😀 😀 😀 😀
An alien mothership hovers in the skies above Earth. But they’re not here to make new friends – it seems they’re intent on annihilating the human race. The first wave destroyed all technology leaving humanity almost defenceless, the second wave took out the coastal cities, the third wave released a virus that killed billions, the fourth wave remains almost entirely incomprehensible to me even though I’ve read the book… and no-one knows what the 5th wave will be. But fear not! The future of humanity is in the hands of a kickass teenage girl with a big gun, so I feel safe…
The book starts in the fourth wave with (oh, joy!) the first person present tense narrative of the aforesaid 16-year-old, Cassie, surviving alone in the woods after her parents have died, along with almost everyone else she knew. But her young brother was taken away, either by goodies or baddies – Cassie doesn’t know which – and she’s determined to find him. As she starts out on her journey, it’s Cassie who tells us the story of the alien invasion. Dark indeed though the story is, with some pretty horrific images, Cassie’s narrative is shot through with some much needed glimpses of humour which stop the book from becoming unbearably grim. Although she is firmly in the tradition of kickass heroines, she is nicely self-deprecating which makes her an enjoyable narrator.
We then swap to the story of Zombie, a 17-year-old boy who, like Cassie, has lost his entire family. Zombie has fallen in with a bunch of military people who are training the surviving children to be superkillers so that they can battle the aliens. (Why are they training the kids to do this rather than the adults? Because it’s a YA novel, silly! But I am deeply reassured to know that arming the 5-year-olds of today is an option, should we be invaded – in fact, I question why governments are not already doing this as a precautionary measure. I know I’d sleep sounder…) Zombie’s squad is struggling to get the points needed to graduate from training, until they are joined by Ringer, a super-kickass female who makes Cassie look quite cuddly in comparison…
Cassie meantime has fallen in with Evan, who nurses her back to health after she is injured. (Persons of a sensitive disposition may wish to look away now. Here’s a little musical interlude to fill the time…)
Evan is hot! No, really, I mean it – he has chocolatey eyes and Cassie finds it difficult to concentrate on alien annihilation because she’s distracted by the ’roundness of his butt inside his jeans’. We have a lovely little interlude of teen romance here, complete with lusting semi-naked girl-in-the-bath scene and honourable male denial. Depending on your perspective, this whole section is either awfully sweet or sick-makingly nauseating. Guess which category I fell into? Fortunately I was distracted from the worst of it by my grumpy-old-woman disapproval over Cassie’s frequent use of bad language, mostly fairly mild, but still – rather than romantically washing her hair, I felt someone should wash her mouth out with soap.
(You can come back now!)
Just as I felt that I could take no more and should seek out sanctuary in the local old folks’ home, we return to the story proper, and oddly I was so much happier when we got back to kids shooting each other again. This final section is full of action and builds up to a strong tense finale. There’s enough emotional content to stop it being purely a shoot-em-up and, although the way is left very clear for the follow-up (it’s a trilogy, obviously – it’s YA fantasy, so it’s the law), the ending is quite satisfying in itself.
Overall, I enjoyed this more than I was expecting. I could have lived happily without the sex-without-actual-sex scenes and the swearing, but I probably would have felt differently about those had I been in the correct age group for the book. And the basic plot premise doesn’t stand up to inspection at all. These have to be the dumbest aliens I’ve ever encountered – one feels that a race of beings who can travel across the universe and unleash all these amazing horrors could have done something to annihilate the entire human race in a oner, but then that would have ruined the story. And, avoiding spoilers, all the stuff about why the kids were being turned into trained killers makes absolutely no sense at all. But the writing is good, the characterisation is strong, and Cassie in particular is a very likeable heroine (though I’m led to believe the males in the readership think Ringer’s the coolest). And the action stuff is well done – there’s lots of violence but it’s not overly glamourised, I felt. Although it’s geared towards a YA audience, it’s one that dystopian thriller fans of any age might enjoy, so long as their disbelief-suspension mechanism is in good working order.