Thursday, August 29, 2013
The 1st wave: an EMP that knocks out all electricity
The 2nd wave: manufactured earthquakes
The 3rd wave: a deadly disease carried by bird droppings
The 4th wave: surviving humans are picked off
The 5th wave: to be determined
Cassie lost her mother to the 3rd wave, but her father and little brother Sammy miraculously survived. By now, people have long abandoned the idea that the aliens hoped to coexist and they now recognize that humanity is being wiped off the planet systematically and purposefully, most likely to make way for an alien colonization.
Cassie's family finds their way to a place they call Camp Ashpit, which is basically a tent city where survivors have huddled together, waiting for what is going to happen next. When official-looking people in uniforms with humvees show up, they think it's the answer to their prayers. The uniformed people take all the children up to age 13 or so (including Cassie's brother) away in a school bus to a refugee camp where, according to them, they'll be "perfectly safe." They say they'll be back to pick up the teenagers and adults, and they leave a few soldiers behind to look after them.
I'm sure you know where this is going. Cassie quickly learns that the soldiers don't necessarily have their best interests in mind. She survives the subsequent events, and she fears for her brother's life. He's only five, and he's all she has left. Though she now believes that the aliens have somehow found a way to inhabit the bodies of humans, she's determined to rescue Sammy. She sets out across alien-infested terrain toward the refugee camp.
This is a Book for Me. I love sweeping stories about the end of the world, and it's extra special if the end is brought about by aliens. This is the kind of book that is filled with what I loving describe as "crushing despair." (And hey, it doesn't involve rape! At all! Imagine that.) It's nearly as awesome as I wanted it to be.
As with any acclaimed novel, there are a number of readers who gave this a vehemently negative review. Most cite the writing, which is strange for me. It's not a straightforward narrative; it's told in a slightly more conversational style with a great deal more fragments and run-ons than you'd find in the average book. It's nothing close to stream of consciousness, but I suppose this type of writing doesn't suit everyone. Still, I'd hardly call it bad writing, in an objective sense.
Yancey excels at making readers second-guess what they already know. Very early on, Cassie is rescued from certain death by a human boy who says his name is Evan. Evan has a secret, of course, and we know what it is. Cassie only suspects, but we know. And yet, over the course of many pages, Yancey sows a seed of doubt in our minds. How do we know, really? Isn't it possible that Evan is exactly who he says he is? Isn't it likely? This line of thought shows the strength in Yancey's writing: despite the fact that he's shared everything we need to know beyond a doubt, we still do doubt, because Cassie does. The book is full of plot points like this, and it's part of what makes the story so engaging.
The romance between Cassie and Evan is a little hard to buy - a blip on an otherwise stellar book. Cassie is suspicious of him from the beginning, and Yancey relies too heavily on her falling for him due to his rescue of her. The problem is, it doesn't seem in Cassie's nature to do this. By now, she's jaded, she doesn't trust anyone, and she's gotten pretty good at taking care of herself. It's possible she may not want to kill him, but romance is another thing entirely.
Only half of the book follows Cassie. The other half shows us events from Ben Parish's perspective, and his situation is much different, though their stories do converge by the end. He's at a refugee camp, being trained by surviving adults to fight back. They don't think they can win, but they plan to take down as many aliens as possible when they go. As with Cassie, things are not what they seem, and Ben's struggle to sift truth from lies propels the story forward.
The pacing is a little strange. It's not all breakneck, and at times it does start to drag...except just as I began to think "Hm, this may be getting a bit slow," Yancey threw something completely new at me that had me fully engaged once more. Consequently, though the book has over 500 pages, it never seems long.
Cassie's fear is palpable, but so is her drive to survive, particularly when she sets her mind on rescuing her brother. She and Ben both waver between hope and despair, between the need to seek safety and the need to exact revenge. They both witness and perpetrate horrific things. They doubt the humanity of others, quite literally, but they also doubt their own humanity in a more metaphorical sense by the end.
If you're looking for a happy book, this is not for you. But it should have huge appeal for fans of apocalyptic or alien invasion stories, particularly those readers looking for a different kind of alien, a type that doesn't necessarily look or act like us. Highly recommended and deserving of its accolades.
Finished copy borrowed from the library.