So, as something a little different, I thought I'd write a short, spoiler-free review of my favourite book of 2013. There were a few which came close to taking the crown (The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman's first adult book in years, was a strong contender), there was one in particular that left me hungry for more, and unable to read anything else.
My favourite book of 2013 has to be The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey.
It begins with an EMP - an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out the world's electrical grid and communications, isolating and dividing humanity. This is only the first wave, however, in a coordinated attack by alien invaders that, while remaining terrifying and completely plausible, is done entirely from a distance. This is a Cold Invasion, the freshest story of its type I have seen in years, in a market saturated with unimaginative or tired tropes. Soon they launch tsunamis along every coastline, killing three billion and driving humanity inland. Next is a deadly virus, killing four billion, the virus spreading quickly due to mankind's desire to stay close, stay together. In the fourth wave, it's kill or be killed - rumours spread that the aliens are among us, have been all along, and you don't know who to trust.
Such is the way the world ends. We follow 16-year-old Cassie Sullivan, an ordinary teenage girl who lost everything in the initial waves. Now, her little brother is missing, and she has to find him. She's headstrong and courageous, full of quips. The novel is told through a first person perspective, and Rick Yancey expertly commands character voice to rival even George R. R. Martin. I grew to love Cassie almost instantly, as she comments on what's left of humanity with a world-weary sarcasm well beyond her years. Soon into the novel, the perspective switches to the enigmatic 'Zombie', a boy around Cassie's age whose true identity I'd rather leave for the readers to discover. He's different to Cassie - he's confident, charismatic, has never wanted for anything in life. The apocalypse changes all that, of course, but his story takes a different route to Cassie's as the narrative twists and turns, perspective switching until the final act.
I must admit, however, I didn't care so much for Zombie's story until farther in. Perhaps it was the character voice, which didn't work quite as instantly as Cassie's, which kept Zombie at a distance. Maybe it was the fact that I didn't know quite who this character was, his identity mask acting as a detriment to his character. Whatever it was, it took me a long time to warm to Zombie, always wishing I was back with Cassie, finding out what was happening to her.
I don't want to spoil much more of the plot than what I've said already, but make no mistake, this is a Young Adult novel at heart, sometimes to its detriment. The love story elements don't always work, somewhat detracting from Cassie's character. Whilst I understand that Cassie is a teenage girl, with the maelstrom of hormones that brings, I felt that Yancey needed to develop that part of Cassie's personality more to explain some of her decisions, especially when its obvious to us as readers that she may not be making entirely the right choice. It didn't work quite as well for me.
Still, the plot develops at breakneck pace, and as we learn more about the alien invaders, we fear them more and more. The novel's conclusion had me breathless, hungry for more, eager for the next in the series. The Fifth Wave is the first in a planned trilogy, with the second book, The Endless Sea, due later this year. Not only that, but The Fifth Wave has already been optioned for a movie under Columbia Pictures. With comparisons being drawn to The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, and The Passage, look out for this to be the next big thing folks.
All in all I loved The Fifth Wave, and can forgive its shortcomings. I'd highly recommend this novel to anyone, and have done so with good feedback. Even if you don't like YA fiction, this might be a good place to start.
The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey
Reviewed by Matt Sloan on January 5 2014
Reviewed by Matt Sloan on January 5 2014