by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave, #2Hardcover, 300 pg.
Putnam Juvenile, 2014
Read: October 4 – 5, 2014
Man, talk about trepidation. Did I want to pick up this book? Was there any chance it could live up to The 5th Wave? Slim to none. But man, I wanted to find out what happens to the Earth. I wanted to know if we ever figure out what the aliens want with the Earth, why they’re eliminating humanity in the way they are. So, prepared to be disappointed, I cracked the cover.
And Yancey doesn’t try to match — or even try to top — The 5th Wave. He writes a very different book. Not one that grabbed me as thoroughly, but one that works in its own way. Where The 5th Wave was a bullet train that you just tried to hang on to — The Infinite Sea was roller coaster you’re riding while blindfolded — the ride lopping, diving, screaming around a corner with no warning, leaving your stomach behind you.
Yancey can’t even give us a Prologue to reorient ourselves to this world, to get our feet under us so we can say, “Oh yeah, this is what’s going on…” before resuming the action. Sure, it starts to seem like that, but nope. He’s right there to pull the rug out from under us at the first possible moment, in a way that catches the reader just as off-guard as the bits of remaining humanity will be.
I read some criticism lately about The 5th Wave that complained about the lack of motivation given for the aliens to do what they’re doing — it makes no sense, and therefore the reviewer couldn’t buy into the book with a motive-less enemy. But to me, that’s why the book worked. Humanity doesn’t understand what’s going on, so there’s no reason we human readers should either. Try as they might, there’s just no figuring out what’s going on other then their great need to survive.
On the whole, we spend time with the characters we met in the first book, those that survived — and, in flashbacks, some that didn’t, Cassie, Sam, Ben/Zombie, and a few others I won’t name because I can’t be sure I won’t spoil something by doing so. We say good-by to some of them, too. We meet a few other characters, too. Some of which we’ll see again. It’s that kind of series. But we get to know almost all of them better, the last book was all about getting to know a couple of these characters really well. This time, we get backstories on everyone, even if it’s pages/paragraphs before they die. This is important, I feel more grounded in this world the more I get to know characters who aren’t Cassie, Evan or Ringer.
And we get some more mature, experienced — and in some cases, informed — hints at what’s really been going on. Still, not enough to placate that other reviewer, I bet — or, really anyone. At one point, Cassie’s complaining about her interactions since Day 1 with Evan.
Every time I edge too close to something, he deflected by telling me how much he loved me or how I saved him or some other swoony, pseudo-profound observation about the nature of my magnificence.
I chuckled as I read it, because this is pretty much Yancey’s modus operandi — just when you get close to learning something, being told something, a character figuring something out, etc. — something explodes or someone starts shooting. Or both. Not a way to tell a narrative that satisfies everyone or to show off brilliant world-building. But a it’s great way to keep pages turning.
I found this to be a very satisfying read. As I said, I didn’t expect to be as taken with this book as I was its predecessor, and I wasn’t — but in a way, I’m sucked into this series more than before. I really don’t know the last time I said “son of a — “* out loud at a book as much as I did with this one. It’s probably not since Butcher’s Changes that I’ve called a writer so many names as I’ve read. Yancey just keeps throwing me for loops. Not the best book I’ve ever read, not high literature, but edge-of-your-seat thrills, convincing characters, and honestly come by surprises. Really entertaining stuff. That’s all I ask for.
* I seriously don’t finish the sentence, because I’m too busy shaking off whatever trauma is thrown my way and getting back into things to bother.