There’s something about middle books in trilogies. Often, they’re just marking time between the set up of the first book and the conclusion of the last book, and they’re used to get the chess pieces in place. Of course there are some middle books that are terrific – The Subtle Knife is my favorite book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. But mostly they are dull filler and padding. And, very disappointingly, The Infinite Sea, the sequel to The 5th Wave, is no exception.
After a chilling opening in which we realize just how beastly the aliens are, as they’re using small children as weapons, the main narrative picks up four days after the end of the previous book, with Cassie Sullivan and other survivors from the destruction of Camp Haven holed up in an old hotel waiting for Evan Walker.
But the focus in The Infinite Sea is now on Ringer/Marika – one of these survivors and a child soldier of the 5th wave – and Cassie, who was such a strong presence in the first book, takes a backseat. I remember the resistance I felt at the opening of The Subtle Knife when Will is the main character instead of Lyra, but I was soon swept up. Sadly, that did not happen here for me; I didn’t find Ringer a particularly sympathetic or even well-developed character.
There’s a lot of discussion about why the aliens have chosen to destroy the human race in such an elaborate and inefficient way. There’s a fair bit of discussion about how the humans can respond to them. There’s lots of recurring themes and metaphors: promises and hope, chess and rats. But there’s precious little plot; for most of the book, there’s just too much talking and not enough showing.
And what is the infinite sea? It was an image in the first book – “the infinite sea of upturned faces” of children. Here, it’s mentioned several times in several different places: the untended wheat fields; the blood in a human body and, in the Shakespearean epigraph, love (are we getting all Harry Potter here? Is love really the answer to the aliens?).
From the notes at the end, it appears that Mr. Yancey poured his soul into this book. So it feels extra sad that it’s such a let down for me. But I have high hopes that he’ll gather all the threads back up and give us a finale worthy of the first book.