Audiobook Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

14 06 2013

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Read by Phoebe Strole and Brandon Espinoza

Penguin Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic Alien Invasion

Quick Thoughts: The 5th Wave is a fast paced terrifying apocalyptic vision that is well executed until one moment of total crappihood has it all crash down on my weeping torso. If not for my one not-so-little plot hang-up, The 5th Wave would have been in contention as one of my favorite audiobooks of the year. But, dammit. I just couldn’t get past that one moment.

Grade: (Was so an A… until it wasn’t. So, let’s say B-ish)

Note: Fair warning, there are moments in this review (in the second paragraph) that a somewhat spoilerish. I will warn you along the way.

I should really thank Rick Yancey. I have never worried too much about my blog stats. If I get 20 people reading my review on the day I post it, I’m pretty much satisfied. I do pay attention to trends, to see what is driving people to my blog. I recently saw an upswing in people checking one of my Feature posts from last year, were I listed my 10 Favorite Alien Invasion novels. Since most of this has come from random search engine entries on Alien Invasion books, I can’t help but think that Yancey’s alien invasion novel The 5th Wave has inspired a renewed interest in the subgenre. I’m down with that. It’s no secret that I love Alien Invasion novels of all sorts. From more straight forward tales like Footfall, to the stranger subtler invasions, I have always been intrigued by why alien species would develop to a point where interstellar travel was a possibility, then come all the way to earth to perform weird medical procedures followed by a sloppy invasion where a few ragtag guerrilla fighters manage to find a way to stop them. I always wondered what motivated the aliens. It can’t be for our natural resources, since there are countless planets, moons, asteroids and comets that provide more than enough materials for some space faring saurian monkey jellyfish hybrids.  Do humans just taste really good? Is this why almost every apocalyptic scenario ends in an orgasmic smorgasbord of cannibalism? Many people have said that there really is no reason for aliens to search us out. I really don’t believe that. I know that is we discovered a sentient alien species living some crazy number of light years away, and we developed the technology to reach those distances, we would probably head right out there waving like some crazy hillbillies hopped up on caffeine and Coors Light. I just hope we don’t go there to probe them, invade them or eat them. Unless they are really tasty.

When the ships were discovered heading towards Earth no one knew what to expect. For 10 days they approached, no message, no indication of their plans. Then the first wave of destruction begins with an EMP blast that wipes out the electronic infrastructure and sends the planet into chaos. With each wave, more and more died. Now, Cassie is one of the last people left, traveling alone, trying to avoid the enemy in human form, in a search for her brother kidnapped by the invaders. The 5th Wave is a fast paced terrifying apocalyptic vision that is well executed until one moment of total crappihood has it all crash down on my weeping torso. Really people, I was loving The 5th Wave. Totally. Yancey creates a surprising realistic portrayal of the dire situation a probable encounter with an aggressive alien species would create. He shakes off the bonds of Independence Day and V, and uses pop physics, and intriguing science fiction concepts to make for a fascinating apocalyptic adventure story. Then, in one moment, I was like NOOOOOOOOOO!! PLEASE GOD NO!! THAT JUST DIDN”T HAPPEN! *Sigh* OK, really, this could get a little spoilery. I loved the beginning of the book with the details of Cassie’s journey and her perspectives of the apocalypse. I love the segments with Sam being trained to fight the aliens. I loved the mystery and intrigue and the constant guessing of what exactly was what. There were moments where I questioned assumptions, held back suspicions, and in turned felt the bitter betrayal of the alien maskirovka. Even when Cassie met up with Evan, I was OK, despite my suspicions. Yet, there is this moment. A turning point. A point where one alien decided enough is enough and turns on his own species and sides with the humans. Does this come from a disgust of the genocidal policies of his brothers? The unnecessary brutal elimination of an entire species? The use of children in the alien’s twisted schemes? No, it’s all because he met a cute 16 year old girl. GODDAMIT! Ok, ok, I get the whole love conquers all, and yes, there are some incredibly cute girls out there, but really? REALLY? Maybe I’m just not a romantic, but I have never fallen in love with an alien girl who I have only seen through the scope of my rifle, and barely have known that long to a point where  I am willing to betray the last remnants of my species. Maybe this is why I am still single. Really, The 5th Wave is a lot of fun, and you should totally read it. Maybe the whole love thing will make your heart flutter and birds suddenly appear for you. For me, it was like a turd floating in a beautiful pond.

Luckily, for you wonderful audiophiles like myself, the audio production of The 5th Wave is excellent. The narration duties are handled by two, new to me narrators, Phoebe Strole and Brandon Espinoza. Both of them did an outstanding job. I especially enjoyed Strole’s first person performance of Cassie. She did exactly what I liked in a first person narration, she infused it with personality, adding vocal quirks and making interesting decisions to allow Cassie to seem like a real person and not just a character being read to you. Espinoza had more of a challenge bringing multiple roles to life. At first, I though he struggles a bit with 5 year old Sam, but honestly, voicing young kids is quite hard. Yet, he managed to pull it off, and went on to do some excellent work with the other perspectives. The scenes came together well, with little to no dissonance between the alternating narrators. It just felt smooth, with crisp pacing and engaging characters. In fact, if it wasn’t for my one not-so-little plot hang-up, The 5th Wave would have been in contention as one of my favorite audiobooks of the year. But, dammit. I just couldn’t get past that one moment. Yet, don’t blame the narrators. They were excellent.

Note: Thanks to Penguin Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.



One response

14 06 2013

What an entertaining review! I can honestly say I haven’t taken the analysis of WHY aliens would ever visit earth and your thoughts give me more to think about.
Good to have add narrators on the LIKE list, too. I just abandoned The Count of Monte Cristo because I can hear the narrator reading. And reading like a kid in school who doesn’t want to read aloud. (well, maybe not quite that bad, but bad enough that it was totally distracting and I was listening to how things were said rather than the words.)

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