies, I just had my fair share of really crappy ones. You can witness the same phenomenon in TV shows. First someone come up with a brilliant idea, unique and fascinating, so they pitch the idea to the money people. But that’s the only thing they had, just an idea, enough story for one season of television or one 300-400 pages novel. But like making television, you can’t leave just after one season, many writer and producer can’t wrap their head around the idea of a stand-alone book, they don’t understand the beauty of just one book, a properly told story. And of course, there is the money. More books equals more money. And that is something I strongly dislike. I love long series, only if you have enough story to tell. Like Harry Potter and the Song of Ice and Fire, both epic sagas that simply can’t be contained in merely three books. But then we have books like ‘The 5th Wave’ by Rick Yancey. There will be some spoilers.

Let’s start from the beginning. The scene was set beautifully in ‘The 5th Wave’. The classic alien invasion with a brilliantly executed plan. The attack came in waves. First wave, they took out any form of power and communication. Second wave, earthquakes and tsunamis, all the major cities near the sea gone. The third wave, an enhanced incurable avian flu killing four billion people. By the time the 3th wave was over, the world’s population was reduced to seven digits, six even. The fourth wave? Taking the trust out of us, anyone can be the enemy, you can’t trust no one but yourself. But I don’t think that’s something we can completely credit the aliens, fourth wave sounds like human nature. Then the book is all about the 5th wave, which is unknown but all we know that it was coming.

The story first follow closely a young surviving teenage girl Cassie Sullivan. I don’t have a strong opinion about Cassie, she wasn’t a strong main character that left a dent in my heart, I didn’t fall in love with her. Luckily she wasn’t annoying either, if not counting the irregular ultra dramatic utterances such as ‘I am humanity’ which would make me roll my eyes involuntarily. Guess she’s a typical teenager after all. I did like her in the beginning, because the first book started like it was going to be Cassie writing her diary, babbling on and on and sounding crazy in the most entertaining way. And I wouldn’t have mind reading a trilogy in the same fashion, reading about the crazed monologue of a teenager without the Internet, about things that might have happened only in her head. That would have been an awesome story.

Then gradually, the book introduced other leads by presenting their point of views also, and I have to say, that only distanced me from Cassie, because I am just as nonchalant about those other characters too. They all lacked the growth that I desperately need especially in YA novels. I enjoyed the first book quite much, it was somewhat focused with clear plot development. The author clearly had a clear picture of the story in mind, that’s why the first book was so much thicker than its sequels.

Then came the second book. What a fucking mess. It was definitely the weakest link. One of the reason might be adding looooong POV chapters of Evan and Ringer, which were so boring. Well, Evan’s was boring, and Ringer was this very annoying character, and no, she does not get more interesting in time. The whole second book was just a stand-still, with one or two interesting action scenes but that’s it. It was exactly 300 pages, but it felt so much longer.

Then the last book, most of it, again, boring. The most interesting must be chapters about the Silencers. They were brilliantly cruelsome and during those times it read like a horror book. The most interesting scene must be towards the end, what happened between Cassie and the Wonderland program. And she got to see things in other people’s eyes. That was an endlessly fascinating aspect and they spent too little time speaking about it. I like the scene close to the end a lot. And all of the chapters with someone’s flashbacks and memories, they were the best ones too. You see a glimpse of the lives everyone had before it all went to shit. They were well written and were crucial at adding some substance in otherwise very hollow characters.

All in all, The 5th Wave trilogy was messy. It had a great premise, but gravely lacking when it comes to following through. Right till the end, I got a strong feeling that the author had no idea himself either what he was writing about. Or at least it felt like it. It was supposed to be great twists here and there, but they end up being anti-climatic and really, they didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Even upon reading the last page, I wasn’t sure what had happened. And it’s not like an open ending that leaves the reader to decide what happened next, it was more like there were so many points of views that made the reader so confused and utterly incapable of building even a wobbling frame for the story.

And a word about the writing style. I must sound over critical by now, but oh well. It gave me a sense of trying too hard. Trying too hard to be clever and sound eloquent. And there are many phrases that repeat themselves throughout the series in various forms but are essentially the same. Maybe by giving some examples would clarify what I’m trying to say about trying too hard.

Example one
And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.

Example two
How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Example three
“I am a shark, Cassie. A shark who dreamed he was a man.” (Oh ffs ‘roll eyes)

So you see? And yes, there is a very unnecessary romance, or many several. For once it would have been refreshing to not have to suffer through a forced romantic story. There can be drama without romance. You would think that such themes as alien invasion, humanity, loyalty, betrayal and survival are big enough to fill few hundred pages. I know ‘love’ is supposed like a big thing, but there are other kinds of love than the romantic kind, and actually that would have fit in this story way better.

I rated the first book quite high in Goodreads, just because I think the idea alone deserves the stars. At Goodreads there is the five-star rating system, but I like to rate with at least 10 stars, so here we go. My rating of the books:

The 5th Wave (book 1) – 7 stars out of 10

The Infinite Sea (book 2) – 5 stars out of 10

The Last Star (book 3) – 6 stars out of 10


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