September 06, 2013

BOOKS: The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey (2013)

More than just another in the current flood of dystopian YA novels with tough teenage heroines.This one's got a smart story, interesting characters, strong moral dilemmas, and exciting action that should appeal to adult readers as well as teens.

The alien invasion began with an electromagnetic pulse that wiped out all of our machines. A series of increasingly severe attacks have left only about three percent of humanity alive, and they tend to be isolated, since any one of them could be an alien in disguise.

One of those survivors is Cassie. She's 16, and her goal is to re-unite with her little brother, Sammy, who has been taken (along with the other small children) to a government camp for protection. When she's injured, she's nursed back to health by a stranger, a young man named Evan. She can't be entirely sure that Evan is trustworthy, but she's left with no choice but to team up with him to find her brother.

Most of the book is told from Cassie's point of view, but we get the occasional chapter from someone else -- Sammy; Cassie's old high-school crush, who's being trained as a soldier to fight the invaders; one of those alien invaders in human form -- and each of those characters is crisply and distinctly defined.

As the book's mysteries are slowly resolved -- What do the aliens want? What's really happening to Sammy? What's Evan hiding? -- each answer ratchets the tension up another notch, until the final action sequence brings the book to a rousing climax.

There's certainly room for sequels in Yancey's universe, but The 5th Wave is entirely satisfying on its own, and it's a fine SF thriller.

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