The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The Last StarThe Last Star

by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave, #3

Hardcover, 338 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016

Read: November 3 – 5, 2016

Since the Arrival, I’ve been beset by more cravings than a women pregnant with triplets, and always for things I’ll never taste again. Chocolate ice cream cones. Frozen pizza. Whipped cream in a can. Those cinnamon rolls Mom made every Saturday morning. McDonald’s french fries. Bacon. No, bacon was still a possibility. I would just have to find a hog, slaughter it, butcher it, cure the meat, then fry it up. Thinking about the bacon — the potential of bacon — gives me hope. Not all is lost if bacon isn’t.

Seriously.

And there’s the best that this series can do — when there’s no reason for hope, no reason to keep going — Yancey’s characters find a reason (other than inertia) to keep struggling, to keep walking, to keep surviving, to keep hoping.

Sadly, I pretty much needed that same kind (not extent, kind) of perseverance. I thought The 5th Wave rocked, and I enjoyed The Infinite Sea, but not as much — but the wheels really came off this time. It’s not an Allegiant-level disappointment, but it was closer than anyone should want.

The writing was skillful — I liked a lot of what the book had to say about humanity, enlightenment, and teddy bears (no, really). Yancey nailed the character beats, moments, observations — but he utilized this great writing and surrounded these strong elements with a story that just wasn’t worth telling. Somehow in the end, the whole was <iLless than the sum of its parts (anyone know the German for that?).

I’m going to skip the plot summary because it’s just the next stage in the series, leading up to the final confrontation between the survivors we’re following and Humanity’s foes. That’s really all you need to know — and everyone who’s been reading the series knew that already.

This is the 10th book I’ve read by Yancey, and it’s so clearly the weakest link. I’d still recommend this book for those who’ve read the first two — but on the whole, I’d tell those who hadn’t started the series to skip it. I’m more than ready to give whatever Yancey does next a chance, if for no other reason than to get the taste of this out of my mouth.

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3 Stars

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The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2)The Infinite Sea

by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave, #2

Hardcover, 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.

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* 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.

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4 1/2 Stars

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave, #1

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There were two things that kept running through my mind: Noah Hawley‘s A Conspiracy of Tall Men and Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games (maybe you’ve heard of it). I’m not really suggesting that Yancey’s created some sort of Hawley-Collins hybrid, but this affected me the same way those two did.

I remember very little about Hawley’s book (it was 1999, in my defense) — I remember enjoying it and being really creeped out and feeling paranoid. A feeling that lasted a little longer than the book, as I recall.

I remember Collins better, obviously. And whatever issues and problems the first of Katniss’ adventures had, it grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go until well after the runaway freight train of a story had come to it’s adrenaline-fueled conclusion.

I really don’t know how to discuss the story of The 5th Wave without spoiling the heck out of it. But I can tell you that it hit me like those two books did. The various storylines are gripping, and fast-paced and make you wish you could turn the pages faster. And once you get your brain wrapped around the devastation being unleashed on earth, the creepiness and paranoia are the order of the day.

This isn’t one of the better books I’ve read lately — in terms of character, craft, literary value, etc. — but it’s just about the most effective and affecting. Hawley gets under your skin with the skill of a seasoned pro, makes your emotions and reactions dance like a marionette for him, and leaves you hungry for more.

I have to admit, I miss the Yancey of Alfred Knopf and The Highly Effective Detective books — they just felt different. They were fun — as enjoyable as this is, it wasn’t fun. And I liked the characters (most of them), wanted to spend time with them. Not so sure I like these characters as people. But, until Yancey gets around to it (if he does), I’ll gladly take pulse-pounding excitement and mind-bendy plots.