The Fifth Wave Summary

Rick Yancey

The Fifth Wave

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The Fifth Wave Summary

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What Stephenie Meyer did to give vampires a central focus in her series of Twilight novels, American author Rick Yancey does with aliens in his 5th Wave trilogy. Released in 2013, The 5th Wave is a young adult science fiction novel set in a dystopian world. The series also includes 2014’s The Infinite Sea and the 2016 entry The Last Star.

The “wave” referred to in the title is the final of five levels of terror brought to earth in an alien invasion. The first wave finds an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) destroying all of the Earth’s electronics. The second of the five waves, which all occur almost simultaneously, brings massive destruction to all of the Earth’s coastlines. In the third wave, a virus kills in excess of seven billion people. In wave four, it is learned that the aliens are using some human beings as hosts to their alien forms. In the fifth wave, children who have been removed from their families are being trained as soldiers. At this point, main characters Cassie and Ben are introduced. Each is trying to navigate what is now a very different world.

Cassie is making her way to a facility to which the aliens have taken her five-year-old brother, Sammy. On the way, she encounters a wounded soldier at a gas station and kills him when she mistakes a crucifix that he is holding for a gun. As she continues on her way, she sees dead bodies and is shot in the leg by a sniper. At this point, the focus switches to Ben. Ben is a boy to whom Cassie was attracted in school and who is suffering from the virus of the third wave. Soldiers take Ben to Dr. Pam, and he quickly recovers from the disease. Dr. Pam’s objective is to implant microchips into children. She tells Ben that human “hosts” must be killed if the creatures (known as the Others or the Silencers) that have taken residence within the people are to be eliminated. Ben is given a position at Camp Haven where children, including Sammy, have been taken. Ben is then referred to as Private Zombie.

When next seen, Cassie is in a bed and is attached to an intravenous line. She has largely recovered from the wound she received earlier. She meets Evan, who tells her he found her covered in blood on a highway and that they are in a house in a rural area. She tells him she needs to get to Camp Haven to rescue her brother. Evan tells her he does not think she is well enough yet to make that trip, and she agrees to wait. They start to develop a bond. Later, when they get into a fight, Evan tells her that it was she who saved him, and they make up. Meanwhile, at Camp Haven, where they label children either green for unhealthy or red for healthy, Sammy has been deemed healthy and is put through the Wonderland program to be processed.

Cassie is conflicted as she is not sure whether or not she can trust Evan, but in spite of this, their relationship continues to grow. Evan goes out on nightly hunts, which has Cassie feeling that something she is not aware of is going on. One night when he is out, she looks for evidence that he might be one of the Others. She finds her gun hidden in his barn, but he says he simply placed it there after finding it nearby when he first found her. Soon, although he does not want to, he agrees to take her to find her brother. Upon leaving, he sets his house afire to distract the Others.

As they make their way toward Camp Haven, young soldiers attack Cassie and Evan. Evan is easily able to combat the attack, although he does receive some injuries. At this point, Cassie gets Evan to admit that he was the sniper who shot her. She decides to go on alone, living him to bleed to death, but changes her mind and helps him. Upon arriving at the camp by bus, Cassie is to be processed, but is able to knock out Dr. Pam. A series of events ensues, including Zombie (Ben) being threatened with being processed through Wonderland, and Cassie finding her brother. Zombie, Cassie, and Sammy are captured, but eventually Evan arrives and kills the soldiers who are guarding the trio. Evan has planted bombs in the camp and takes his leave before they detonate. Zombie, Cassie, and Sammy are on the run as Camp Haven is destroyed.

While unable to avoid being included in the canon of young adult fiction that includes the Twilight and Hunger Games series, The New York Times Sunday Book Review in 2013 lauded The 5th Wave as a text that had the depth to appeal to older audiences as well. “Finding a manuscript that will satisfy both audiences has become the holy grail of publishing. It’s a tricky line to walk, and few succeed. But Rick Yancy’s wildly entertaining new novel, The 5th Wave, is such a book.”