Lauren: Thanks to my sister’s rather important life events, from getting married to becoming a doctor, there hasn’t been much time dedicated to her poor, neglected sister. But no more! Book Club is back!
Kicking things off, Heather and I decided to revisit one of our favorite books from 2013 by reading Rick Yancey’s follow up novel to The 5th Wave, The Infinite Sea (for that discussion, please click here). To sum it up, The 5th Wave was about an alien invasion that came in waves, quickly exterminating the human population. When the reader comes into the story, Cassie has become so used to being alone that she doesn’t even know if any other humans exist. But of course there are others, we have to have a love triangle. Stuff ensues, she falls for an alien, and they destroy a military base that is training kids (her little brother included) to kill the remaining human population.
Now onto book two: we find our group (sans the possibly dead, but we know not really dead, alien love interest) of young survivors camped out, trying to figure out their next step to survival within an extraterrestrial endgame they do not understand.
***Warning: Seeing as this is a Book Club discussion, there will be plenty of spoilers throughout this break down***
So Heather, now that I’ve done all the hard work above, you get to start things off with your initial reaction to the book!
Heather: First, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I don’t have my PhD yet! Second, summaries are hardly “the hard part!” You should give your reaction first, or at least get me started. But fine… I’ll go.
The 5th Wave was one of the most intriguing YA books I read last year, and I plowed through part one of the trilogy. So I was really excited for the Infinite Sea, but I feel it somewhat disappointed. Sure, I still tore through it, but was it just me or did Yancey’s writing get a lot more annoying? I felt like he was trying to be too profound half the time, sort of reminiscent of the infamous Dawson Leery rhetoric from Dawson’s Creek. Teenagers don’t think like that. I am 29 and I had a hard time following sometimes! Does being one of the few survivors left on Earth following a supposed alien invasion somehow make a person wiser and serve as an amplifier of his/her philosophical sensibilities? Maybe, but it probably doesn’t work that fast. Was book one like this too and I was just so caught up in the story that I didn’t notice? I don’t know! Either way, I felt like the writing kept taking me out of the moment.
Lauren: Goodness you’re so old…
The writing didn’t bother me too much since it was a lot like the first book in many instances. At least I wasn’t surprised by it, anyway, since I already know what Yancey tends to go with. For one thing, he did not take my note about no longer writing stuff like “then I found him in me.” He was in me and I was in him and we were in each other and I found myself in him inside of me and blah blah… I’m too immature for this writing, Yancey!
I’m assuming he is trying to get to something deeper by saying stuff like this, but all I did was giggle at it. I cannot be alone in this. Even when I force myself to think on it more I am still left confused. At least these are just short fragments that go by quickly, but the worst offense of this was when Razor and Ringer get to know each other a little better under the sheets. Ringer says something about finding herself in the hidden place inside Razor, held tightly in his arms within his hidey hole, and I have no idea what Yancey is talking about. Maybe he just didn’t want to have to describe teenagers having sexy time.
Other than this I don’t really have much to complain about in terms of the actual writing, but that’s not to say that I don’t have some issues with Yancey’s storytelling. During our writeup for The 5th Wave I remember contrasting the structure of the book to The Song of Ice and Fire series and how I approve much more of the route Game of Thrones and the following books bounce from character to character. In that series, one chapter is devoted to one character, the next to someone else, and so on and so forth. Here, Yancey does something a little different. He will write from the perspective of one character, taking as much time as necessary, and right as something important happens he jumps to someone else, sort of like a cliffhanger. I was fine with this at first because not all the characters are together so it makes sense to go back and forth since these are overlapping moments on the timeline, but he could have done a better job at dividing the time spent with each character to keep everyone as important as every other survivor.
Didn’t you feel like Ringer became the protagonist of this book, taking the place of Cassie?
Heather: Yes, definitely. Actually, when I first started reading the book I was confused for a little bit because I thought to myself, “This isn’t the same person who narrated the last book, is it?” Granted, I have horrible memory, but I actually had to go back and reread the last few pages of book one to orient myself to who in the heck this strange narrator was…and I still didn’t really remember her too much as anyone other than not Cassie.
In regard to the lengthy sections devoted to one character, I too wish they would have switched from character to character to help us stay more engaged with what was happening elsewhere. It doesn’t make sense to build up this crazy romance between an alien and a human in book one and then pretty much ignore them for the entirety of book two.
Lauren: Yeah… About that… I have something to admit: I actually enjoyed reading the stuff from Cassie and Evan when their storylines were separate, as opposed to when they finally did come back together. Cassie just gets a little dumber when it comes to being in the presence of alien boy. But then he “died” again, so who knows what’s going on there.
As to the other characters, though the largest percentage of the book was devoted to Ringer’s storyline, I will say that even as I was disappointed we weren’t getting back to Cassie as our narrator I didn’t mind Ringer as a protagonist because she became a more enjoyable character once I got a better feel for her, and I did like learning more about Ringer’s past. Actually, the same could be said for a couple characters. In addition to Ringer’s history, I loved learning more about Poundcake and what he went through before he became a soldier, and this really made his sacrifice something that was poignant and felt because we actually knew something about him.
The problem is just that Cassie gets left behind in all of this, other than having some scenes of frustration in which she doesn’t quite fit in and no longer is the most important person to a younger brother that has changed. It’s just not the best storytelling choice on Yancey’s part if we are expected to continue to care about Cassie as much as we did in The 5th Wave since we have now lost a lot of investment in her. Out of sight, out of mind, as it were.
Heather: Moving on… I’m more interested in discussing the plot twist that was revealed to us at the end of The Infinite Sea. Apparently there is no “alien consciousness” activated within the humans. So what the heck is going on then if the aliens are not really here? Are they watching from afar and merely injected the humans with some program to make them think they are part alien? Are there no aliens at all and some whack job human made up some sort of program to make the rest of the humans believe there was an alien invasion so they could just kill each other and start anew? I don’t know what the endgame is here, and I don’t really know what to think!
Lauren: Honestly I am not quite sure what is going on either. When Vorch started revealing the true story behind everything that has happened to Ringer I couldn’t fully understand what he was admitting. From what I gathered there are no aliens at all and this is some plan to start fresh by burning the forest to the ground? Maybe if I could remember if there had been mention of alien spaceships in book one I could really put my foot on one side of the are-there-or-aren’t-there aliens at all question.
All I do know for sure is that the existence of sleeper cell aliens was definitely all a lie. Evan is just a normal teenage boy who was implanted with something to make him believe he was more than just human. Since he doesn’t realize this is all a lie, I have no idea what Vorch is so worried about Evan knowing and why he so desperately wants to find him. Goodness I have so many questions left: Why was it a better choice to go about world domination this way instead of using a giant rock to smash everyone at once (I guess Vorch wants to come in as the hero fighting a force outside the human race to make all of humanity all the more relieved?)? Why did Vorch upgrade Ringer (Teacup was his bargaining chip to get her to do what she wants, making her stronger just seems like a stupid thing to do) or anyone else for that matter? Why do we keep pretending Evan is dead? Hopefully it will all be cleared up in book 3.
Heather: I really thought Cassie had mentioned alien spaceships hovering above the Earth in these books, but when I went back and tried to find it I couldn’t. However, I am still of the opinion that there are aliens involved, they are just keeping their distance. Otherwise this book is a whole lot darker than it should be. It is hard for me to think that human beings would use small children as carriers of throat bombs as a method of destroying the earth… aliens, maybe…. but we tend to think of children as innocent and if this really was about starting over and rebuilding society – why would humans kill the innocent children who are not responsible for society’s demise and the destruction of the Earth? Why not just teach them to be whatever these masterminds think a human in the reborn world should be?
Like you, I am banking on them answering all those unanswered questions with greater clarity and finality in book three. Amidst all the metaphoric speaking in this book I have no idea what Yancey was really trying to convey (especially about the large rock scenario, or why Evan presents such a problem).
Lauren: I don’t want to be the Debbie Downer, but terrorists probably use kids to inconspicuously transport bombs now because of the view that all children are innocent. They might not be as sophisticated as the ones in this book, but the same end goal is there. All for what they believe in. It just seems too dark to you because you’re not a monster. Whereas Vorch is turning kids into murderers, so he’s probably OK with it.
As it stands, I’m on the side of no aliens. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I misinterpreted what is happening and they are out there after all. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Lauren’s Final Grade: 4 out of 5 stars Follow @BewareOfTrees
Heather’s Final Grade: 3 out of 5 stars