Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea is the second installment in the 5th Wave trilogy. In The 5th Wave, aliens who have been watching Earth for thousands of years finally decide to put into action their plan to remove the infestation of humans on the planet. They began by knocking out power with an electromagnetic pulse, then they triggered giant tsunamis which wiped out the populations living near the coastal areas. This was followed by the third wave which was the red plague. The fourth wave saw the aliens consciousness inserted into the bodies of humans and then activated at puberty. These are known as Silencers and they actively seek out humans to kill them. The apocalypse is in full gear, with the Others working to eradicate the last of the humans. Teenager Cassie Sullivan spends much of the first novel searching for her younger brother, Sam, and in the process uncovers the horrifying 5th Wave. The 5th Wave is comprised of children who under the pretense of being "saved" and being trained to kill, not the aliens as they believe, but their fellow humans.  This is being done, Cassie discovers in a huge military camp run by an "Other" named General Vosch. She also meets Evan Walker, a human hosting an alien consciousness, who falls in love with her and who does not wish to follow through with the plans to annihilate the entire human race. With the help of Evan, Cassie and a group of teens take out Vosch's base with a massive explosion leaving the fate of Evan unknown and the destruction of the base only a minor setback for the aliens.

What follows is a detailed synopsis of the entire novel so that when the third book is released, readers can return to refresh their memories about the storyline. Therefore, there are plenty of spoilers in this description. A review follows further down, which I hope, will not have spoilers.

Synopsis:
The novel opens with a short prologue which recounts the event of a child being used as an IED to destroy a group of humans hidden in a farmhouse demonstrating that no one can now be trusted - not even small children who might be deadly weapons. This is a foreshadowing of what might be in store for Cassie's group of survivors.

Book 2 The Infinite Sea picks up the story several weeks after the destruction of Vosch's base. It is winter and without food, many of the surviving humans face the reality of freezing and starving to death. Cassie's ragtag group of survivors is holed up in an abandoned hotel infested with rats. They have gone there because it was Cassie's prearranged meeting place with Evan after the attack on Vosch's Camp Haven. In the hotel are Cassie, Ringer, Teacup, Nugget (Sam), Dumbo, Zombie (Ben Parish) and Poundcake. Ben is not doing well, feverish from the bullet wound Ringer gave him when they escaped Camp Haven. Cassie continues to hope that Evan has survived the blast and will return.

Ringer is preparing to leave, to scout out the caves where they plan on moving to. As she travels along the highway, she thinks about Evan Walker and what he told Cassie, that the aliens are pure consciousness occupying a human body and that they don't need the planet to exist. The reason for the aliens needing a planet seems puzzling to her and doesn't add up. Ringer is outside Urbana and headed to the Ohio Caverns outside of West Liberty. In the woods she discovers another 5th Waver like herself only he's been shot dead. This can only mean a Silencer must be around. Ringer removes the tracking pellet from the dead kid and puts it in her mouth. But instead of shooting a Silencer, Ringer shoots Teacup.Just as she's about to finish her off, a black chopper arrives and Ringer decides to allow them to be captured.

Meanwhile back at the hotel, Cassie keeps watch on the parking lot while the others sleep. She is remembering a conversation she had with Ringer and Ben. Cassie remembers what Evan Walker told her about the aliens and about himself, that he began life as Evan and then at thirteen his alien consciousness awoke and then Evan came back into the picture again later on. He told her that the aliens no longer have bodies, it was the only way they could make the journey and that their consciousnesses were downloaded onto the mothership; some are still there awaiting the completed cleansing. The camps were set up to select the best humans for brainwashing so they could complete the annihilation. But Ben wants to know why they just didn't download enough of their troops into humans to wipe the remaining humans out. Evan proved however that there was a risk to this, that by becoming human they might actually take on a human identity.

They have decided to wait to see if Evan will show giving Ben time to heal from his wounds. However, things go bad fast when Cassie spots Teacup sneaking away after Ringer. Poundcake is sent after her. As they wait for Poundcake to return, Ben wonders why the aliens waited centuries to exterminate them when they could have done it earlier when there were fewer humans on the planet.

Soon Ben and Cassie realize that Dumbo is missing. Waking Sam and ordering him to lock the door to his room, Ben and Cassie begin working their way through the hotel. They decide to check the elevator shaft. Ben lowers Cassie into the shaft and she moves into the elevator car. After checking the lobby, gunshots ring out on the upper floor and Cassie races back up to her brother's room where she finds and shoots Evan Walker in the knee.

The story picks up with Evan's narration. He reveals that as a child he remembers dreaming of owls but when he turned thirteen the dreams stopped. The alien in him had awakened ready to use the gifts the owl had given him and his life as a thirteen year old boy became a lie. Evan apparently has survived the blast and has been rescued by another Silencer, a tall, blonde woman with icy blue eyes named Grace. Grace tells him that he has sixteen broken bones including a broken ankle, a fractured skull and second degree burns. Evan met Grace when they were sixteen. Evan was already struggling with the knowledge that every person he met would be dead in two years time. It was the first time either of them had met someone like them.

"They all understood the risk in donning the human mantle. Sharing a body with a human psyche carried with it the danger of adopting human vices -- as well as human virtues. And far more dangerous than greed or lust or envy or any of those things -- or anything -- was love."

Grace asks Evan how he came to be at the base and learns only the bare details of what happened. She and Evan journey to her house in her sector on Hwy 68 where she takes him to recuperate. It will take almost  three weeks for his ankle to heal sufficiently for him to use it again. When Grace leaves to get supplies, Evan makes the decision that he must neutralize her. He can't wait three weeks for his ankle to heal and he can't take Grace with him to meet Cassie and the other survivors.  Grace will never let him go and she wouldn't think twice about killing him. So when she returns he strangles her and leaves her for dead.

But traveling along Hwy 68 Evan soon discovers that he has not killed Grace as he suspected and that she is tracking him. Evan starts a huge bonfire in the middle of the highway with the intention of drawing  the 5th Wave so they will attack. This happens and during the gunfire, he manages to escape from Grace and find his way to the hotel when Cassie is hiding. By the time Evan arrives, he sees Ringer leaving to look for the caves. Evan realizes that his enhanced body is giving out and he is becoming more like a typical human.

At this point in the novel Yancey provides some of the backstory to Poundcake because his actions are important in this part of the novel. Poundcake came to be picked up by the school buses after the death of his mother from the plague. She had been sick for days while Poundcake and his baby brother had to fend for themselves. Running out of food, Poundcake left to search for food for him and his baby brother. He searched in all the nearby grocery stores but managed to find only a piece of cake wrapped in plastic. When he returned home, Poundcake found his brother gone and his mother violently ill, the plague now infecting her brain. Six weeks after her death Poundcake began walking along the abandoned highways and was eventually picked up by a school bus filled with children and soldiers. Poundcake has never uttered a word after his mother's death.

Evan storms into the hotel but is shot by Cassie after she runs up the stairs from the lobby. Dumbo tells Cassie that Evan has a broken ankle, a stab wound in one leg, a bullet in the other, covered in burns and is running a high fever. Ben's abdominal wound has been repacked by Dumbo but he's furious at Evan and wants to leave the hotel. Cassie's five year old brother Sam also wants to go with him. In his lucid moments Evan tells Cassie he saw Teacup and Poundcake heading north and he tells her not to go after them warning her about Grace. Poundcake returns but does not have Teacup nor Ringer and because he never speaks, Cassie's group has no idea what has happened to Teacup and Ringer. Ben believes that Teacup has caught up with Ringer who has taken her to the caves.

The next day the group hears a helicopter overhead and twenty minutes after it passes by, a friend of Sam's, Megan appears in the hotel wearing shorts, a thin T-shirt and flip flops, tells them her throat hurts and then collapses. Puzzled at her sudden appearance and her strange clothing given the onset of winter, they believe Megan may have a tracker but Cassie can't find any evidence of one. What Cassie does see is a little girl bruised and abused by indifference, cruelty of the Others. Ben asks Cassie to check the girl's throat which she has done and finds only that it's red. Evan tells them that she is not implanted with a tracking device but that her throat is rigged with an incendiary device rigged to blow when it detects CO2 - the child is a bomb. Evan tells them its almost impossible to remove the bomb without detonating it. This leads Ben to want to simply kill the girl and it is his attitude that makes Cassie realize that he has lost a great deal of his humanity. But Ben can't kill little Megan and he asks Cassie to cut the wire to the bomb.

Cassie realizes that the Ben Parish she crushed on a year ago is dead and gone just like the school girl who desired him is also gone. With the help of Evan, Cassie manages to extract the bomb from Megan's throat. Evan tells Cassie that the bomb is a test, that if they didn't blow up it either means that the bomb was defective or that they might have a Silencer with them. Ben figures that they know Cassie and the other group are at the hotel possibly indicating that Ringer and Teacup have been captured. Cassie suggests that they blow up the hotel using the bomb and they hit upon using the CO2 canisters from the soda fountain from the diner next door. They decide to rig the canisters to dispense the CO2 slowly within the confined space of the elevator and blow the hotel. Ben and Poundcake go to the diner to get the canister, while Dumbo watches the hall and Sam goes to care for Megan. This leaves Cassie alone with Evan who tells her that they have to go to the last place anyone will look - Grace's house on Hwy 68. He draws Cassie a map and then tells her that the way to end it is Grace - that she is the doorway and that Cassie can finish it. This doesn't mean much to Cassie at this time however, she has little time to ask him more because Grace shows up at the hotel.

What follows is a battle between Grace and the four humans, Cassie, Ben, Dumbo and Poundcake.  Evan tells Cassie they must leave and go to the house he told her about and that he will take care of Grace. Ben, Cassie, Dumbo, Sam and Megan all leave. However, Poundcake, who has been fatally shot by Grace scrabbles back into the hotel, knowing that Sam has dropped the baggie containing the IED that was in Megan's throat. As Grace coldly tortures him by shooting him repeatedly, realizing that he's mortally wounded, Poundcake confronts her with the IED, shoots her in the back and blows up the hotel with him, Grace and Evan in it.

The novel then switches over to tell the reader what has happened to Ringer after she is captured by General Vosch. Under Vosch's direction, Ringer also known as Marika has a hub placed in her that will enhance her body. This is a kind of nanotechnology - "a microscopic command hub affixed to the prefrontal lobe of her brain" that control the 40,000 units, 10 arrays of four thousand that enhance each of the different systems of her body.

While Ringer is recovering, she is kept company by a man named Razor. When Ringer tries to teach Razor a chess game, Razor teaches her a game, chaseball,  he invented which is really a secret way to communicate. He plans on helping her escape which she does. They commandeer a Black Hawk helicopter and Razor and Teacup parachute out while Ringer with her enhanced body dives out of the helicopter and free falls to earth. She meets up with Razor who takes her to the warehouse and there Ringer meets Vosch who tells her this was all a test. He also tells her that there are no alien consciousness inside any humans because it was too risky. Instead they used a program, inserted into unborn children and activated at puberty. Evan is a human who is enhanced but the program in him has crashed and he's now off the grid. If there are others like Evan, enhanced, off the grid, this could be a problem. Vosch needs Ringer to help him find Evan. His only hold on Ringer is Teacup who is alive.

Ringer tells all this to Razor. After several days, Ringer along with Razor are brought back to Vosch who asks her if she's solved the mystery. She tells him that Evan falling in love causes unpredictability. Evan doesn't yet know the truth, but he knows enough to stop the aliens and he's off the grid. Razor sets Ringer free by killing Teacup, thereby allowing her to flee from Vosch.


Review:
The Infinite Sea was a thrilling novel, that captures the reader from the horrific prologue to the very last page with its surprising ending. Readers may find that the initial chapters narrated by Ringer are somewhat slow, but the pace evens out and the twists and shocking revelations keep the story truly enthralling.

Like its predecessor, The Infinite Sea tells its story through the eyes of a group of teenagers, possibly one of the few groups of surviving humans on the planet, who are trying to figure out how to stay alive and how to outwit the aliens. They each have their own ideas as to what the key element is to survival. At the beginning of the novel, Ringer believes the key is rage but later on she comes to realize that it is something else.

The Infinite Sea is another novel with several strong female characters; in the first novel it was Cassie Sullivan, in The Infinite Sea, it's Ringer or Marika (we learn her real name). Cassie is a somewhat minor character in this novel which focuses more on Ringer who is now a major character. Ringer takes on the qualities of a superhero near the end of the novel, physically enhanced to match her strong personality. She's become a weapon, but it as it turns out, a rogue one. We also learn more about Evan and General Vosch. Yancey also provides his readers with some backstory for other minor characters such as Grace and Poundcake to flesh out the story.

We also learn more about the aliens through Vosch, especially the reasoning behind the strategy used to cleanse the earth of humans. 


One of the great themes of these novels is that of courage, perhaps best exemplified by Poundcake who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends from Grace.  Another strong theme is that of love, its unpredictability and how love can lead to the most unpredictable of actions. This happened in the first book between Evan and Cassie, with Evan helping her rescue her brother and destroy Vosch's base - something he finds remarkable. In the second book, the unexpected love that develops between Ringer and Razor lead him also to act in an unpredictable manner, something which Vosch did not foresee.

Because of the ending, readers will have a certain expectation as to what the plot might be like in the third novel, so it will be interesting to see if that expectation is met. The Infinite Sea is young adult fiction crossover into adult fiction with strong appeal to a wide age range. The writing is great, captivating and Yancey moves between narrators seamlessly. 

The 5th Wave is currently in development for a film adaptation which will be released in January, 2016.

Book Details:
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons     2014
300 pp.


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