The 5th Wave


The 5th Wave is a young adult science fiction novel written by American author Rick Yancey. It was published on May 7, 2013 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. The novel is the first in The 5th Wave trilogy, followed by The Infinite Sea. The story follows 16-year-old Cassie Sullivan as she tries to survive in a world devastated by the waves of alien invasions that have decimated the Earth's population.

Critics have compared the book favorably to The Hunger Games and The Road,[1] and noted that it "should do for aliens what Twilight did for vampires."[2] Sony Pictures released a film adaptation in January 2016.


Set roughly in present-day Dayton, Ohio, The 5th Wave follows 16-year-old Cassiopeia "Cassie" Sullivan as she tries to survive in a world devastated by the waves of an alien invasion that decimated the Earth's population. She is headed to a "training" facility, in the hopes of saving her five-year-old brother, Sam, who was taken there.

Cassie comes across a gas station where she finds a wounded soldier. She kills him after mistaking the crucifix in his hand for a gun. This intensely disturbs her. While on an Ohio highway, on her way to find her brother, she comes across the recently deceased. Cassie is then suddenly shot in the leg by an unknown sniper. She takes cover under a car and has to make a difficult choice: try to flee the area and risk being shot by the sniper, or bleed to death under the car.

The plot then jumps to Ben Parish, Cassie's crush in high school, who is sick with the disease spread during the 3rd Wave; he is tended to by a friend named Chris. Ben is taken by soldiers to a woman named Dr. Pam and miraculously recovers from his disease. Dr. Pam tells him the Others raided his camp, Camp Haven at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, by inhabiting human hosts and posing as refugees. Dr. Pam puts Ben through a program called "Wonderland" and takes him to a hospital room, where Chris sits wired to a chair. Dr. Pam lets Ben look through a special eyepiece to find that a creature is attached to Chris's brain, which Dr. Pam confirms is an Other. She explains to Ben that the only way to kill the creature inside is to kill the host, which Reznik, a senior drill instructor, pressures Ben into doing.

Commander Vosch, who killed Cassie's father at their refugee camp, meets Ben in his room. Vosch is straightforward and tells Ben they will all die, but not without a fight. He gives Ben a position in Camp Haven's new army, and he becomes Private Zombie. Cassie awakens in a four-poster bed hooked up to an IV machine with her wounds nearly healed. She meets her savior, Evan Walker, who tells her they are in his rural country house, and he'd found her on the highway, crawling in blood. Cassie insists that she must go to Camp Haven to save her brother, but Evan is unsure that she is fit enough for the journey yet, and so they stay. Over time, the two grow closer. One night, Cassie and Evan get into a fight, but Evan ends it by saying that Cassie saved him, rather than vice versa, and kisses her.

Sam Sullivan, Cassie's brother, has arrived at Camp Haven via the bus on which he was taken. The soldiers at Camp Haven mark the children: greens for unhealthy, reds for healthy. Sammy is marked red and is called to be processed and cleaned. He is put through the Wonderland program and asked many questions relating to his personal life. After Sammy is fully processed, Dr. Pam offers to let him see an Other.

Ben Parish, now Private Zombie, has been assigned to squad 53. His squad sergeant, Sergeant Reznik, is a cruel, uncaring man who taunts his members about their personal lives, which he learned about via the Wonderland program. He takes a liking to a member of another squad. Another member is added to squad 53, Sammy Sullivan, whom Reznik calls "Private Nugget". Reznik taunts Nugget, Zombie blurts out, "Leave him alone!", and Reznik punches Zombie in his throat, but respects his spirit and appoints him as the new leader of squad 53.

During a fire drill at Camp Haven, Nugget is scared, so Zombie slings him on his shoulder and runs with him. Zombie slows the squad down by 45 seconds, angering them. Private Tank goes "Dorothy", (meaning crazy), and pulls his gun out. Private Flintstone takes Tank down before anyone is hurt. Tank is later found dead in the P&D (Process and Disposal) hangar and is replaced by Private Ringer, whom Zombie had previously taken a liking to. Ringer attempts to improve the squad's marksmanship and succeeds; Squad 53 skyrockets through the ranks and graduates with the other top three squads.

Cassie continuously confronts the dilemma of whether or not to trust Evan. Either way, Evan and Cassie continue building a relationship. While Evan leaves for one of his night hunts, which Cassie suspects are something far more terrible than he lets on, she searches through his things for any evidence that points to Evan's being one of the Others. She finds her M16 in Evan's barn under a blanket, but Evan casually says that he simply found it near her when he found her. After a few more days, Cassie feels she is fit enough for the journey and Evan, against Cassie's wishes, sets out with her, burning his house down as a distraction to the Others.

Zombie and his squad are on their first patrol. They are given special headsets with lenses that can supposedly distinguish between a human and an Other. The squad is attacked, and Private Oompa is killed. Zombie and Ringer pursue their assailants, while Private Poundcake covers them from above with his sniper. While under the cover of a building, Ringer cuts out her implant, and her head lights up green through Zombie's lens. They piece the evidence together and conclude that Camp Haven is not a human training camp, but an "Other death camp". They find that their assailant is Reznik and kill him. Reznik is holding a piece of equipment with a map of green spots: the implants. Ringer and Zombie return to the squad and explain to them what they know. Flintstone, who is skeptical, snatches the equipment away and pulls a switch. He drops dead. Zombie is reluctant to leave whilst Nugget is still at Camp Haven and has Ringer shoot him, so that his story will look real. Zombie is then evacuated by a helicopter to Camp Haven.

While on their journey, Cassie and Evan are attacked by a group of juvenile soldiers. Cassie is shocked as she watches Evan take them down with ease, though he injures his thigh and buttocks in the process. Once the soldiers are taken down, Cassie makes Evan confirm that he is the Silencer who shot her. Cassie initially decides to leave him there to bleed to death, but afterwards decides to help him. The two then orchestrate a plan wherein Evan has little involvement, though he strongly disapproves of this.

Cassie arrives at the base on a bus and is called for processing. Dr. Pam meets with her, and Cassie knocks her unconscious. Zombie awakens in a hospital bed and sees Vosch, who tells him that Zombie will be put through Wonderland. After Vosch leaves, Zombie escapes and steals an outfit from a dead guard. Cassie finds Sammy/Nugget and meets Zombie, but the three are captured by Vosch. Vosch attempts to kill Nugget by electrocuting him.

It is revealed that Evan has planted bombs and hacked into the base's mainframe. When Vosch heads to Control, Evan appears and kills the soldiers guarding Zombie, Cassie, and Sam. Evan says goodbye before allegedly setting off "eyes", the same bombs Vosch used to destroy Cassie's refugee camp. The members of Squad 53 arrive and save Zombie, Cassie, and Sam. They ride off as Camp Haven is destroyed.


Cassiopeia Marie Sullivan or "Cassie"– the novel's protagonist, is 16 years old, short, and has curly strawberry-blonde hair. Before the waves hit, she had a crush on Ben Parish, a popular football player. She later has a relationship with her "silencer", Evan Walker.

Evan Walker – a boy from rural Ohio who lived with his large family; he is described as having chocolate brown eyes and brown hair. His family and girlfriend were all killed during the 3rd Wave. He has a brief relationship with Cassie.

Benjamin Thomas Parish/Zombie – a popular football player and honors student at Cassie's high school; he is described as tall, buff, and dark haired. While in high school, Cassie had a crush on Ben, but he never noticed her. After the 3rd Wave, Ben contracts the plague but is "rescued" by soldiers who take him to Camp Haven. There, he becomes a part of Squad 53 and is renamed Zombie. Zombie soon discovers the "soldiers" are actually aliens in disguise. He manages to escape with Cassie and Sammy.

Sissy Parish- Ben's little sister. She was killed by an other while escaping her house with Ben, and he left her behind, he keeps her locket she wore around her neck in her memory. She was described by Cassie to be hoisted onto Ben's shoulders after his football games, and she would join him in a parade. He says he misses Sissy terribly.

Samuel Jackson Sullivan/Nugget/Sammy – Cassie's younger brother who is 5 years old; he is described as having messy brown hair and large, teddy bear eyes. He is taken away from the refugee camp where he, his father, and Cassie had stayed. He is taken to Camp Haven to join Squad 53, after being renamed Nugget. Nugget and Zombie become good friends, and Zombie acts like Sam's big brother. Sammy manages to escape with Cassie and Zombie at the end of the novel.

Ringer/Marika – a girl who joins Squad 53 after Tank, a former member, goes "Dorothy" (slang for crazy); she is described as tall and skinny, with pale white skin and long, glossy, straight black hair, three quarters Asian and a quarter Apache. She is the best shot in the group and is very quiet, yet scary. She and Zombie become friends, and she helps him shoot better. She is often threatening and serious toward the other squad members, but can also be vulnerable at times.

Commander Vosch – the leader of the soldiers and the mastermind behind the plans. He is very sadistic, cruel, and unfeeling. He at first is shown as a "hero" to those at Cassie's refugee camp, but he soon reveals his true nature by personally killing Cassie's father, destroying the camp, and abducting the children, including Sam, to fight. He is also responsible for Camp Haven and becomes familiar with Cassie, Ringer, and Ben Parish.

Dumbo – a member of Squad 53; he is around 12 years old, has huge ears, and is good with medicine and anatomy.

Teacup/Allison – a member of Squad 53; she is seven years old. Originally, she was the only girl, and was the youngest in the squad before Nugget and Ringer arrived.

Poundcake – a member of Squad 53; he is around 8 years old, large and chubby, and rarely speaks, but is good with a gun.

Flintstone – the former leader of Squad 53; he was around 16 years old and had a unibrow. He often challenged Zombie's authority, mainly in jealousy over taking his job as leader. After Zombie reveals Reznik's device, Flintstone takes it and accidentally kills himself with it.

Tank – a former member of Squad 53. He went "Dorothy" (crazy) and was taken away. Dumbo and Zombie discover him dead in the P&D (Processing and Disposal) hangar.

Kenny/Oompa – a member of Squad 53; he was around 8 or 9 years old, chubby, and had crooked teeth. After Zombie sets off an explosion, Oompa is impaled with shrapnel and dies after an unsuccessful attempt to save him.


First Wave: Lights Out: During the first wave, the Others release an EMP wave that takes out all electronics/lights/technology and kills half a million people by shorting out all moving vehicles, including planes in mid-flight.

Second wave: Surf's Up: The Others, realizing that roughly 40 percent of Earth's population lives within 60 miles (97 km) of coastline, drop enormous rods "twice as tall as the Empire State Building and three times as heavy" (45) onto the Earth's fault lines, causing massive tsunamis that wipe out three billion people.

Third wave: Pestilence: The Others launch a scheme to infect as many remaining survivors as possible with a deadly virus. Using the Earth's birds as carriers (via falling excrement), the plague claims 97 percent of remaining survivors. The virus, which resembles an advanced form of Ebola, causes victims to slowly bleed to death until eventually "you've become a viral bomb. And when you explode, you blast everyone around you with the virus" (46).

Fourth wave: Silencers: After the 3rd wave, the remaining human population tries desperately to survive off whatever resources remain by looting, all the while clinging to the hope that "the people in charge", wherever they may be, are working toward a solution. Eventually, this belief seems legitimate when an impressive battalion of soldiers (with functioning vehicles) arrives at the makeshift camp where Cassie, Sam, and her father are staying. The soldiers and commander, however, only appear interested in the children and promptly load them onto waiting buses before ordering all the adults into the camp barracks. Once the humans are surrounded, Commander Vosch orders a massacre and kills everyone at the camp. Cassie, however, narrowly escapes and witnesses her father's death by Vosch's hand. At this moment, the 4th wave becomes clear: not all "humans" are actually humans.

Fifth wave: The Fifth wave is referenced in "The Last Star".


Critical reception of the book has been very positive. It received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus,[3][4] and reviewers have noted that it has broad audience appeal, blurring the lines between young adult and adult fiction, and between genre and mainstream fiction, so that it cannot be easily wedged into one genre despite having many of the characteristics of young adult fiction.[1][5] The New York Times listed it as one of the best young adult books of 2013,[6] and it was a Goodreads finalist for Best Young Adult Fantasy or Science Fiction novel in 2013.[7]


The 5th Wave is the first book in a trilogy. The second book in the series, The Infinite Sea, was released on September 16, 2014.[8] The third book in the series, The Last Star, was released on May 24, 2016.[9]

Film adaptation

A film adaption with the same name was released by Columbia Pictures on January 22, 2016. It was directed by J Blakeson, with a screenplay by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, and Jeff Pinkner.

  1. ^ a b Vilkomerson, Sara (3 May 2013). "The 5th Wave". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Truitt, Brian (May 6, 2013). "Twilight time for aliens in Rick Yancey's '5th Wave'". USA Today. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Children's Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 9 September 2017. 
  4. ^ "THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Cronin, Justin (9 May 2013). "'The 5th Wave,' by Rick Yancey". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Schulten, Katherine (4 December 2013). "What Are the Best Things You've Read, Watched, Heard or Played This Year?". The Learning Network. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction 2013 — Goodreads Choice Awards". Goodreads. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Brissey, Breia (4 September 2014). "'The Infinite Sea': Watch the trailer for Rick Yancey's '5th Wave' sequel". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Yancey, Rick (24 May 2016). "The Last Star: The Final Book of The 5th Wave". Amazon. G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
External links
  • Official website
  • The 5th Wave book trailers compilation on YouTube

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