Dystopian, Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave #2)

Cover image for The Infinite Sea by Rick Yanceyby Rick Yancey

ISBN 978-0-399-16242-8

Warning: Given how obfuscated the jacket copy plot description is, some purists might consider my plot summary below to be spoilery. I have done my best to give you some idea of what actually happens in the book without giving away the store, but proceed at your own risk.

“Pining for things we lost is the same as hoping for things that can never be. Both roads dead-end in despair.”

Injured and afraid, the escapees from Camp Haven hole up in an abandoned, rat-infested hotel, trying to figure out what their next move should be after the revelations of The 5th Wave. Cassie is anxiously waiting for Evan to catch up with them, while slowly losing hope that he survived the blast that destroyed Camp Haven. In search of a better long-term hiding place, Ringer sets out to scout a potential winter shelter, but her attachment to Teacup compromises the mission, placing them both back in Vosch’s clutches. Meanwhile, the hotel hide-out becomes a death trap as a Silencer from Evan’s past begins targeting the small band of survivors.

Rick Yancey takes a gamble and falls short with the narrative structure of The Infinite Sea. The scene and POV shift constantly throughout the first half of the novel, roving among the various survivors, before finally settling with Ringer in the second half of the book. Misinformation is Yancey’s stock-in-trade, but he gets a bit carried away in The Infinite Sea, proving there can be such a thing as too many plot twists and cliff-hangers as he struggles to sustain suspense during the goings-on at the hotel. This fractured and frustrating opening is the price of admission for the second half, and the revelation that changes everything. Make no mistake, it’s a doozy, but the maneuvering it takes Yancey to get there is exhausting.

Yancey’s title is a reference to a speech made by Shakespeare’s Juliet, but star-crossed lovers are hardly the focus of The Infinite Sea.  Even more so than in The 5th Wave, romance takes a back-seat as the plot moves to focus on Ringer, locked in a battle of wills and wits with Commander Vosch. Ringer always had a lot of questions about Cassie’s relationship with Evan, and Evan’s revelations about the Others, but Vosch puts Teacup’s life on the line as he challenges Ringer to reconcile the contradictions in what she thinks she knows. After all, the Others are supposed to be pure consciousness, but “a virtual existence doesn’t require a physical planet.”

Plot structure aside, The Infinite Sea still has much of what recommended The 5th Wave, which was gritty and inventive in its horrors. The Others’ latest tool of terror combines psychological and military warfare by turning the youngest human survivors in into IEDs, preying on the human instinct to preserve the children. And in the midst of all the action and horror, Yancey still comes out with strikingly observant bits of prose, and evocative images and motifs. Whereas in the The 5th Wave he used cockroaches and bodies as battlefields, in The Infinite Sea he uses rats and a silver thread that connects the characters to similar affect. Chess has been a consistent motif in both books, but it becomes especially important here as Vosch toys with Ringer, challenging her to a game with no rules. Yancey’s writing remains stylistically strong, and the last act offers hope for the next installment to be as good as the first one was.

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