I am not a sci-fi fan (sci-fi being Science Fiction in case you didn't know). In fact, in all my time reading (which accounts for most of my life) I think there has been only a single sci fi book or series that I have truly enjoyed (The Lunar Chronicles).
Nevertheless, when I saw The Fifth Wave in a second-hand book shop my family and I visited when on vacation (mostly because I’d read through all the books I’d brought) I decided to buy it.
Truthfully, the book started out incredibly slowly. If I’d had any other option of a book to read while on vacation, I might have given up on the book before finishing it. It wasn’t until almost 100pgs in that I started to become invested in the characters and plot. Before then, the book moved so slow, not explaining the characters or plot enough for me to fall for them that I wanted to bang the book against my head and scream. Given that I was reading some of it in an airport, however, I thought that might be inappropriate.
As the book did speed up, I began to see why it had managed to make somewhat of a name for itself. The book introduced so many twists and turns I was no longer sure what was right or wrong. The Fifth Wave tells the story from a couple of points of view and each point of view is being told something different about the alien invasion that threatens Earth. Every couple of chapters, a new piece of information is revealed making the reader think the opposite side is correct so that they swing back and forth between sides the entire book before the truth is revealed at the very end.
This was honestly incredibly impressive to me. I don’t think I have ever been kept so in the dark as to what the “truth” (truth being not quite literal given that it is a fictional book) was for so long in a book. I rarely saw things coming with this book and often felt on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how things turned out.
After reading the first book, I decided to watch the movie which I knew had been released not that long ago (but which I had not watched due to not being a sci-fi fan).
It was terrible. In fact, as the movie neared its ending I neared the limit of frustration I could take without simply giving up on the movie and turning it off. Though the movie did not totally stray from the plotline as some book-to-movie adaptions have (I'm looking at you, Percy Jackson). In fact, though there were some things eliminated due to time constraints and/or changed likely due to budgets or other constraints, these were not the things that annoyed me. These things are expected when a book is translated to the screen and most readers can accept that.
Rather, it was the little things that were annoying:
The second wave affects Cassie. This one was probably the least annoying as it did seem like it was mostly the directors adding their own artistic flair to the movie. The book notes what the second wave is (an earthquake that spurs on tidal waves), suggests how the aliens would have caused it, and notes that the wave mostly affected the areas on the coasts. It doesn't say much about how Cassie herself was affected from which the reader assumes that she largely wasn't affected. In the movie, however, the earthquake causes a nearby lake to send a tidal wave crashing towards Cassie and her little brother.
A random "love" speech is given by Evan Walker near the end of the movie. This seemed out of place and weird. A speech was given in the book and could have been adapted for the screen (with more of the language from the book being used). This would have made it seem more fitting and not quite so out of place.
Cassie is shot by a random person (who Evan Walker then shot). A huge point of the book is that Evan Walker is the one who shoots Cassie. The fact that they added someone else in somewhat ruined that part of their relationship. It was totally unnecessary and probably cost them more as they would have had to hire a second actor (as opposed to just using Evan).
Ringer blows up a bus. In the book, the bus is a tank that is blown up by Ben to save the rest of the crew. This minor detail was a small annoyance. Why didn't Ben blow it up? It wouldn't have cost them any extra time or money to have Ben blow it up instead of Ringer.
Ben (dressed in army gear) recognizes Cassie. In the book, he is dressed as a doctor and Cassie recognizes him. Though I can somewhat understand him not being dressed as a doctor (they cut out the scene that required him to do this) the fact that Cassie recognizes him and not the other way around is significant. He is the popular boy she used to have a crush on. He wouldn't recognize her. she would recognize him.
Someone doesn't believe Ben's story. Near the end of the movie, Ben tells the villain a story about why he is there without the rest of his crew. In the movie, the villain doesn't believe him, requiring a whole new escape plan and setting problems into motion. In the book, the villain does believe him and he is able to use his original plan to escape. It didn't make sense to me why they would do this.
Despite the terrible accompanying movie and the slow-going start, I did enjoy the first book. I did also go on to read the following books but felt they only degenerated from where the first book had left off. While the first book did an excellent job of keeping me on my feet wondering who the bad guys were and what was going on, with the reveal of the truth at the end of the first book, I expected this back and forth to stop in the following books.
It did not. Instead, the author seemed to attempt to continue the back and forth about who the good guys were in the following books which did not work for him. Instead, it made him seem as if he was confused about what he wanted in the books and made the mystery seem forced thus taking away some of the thrill. Many of the things I had loved about the character, plot, and writing style were stolen from me as the novels carried on and by the end, I was yet again forcing myself to finish the books.
While I would absolutely recommend The Fifth Wave as a great Sci-Fi novel with twists you can't see coming, I would never in a lifetime recommend the second or third books in the series nor the accompanying movie.