I think there might be something wrong with science fiction writers. Which is quite the statement, because I am a science fiction writer.
Why do we like to end the world so much? What is so inherently appealing about destroying it? Is it because we have a grudge against society, and this is our way of taking it out on them? Do we like killing characters so much that we just decided to get all of them at once? Are we just sadistic?
The answers of course are: Yes, yes, and yes.
In any case, it’s a popular genre, one that is only growing with time. Every day the shelves get more and more full of apocalyptic stories, and as long as they are at least as good as this book, then it’s a trend I can get behind.
The 5th Wave‘s most unique draw is in the title. The world has not only been hit by an apocalyptic attack from aliens, but it has been hit five times. Each attack calculated as another devastating blow, built on the last.
The book is brutal, in every sense of the word: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It does not, ever, shy away from something. Despite being a young adult novel, it is almost too graphic for some people. Heads explode, people bleed out of there eyes, and vomit from the smell of corpses. It’s raw, and takes no prisoners.
It’s written that way though, because it lends toward the main goal. That is: to be a human story. It is constantly brought up that the people dying have families, and children are butchered just for basic survival. The characters are all very breakable. A leg injury takes months to heal, and a single bullet splatters a child across the ground. There is a scene where two girls are talking at the beginning of the 1st Wave and they bring up how one of them should go have sex with their crush, not because they’re easy, or a slut, but because if not now, they may die virgins. That scene is not fan service, not intended to be “hot” or anything of that sort. It’s sad, and fearful, and desperate. Who among us, in their position, would not think of that?
The only real issues with it show up towards the end, and may not even be that noticeable to someone who is less familiar with apocalyptic books. But the fact that it happens so often bugs me to no end. Stop me if you heard this scenario before: “Character A and B are trying to get to a place/object and are split up. They get quite a distance, and almost make it, but one gets captured. But right before Character A is about to be killed, Character B shows up (as we have up till now only been seeing Character A’s perspective) and saves Character A’s life from certain doom.” That may sound incredibly specific to you, but you will be amazed how often that plays out exactly as I described it. I was actually shocked that the story took this route, because until that point it had been quite realistic in how it handled situations. And then the feeling was compounded further when a injured character pulled off several actions with a bullet in him that, if he were not a main character, would have killed him.
You can explain the situation away, and ignore it, but it will always slightly mar this excellent book in my eyes. And it is an excellent book, despite that problem and others. Entertaining, and raw, and most of all human enough to let me ignore its flaws and enjoy its dark and twisted world.
Oh…and it has a sequel.
Would you excuse me? I think I have a book I need to go buy.
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