Note: There are no spoilers in this review.
This is one of the most clever, suspenseful, and scariest post-apocalyptic books I have read to date, and I’ve read a lot of them!
And yes, there are bits and pieces of a lot of other well-known books in this one, from Ender’s Game to The Stand to Divergent. But Yancey makes the tropes his own, and ups the suspense level enormously.
The story is told in alternating points of view, but for the most part the narration is by Cassie Sullivan, 16 when the Arrival occurs, and maybe the last person on earth. Or perhaps not. She doesn’t know who is, or is not, one of the “Others”, the alien invaders that have attacked the earth over the past five months in successive waves.
The first wave was a massive electromagnetic pulse, and the second was the creation of a huge earthquake and tidal wave that eliminated everyone in coastal areas (i.e., over 40 percent of the world’s population). The third was a virus, spread through birds, killing an estimated 97 percent of those left after the first two waves. And in the 4th wave, the few survivors do the alien’s work for them by attacking each other, because it’s hard to know whom to trust. Rumors abound that the aliens look like humans, or have taken over human bodies. But no one knows the truth. And no one knows what the aliens want or when the next wave will strike.
Evaluation: The dialogue is dead-on realistic [“dead-on” being a double entendre…]. Also, along with the constant terror gripping everyone and pervading the story, the book still manages to be funny and poignant, seamlessly combining teenage concerns with Big Survival Issues in just the way a teen might react to whatever arises. The characters are really likable and expertly nuanced, especially Evan. The plot is impressively clever, turning all the usual tropes and derivative elements into a superior emergent product. It’s like a BMW versus a junky car – yes, they both use the same ideas for a vehicle: wheels, steering system, seats, cup holders, but the Beamer is just a way better car, and you can tell the difference the minute you set out on your journey. It’s the same with this book. If you only pick one post-apocalyptic YA book to try out the genre, I highly recommend this one!
Note: I tried to go to bed before I finished this book, but finally gave up at 2:30 in the morning and got up to speed through the rest of the pages! It’s that kind of book!
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a member of The Penguin Group, 2013