‘The 5th Wave’ Review: An Alien Apocalypse With Human Heart

“The 5th Wave” is one of the most anticipated new books of the year, and not just because they’ve been teasing us for weeks with Hollywood-worthy book trailers that hint at the amazing, apocalyptic, alien-invasion awesomeness to come. In the capable hands of Rick Yancey (author of “The Monstrumologist”), this first novel in an intended trilogy offers up a juicy, imaginative premise that seems tailor-made to be adapted for the screen: the unheralded appearance of alien ships, hovering in the earth’s orbit…followed by a methodical, malicious series of “waves” designed to exterminate the planet’s current inhabitants. By the time we arrive in the world of “The 5th Wave,” only a tiny percentage of the human race remains—and our numbers are shrinking fast.

In its best moments, this novel is a YA entry into the epic survivalist oeuvre that also includes bestselling crowd-pleasers like Stephen King’s “The Stand,” Justin Cronin’s “The Passage” and Robert Kirkman’s graphic-novels-turned-primetime-powerhouse “The Walking Dead.” “The 5th Wave” introduces a broad cast of characters and compelling multiple narratives that offer a look at the ruined world through the eyes of several different people: In one, a 16 year-old girl named Cassie wanders through the wasteland of post-invasion Ohio, searching for her brother; in another, a teenage boy known only as “Zombie” trains with other young survivors at a refugee camp to mount a last, desperate defense on behalf of the human race. There’s also a single, terrifying chapter of the tale as told by the nameless Silencer—a being whose one and only goal is to track, hunt and kill every remaining person on earth to make way for the incoming aliens.

With unflinching action scenes, spine-tingling suspense and the constant, looming threat of extermination casting its shadow over everything, “The 5th Wave” is a fast-paced page-turner that’ll leave you anxious for its sequels. But despite an exciting premise and some masterful, imaginative storytelling, the story isn’t without its flaws: chief among them that anyone who has ever known, liked, or been a teenage girl will find Cassie unrealistic to the point of offensiveness. (Without giving away too much, let’s just say that a girl who’s just witnessed the deaths of thousands of people, killed a few herself and managed to survive alone in a hostile wilderness for weeks is not going to wake up after being shot, in a strange place and with a strange guy watching over her and be instantly consumed by lusty thoughts about the shapeliness of his butt.)

But absent Yancey’s peculiar decision to paint his heroine as a boy-crazy ball of pubertal angst—and a handful of resulting moments that are really and truly cringe-worthy—”The 5th Wave” is a solid presence on the YA scene, and a thrilling start to a trilogy so Hollywood-ready that it’s practically begging for production to begin. And with an option already on the table, the first novel in the series will almost certainly be brought to life on the big screen long before the third book appears on shelves.

Will you be picking up a copy of “The 5th Wave”?