The enemy is other. The enemy is us.
They’re down here… they’re up there… they’re nowhere. They want the Earth; they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out; they came to save us.
But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.
In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves… or saving what makes us human.
I am going to try and do this with as few spoilers as possible. I’m not promising anything, however.
I will say right now that I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s rare for me to continue past the first book. The Last Star, the finale in Rick Yancey’s Fifth Wave series however, I pre-ordered.
(in my world, this is a big deal).
I have a bit of a funny relationship with these books. They are told from various perspectives, but the majority is split between Cassie (human surviving against the odds) and Evan (the human killing alien who betrayed his whole species because he fell in love with Cassie (eye roll). He doesn’t care about the human race in general, just Cassie. I don’t think we are supposed to view this as at all problematic (especially considering the whole Cassie stands for humanity thing), but in my own dating life at least, I tend to demand a degree of respect for the survival of my species, you know?) and Zombie (formerly Ben Parish, saved from death and trained to be a soldier by what turned out to be the aliens. It’s complicated) and Ringer (she and Zombie/Ben trained together).
As is probably obvious by now, I have never cared about Cassie and Evan. Their story struck me as one pandering to an audience much younger than me. It’s the sort of instalove that just makes me cringe. To add my pedantic self into the mix, the whole trope of the alien/vampire/whatever choosing not to kill to the girl because he’s into her is a little… uncomfortable. Say that love goes away. What happens then?
The girls never really seem to ask themselves that question.
Anyway. Zombie and Ringer, on the other hand, have intrigued me from the start. Their salvation appeared to arrive when they were saved from almost certain death and trained as soldiers, but then they realised that they were fighting for the side that was killing their kind. So rather than stick with what appeared to be the winning team, they went renegade and began fighting a war they knew they would lose. Ignorance isn’t bliss when your secretly alien bosses have a kill switch embedded in your neck you’ve been told is just a harmless tracker. It’s much better to dig the thing out with a knife and try your luck out on your own.
The centre of these books however, is the question of humanity. What is humanity, when all of the people are dead? What destroys a community faster: disease, flood, or breeding such intense distrust that a person is more likely to shoot a stranger than greet them? (What are you supposed to do when you don’t know who’s an alien and who isn’t?) What does the word childhood even mean when at 6-year-old knows how to build a bomb and has shot a woman right through the middle?
Are you still a human if some aliens stuck technology inside you without your consent, technology that has altered almost everything about you?
What is a human, anyway? What’s an alien? Throughout the novel the distinction becomes ever more clouded. By the end it’s almost impossible to know.