The irony of the school librarian’s life is that the activity she loves the most – namely, reading books – becomes an impossibility once school actually starts. I do manage to read, of course, but not nearly as much as I’d like. Given the environment in which I work, where I am completely surrounded by good books, it’s like someone with a gluten allergy working in a bakery. My job actually requires me to read children’s books regularly – I have to know what it is I’m giving the kids, after all. Picture books are no problem, since I can whip through one in less than five minutes. I can even manage to get through a kids chapter book in a week or so, and I know a lot of people would scoff at reading kiddy lit, but many of them are really excellent. In fact, I generally enjoy reading kids books more than grown-up ones. Where I suffer, though, is in the young adult books that are my bread and butter. They are longer and take more time and attention. I’ve only managed one since school started three months ago. It is that lone book which is the focus of this blog.
“The Infinite Sea,” by Rick Yancey, is the second part of a planned trilogy, which began in the bleak, yet strangely hopeful, “The 5th Wave.” The second book in a trilogy is often considered a “bridging” book, where the third book is set up, and relationships are explored, but nothing much happens. There is a small sense of that in “The Infinite Sea,” that sense that we are biding our time and the real resolution of the story is still to come, but there is still plenty going on. In fact, the action rarely lets up, and the reader is pushed breathlessly on to the next chapter and the next. Despite my lack of reading time, I managed to plow through this book in just a few days time, because there was no resting place.
As always, I will attempt to plant no real spoilers, but if you haven’t read the first book, I am inevitably going to. At the beginning of “The Infinite Sea,” Cassie, Zombie, Ringer and the rest of their small band of survivors are holed up in an abandoned hotel following the destruction of Camp Haven. Cassie waits hopefully for Evan to meet up with them, though they all feel certain there was no way he lived through the explosions. Winter has set in, and they know they will not last the season in the hotel. Ringer sets off to explore some nearby caves they have read about in an old brochure, and things do not go well along the way. She and Teacup end up back in the hands of an old enemy. Naturally, Evan shows up, but he was so badly injured that somehow he has lost the super-human abilities that his alien-enhanced body had given him up until then.
Where the first book was really Cassie’s story, this book focuses mainly on Ringer. We find out her background – where she came from, what she hides, what drives her. A new character, Razor, acts as a foil to bring out this information. She becomes more personal and more human, even as Vosch’s experiments attempt to stamp out her very humanity.
There are a couple themes in this book that Yancey returns to frequently. Cassie regularly refers to the time that they are living in as sort of an in-between time; a resetting of the clock back to zero, before people were on the earth. She comes to see it as a sort of natural progression, which was demonstrated by the problem of the rats that infest the abandoned hotel. Though no one likes them, Teacup is particularly disturbed by the rats in the hotel. They chew and gnaw and scamper inside the walls, and she can scarcely sleep at night for the noise. Ringer doesn’t understand why she hates them so much, and Teacup explains that their very gnawing will eventually destroy the home they live in. Ringer sees the parallel between what the rats are doing to the hotel, and what humans had been doing to their planet; their very existence means destruction.
More is revealed about the aliens’ plan, and the even more insidious ways that they are using humanity to destroy itself. There are questions left unanswered though, like what the aliens want with the planet in the first place, and why they are using such personal and vindictive means to eliminate the human race. When they could have destroyed the entire population with any of the previous waves, why do they seem intent on drawing it out and prolonging human suffering?
Like “The 5th Wave,” this installment is a peculiar combination of hope and despair. Though most of the world’s population is gone, the ragtag remnants of humanity are resilient. Cassie’s pluckiness and fierce temper, Ringer’s cold determination, Ben’s goofy humor, and even Poundcake’s self-imposed solitude are so much more complex than the alien’s give them credit for. The aliens believe that humanity has no chance, and the humans know it to be true, but they aren’t willing to just give up. Cassie says in the first book that if she is going to die, it will be in trying to fulfill the promise she made to her brother, not curling up in a hole and waiting for death. That senseless heroism gives the reader hope as we head in to the final book. It seems that somehow, these few individuals, with the help of Evan, who knows details of the alien plan, might somehow prevail.
There is a third book currently in the works, and I can only hope that Yancey doesn't leave us all hanging too long.