The 5th Wave

by Rick Yancey

Read time: about 8 minutes

When I came across a few posts on different platforms where people were constantly battling for and against the almost ‘cult’ status of the book, ‘the 5th wave’, I decided to give it a try myself. ‘The 5th wave’ is going around fitting itself in the ‘science fiction’ genre and it irritates me enough to actually wish that I had read more books on this genre to negate the claim. ‘The Martian’ is science fiction. ‘The 5th Wave’ is not science fiction! And sadly my argument ends there! But I vow to prove my point in the review.

Misplaced genre is not the only point that erks me about the book. There are many more. So let’s begin!

Cover page

The cover page is a good composition, no denying that. There is a girl who is looking at a city through woods. It fits the story inside as well. Accepted.

Now try this. Think of this as cover page for hunger games. Does it fit? Now think of it as a cover of ‘Flawed’ by Cecelia Ahren. Does it fit? Exactly my point. This is becoming a trend. A cover page is designed to not stand out but to blend in. It is designed and then slapped on the books of similar genre. And we all agree that ‘The Hunger Games’ series is a lot different from ‘Flawed’. And these two books are entirely different from ours truly. And where is science fiction again?

The cover is not bad. But it fails to give the edge to the book. There is no personalization. This is enough for me to toss the book into the second hand book store and be satisfied with my kindle edition. If I like the book enough to have a copy that is.


There are multiple characters in the book and they are all similar to each other thrown in different situations. There is no depth.

Cassiopeia does not like the name very much and prefers to be called Cassie. She is a regular teenager. She loves her brother and crushes on a guy from her high school. It all changes when the third wave sweeps in and she has to be more responsible now. Cassie began as a character who could be loved. She could be our next Katniss Everdeen. But no she chooses to actually melt into the arms of a boy with chocolate colored eyes. And she is saying things like, ‘What is it about him that makes me want to slap him and kiss him, run from him and to. Him, throw my arms around him and knee him in the balls, all at the same time?’. There are few more lines that disappoint you so much that you just want to shake the girl up and tell, ‘The world is on fire, woman!’. Cassie lacks a solid ground throughout the book.

The next character is Evan Walker. So when you read sentences like these right in the beginning…

On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs.
Runs from the beings that only look human,
Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors.
To stay alone is to stay alive,
Until she meets Evan Walker.
Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope.
Now Cassie must choose: between trust and despair,
between defiance and surrender, between life and death.

… You expect a great chemistry or at least a strong male character, which Evan was but he continuously kept vaporising in the air and then after sometime there was nothing special about him. There are two more ‘main’ characters but they too lack the kind of persona you would expect from a book which is majorly young adult. Not science fiction!


The book starts off from being interesting to bland to downright boring. The earth is apparently infested by aliens who are determined to kill all the humans on the planet and reside here by themselves. So they keep sending wave after wave and killing a few million people with every wave. The world awaits the last wave when the story begins. An interesting concept, but pathetically carried out. Waves are just fusing into each other and it gets difficult to understand which wave does what until Cassie comes to rescue on page 351 to summarise the waves for the readers. That’s where the waves are understood. All but last one. But let’s not blame Cassie because she herself is trying to figure out. She is running out of time though since there are exactly 109 pages left for the book to get over. The unnecessary sluggish pace gets to the reader almost halfway through the book.

The book is filled with unnecessary references from other books, quotes from different authors and historical figures. There is one point where it looks like the author is trying to force feed so many references to the readers to prove a point. We get it. He is well read! But who needs forceful insertions of Dawkins, Hawking, Shakespeare etc throughout the book.

The book is not much about the war but whatever little the author has tried to describe it, it fails to hold the attention. It is often seen that authors find it difficult to describe a war sequence, be it Salman Rushdie or Amish Tripathi.

Last but definitely this is the most important point in the book. There is hardly any science in the story. Several words like ‘aliens’ and ‘suture’ are scattered along the pages but it does not quench the thirst. The author has shied away throughout from getting deep into the science aspect of the book. There are only green balls and wonderland in the book. Hardly enough. The book comes across more as a young adult dystopian novel rather than a science fiction.


The narration switches often from one person to the other in the beginning. It makes it more difficult to understand the setting. There are plenty of beautiful lines in the book but the effect wears off soon and reader is left waiting for the story to move on.

Good Points

The concept is very interesting. Aliens watching us since the time pyramid was built can make a fascinating story. The narration is interesting. There are some beautiful lines in the book which are worth quoting. Someone who likes good writing is not going to be disappointed.

Bad Points

The cover page in spite of being composed well fails to stand out. The safe approach does not work for this book. The characters lack depth. They all seem similar to one another, only their surroundings change. The content does not live up to the expectation. It leaves the reader counting the pages left in the book so he can finish the book and move on to the next one. The novel does not do complete justice to science fiction genre.


The book is going to be a disappointment for science fiction fans and young adult readers alike. When there are so many amazing books waiting to be read, this one feels like a severe wastage of time and resource.

Who do I recommend this to

Those who find the movie trailer interesting and want to know the story well before, this book can be fulfilling.

Quotable Quotes


I’m on talking about real aliens. The Others aren’t stupid. The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog. No contest.

Daddy said the world was dividing into two camps: runners and nesters. Runners headed for the hills - or thunder mountain. Nesters boarded up the windows, stocked up on the canned goods and ammunition, and kept the TV tuned to CNN 24/7.

Around noon on my mission to keep my promise, I stop for a water break and a Slim Jim. Every time I eat a Slim Jim or a can of sardines or anything prepackaged, I think, Well, there’s one less of that in the world. Whittling away the evidence of our having been here one bite at a time.

He was lucky, my dad. All of us were. Luck had carried us through the first three waves. But even the best gambler will tell you that luck only lasts so long. I think my dad had a feeling that day. Not that our luck had run out. No one could know that. But I think he knew in the end it wouldn’t be the lucky ones talent standing.

Because if I am. The last one, then I am humanity.

And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am. The battlefield.

I will teach you to love death. I will empty you of grief and guilt and self-pity and fill you up with hate and cunning and the spirit of vengeance. I will make my final stand here, Benjamin Thomas Parish.

At the height of the plague, when people were dying by the hundreds every day, the panicky residents of Tent City would sometimes toss an unconscious person into the fire by mistake, and you didn’t just hear their screams as they burned alive, you felt them like punch to your heart.

“Crazy people - they never think they’re crazy. Their craziness makes perfect sense to them.”

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH