Literature / The Fifth Wave

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But if I'm it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I'm going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity's last war, then I am the battlefield.
Cassie

The 5th Wave is a young adult sci-fi apocalyptic thriller trilogy by Rick Yancey, who has also written the Alfred Kropp series and the Monstrumologist series. The books are:

  • The 5th Wave (2013)
  • The Infinite Sea (2014)
  • The Last Star (2016)

The series is a young adult apocalyptic science fiction that follows humanity's last attempts to stop an Alien Invasion, in particular the children. It does this through dual sixteen-year-old protagonists: Cassie and Ben, a.k.a. Zombie.

Cassie lives alone with her M16 and her younger brother's teddy bear, hiding from the Silencers, trusting no one. Until she meets the gorgeous and mysterious Evan Walker, who she begins to fall for in spite of having doubts about his humanity. Through detailed flashbacks we see what happened to her from the time the Others' space ship first went into Earth's orbit through the four waves of desolation that have nearly wiped out humanity: an electromagnetic pulse that disables all electronics, massive tsunamis and earthquakes, airborne plague, and the aforementioned Silencers, who appear human but are tasked by the Others to kill everyone they meet.

Zombie is in a military camp that may be the last hope for humanity, being trained as a soldier in a squad with members as young as seven. And when a five year old boy, Private Nugget, is assigned to their group, Zombie must do his best to protect him from not only the sadistic drill instructor, but the horrors of war that are encroaching around them, slowly strangling what little innocence they have left.

The series has been adapted as a 2015 movie under the same title.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey Contains Examples Of:

  • Action Bomb: We see one at the beginning of The Infinite Sea, and another later in the same novel.
  • Action Girl: Both Cassie and Ringer.
  • After the End: The actual 'end' hasn't been reached yet, as the Alien Invasion is still ongoing, but humanity and civilization as a whole have been all but wiped out.
  • Agent Peacock: Evan is a handsome, Pretty Boy-esque guy whose perfectly-manicured nails Cassie comments on multiple times. He's also a Silencer, and one of the most Badass members of the main cast.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Subverted(ish). At first they appear to be universally evil. But then Evan turns out to be one, and explains that a lot of the Others actually thought they could live with the humans side by side, but were outnumbered by those who thought the humans had to all be killed off.
  • Alien Invasion: The premise of the story.
  • Arc Words: "I am humanity."
  • Badass Boast: See the page quote.
  • Backstory: In the first hundred or so pages of The 5th Wave, Cassie repeatedly flashes back to explain what has happened to her from when the spaceship first appeared in the sky onwards. We eventually see flashbacks for most of the central cast.
  • Bad Dreams: Cassie has them often, occasionally compounded with a Catapult Nightmare.
  • Battle Couple: Cassie and Evan kick serious ass together.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered: Evan.
    Evan: I am a shark, Cassie. A shark who dreamed he was a man.
  • Berserk Button: Do not even think about touching Cassie's brother. Dare to anyway, and she will hunt you down and put a bullet in your head, even if it takes her months or even years.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Evan. So much.
  • Big Bad: Vosch.
  • Blood Brothers: Zombie and the rest of his barrack, especially Ringer.
  • Bonding Over Missing Parents: Cassie and Evan. Well, bonding over missing parents plus the apocalypse.
    • Also, Zombie and the rest of his barracks.
  • Bookends: Cassie's thought "Aliens are stupid," which opens the first book and is repeated much, much later in a very different situation and with a different meaning.
  • Break the Cutie: Every single sympathetic character, but special mention goes to Private Nugget a.k.a. Cassie's brother, Sammy. He's five years old, and subjected to horrible humiliation, not to mention physical peril and abuse, in an attempt to make him into a child soldier.
  • Broken Pedestal: Zombie gets to quite admire Vosch before finding out the reality of the situation.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In a very literal presentation of the trope, Dumbo's gun is one in The Last Star. In a slightly-less literal portrayal, Ringer's bomb is one as well.
  • The Chessmaster: Commander Vosch. By the end of the first novel, you realize that he is successfully manipulating the remaining human youth into bringing about the extinction of their own species by convincing them the humans are the aliens and vice versa.
    • Ringer also seems to be a little chessmaster in training.
    Ringer: Chess, Zombie: defending yourself from the move that hasn't happened yet.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Commander Vorsch, being a humongously Large Ham.
    Vosch: You are the human clay, and I am Michelangelo. I am the master builder, and you will be my masterpiece.
    • Also, the sadistic drill sergeant Reznik.
  • Child Soldiers
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Zombie takes Private Nugget under his wing and protects him from their sadistic drill sergeant. He later risks his life on a long-shot attempt to break Nugget out of the base. He later risks his life again in an effort to rescue Ringer and Teacup, and another time trying to save Nugget and Megan. He becomes painfully aware that he's driven to do this because of guilt over the one person he didn't try to save.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Reznik, all the way.
  • Crapsack World
  • Curious Qualms of Conscience: Evan.
  • Daddy's Girl: You get the impression that Cassie was this before her dad was brutally killed by the Others impersonating the military.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Everyone, by necessity, since this is, you know, the apocalypse.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Cassie, Marika's daughter
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cassie.
    Cassie: In case you're an alien and you're reading this: BITE ME.
  • Desolation Shot: Several, most memorably one at the beginning of an abandoned convenience store.
  • Determinator: Cassie.
    Cassie: When the moment comes to stop running from your past, to turn around and face the thing you thought you could not face—the moment when your life teeters between giving up and getting up—when that moment comes, and it always comes, if you can't get up and you can't give up either, here's what you do: crawl.
  • Divided We Fall: Exploited magnificently by the Others when they use the Silencers to make sure that the humans are very divided indeed.
  • Double Consciousness: Evan Walker.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Private Nugget, even for a five-year-old.
  • Emotionless Girl: Ringer. Or so she seems to Zombie and Cassie.
  • Foil: Grace to Evan. She's an unconflicted Silencer, completely engaged in her purpose and detached from her human personality; he fights his purpose and embraces his humanity.
  • Gallows Humor: Cassie throws out some gems.
    Cassie: I don't move. I wait behind my log, terrified. Over the past ten minutes, it's become such a dear friend, I consider naming it: Howard, my pet log. (continues to refer to the log as "Howard" for the rest of the scene)
  • Genre Savvy: Cassie lampshades tropes all the time, and she has been able to survive an alien apocalypse that has killed off 99% of humanity.
  • Ghost Town: Pick a town, any town.
  • The Government: Commander Vosch claims he is a part of this.
  • Grew a Spine: The Silencer, a.k.a. Evan Walker, kills people so the Others can colonize, even though he completely disagrees with it. By the end of The 5th Wave, he stands up to the Others and does what's right.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Surprisingly.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Evan.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Yup. In a flashback, when everyone is scared the aliens are going to kill them, what do the teenagers do? Have sex under the bleachers.
  • Hot-Blooded: Reznik.
  • In Medias Res: Begins with Cassie traveling alone as she flees the Fourth Wave. Gradually fills in the Backstory via flashbacks.
  • Innocence Lost: Every non-adult character.
  • I Will Find You: Cassie's main goal in the first book is to find and rescue her five-year-old brother. Zombie forms the same goal.
  • Jerkass: Reznik's kinda this.
    Reznik: Private Zombie, did your mother have any children that lived?
    Ben (Zombie): Sir! Yes, sir!
    Reznik: I bet when you were born she took one look at you and tried to shove you back in!
  • Just Before the End
  • Kick the Dog: Anything that Reznik does, but especially the scenes where he viciously bullies Private Nugget.
  • Kill 'em All: The Others' motto.
  • Love Triangle: Played with. Cassie had an unrequited crush on Ben (now Zombie), as evidenced in flashbacks, but they are separate for most of the novel, and she develops a relationship with Evan. At the very end of The 5th Wave she meets up with Zombie and there is a brief Ship Tease.
  • Mama Bear: Cassie is this for her little brother Sammy.
  • Meaningful Rename: Every Child Soldier is given a new name and addressed exclusively by that, in the effort to make them think of themselves only as soldiers and not as the children they were before. On several occasions, Zombie thinks that he did not even know a particular squad member's original name. (Indeed, the reader doesn't learn most of their names, even in their flashbacks.) At the end of the trilogy, Zombie refuses to continue using the "squad" names, insisting on being addressed as "Ben" and on calling Ringer and Nugget "Marika" and "Sammy," indicating the reclaiming of their civilian identities.
  • Military Science-Fiction: Zombie's plot line in the first book.
  • Mundane Luxury: Cassie finds Evan's home awesome after having slept in a tent and lived off of cans for months.
  • Mysterious Mercenary Pursuer: The Silencers, except for the mercenary bit.
  • Mysterious Past: Played with. Evan does give a back story, but leaves one thing out. He's a Silencer.
  • Near Villain Victory: By the beginning of the trilogy.
  • Neat Freak: Evan. His house is ridiculous levels of tidy, especially considering the whole apocalypse thing.
  • Not Using the Z Word: Surprisingly averted. The Others are called aliens several times.
  • Pragmatic Heroine: Cassie, all out.
  • Promotion to Parent: Cassie, for Sammy. As Sammy's squad leader, Zombie becomes the boy's other Parental Substitute.
  • Psychological Horror: Has some aspects of this.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Evan at first.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The Others. They appear in x-ray scans as a sort of tumor on the brain. (Or so the young soldiers are told.)
  • Redemption Quest: Zombie wants to destroy the Others to make up for having failed to save his sister.
  • The Reveal: Evan's a Silencer.
    • Not all the Others wanted to Kill 'em All.
    • The Child Soldiers are being manipulated into killing off the last human survivors.
    • The priest at the caverns is a Silencer. So is the elderly cat lady.
  • Sadist Teacher: Reznik.
  • Scavenger World
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Cassie and her precious, precious M16.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Cassie, daughter of Marika and Razor
  • The Squad: Zombie's barrack.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: The Silencers. Used to chilling effect early in the novel when Cassie finds an injured soldier dying in an abandoned convenience store, but doesn't know if he's a Silencer or not and so shoots him out of fear. It turns out he was perfectly human.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In Cassie's back story, she's your average schoolgirl. Now, she's a gun-toting badass who kills aliens.
    • Also, Zombie. Unlike Cassie, though, he actually becomes progressively more badass throughout the book.
    • Any of the child soldiers, really.
  • The Vietnam War: Mentioned:
    World: You be America, alien invaders, and we'll be Vietnam.
    Others: Yeah, okay, right.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Vosch.
  • The Virus: The third wave.
  • Walk the Earth: Cassie, at the beginning of the first book.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: Several.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech:
    Evan: I had it all wrong. Before I found you, I thought the only way to hold on was to find something to live for. It isn't. To hold on, you have to find something you're willing to die for.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Others, obviously.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: The Others repeatedly exploit human unwillingness to hurt children, including by using Child Soldiers and literal Tyke Bombs.

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