How Many Have Already Pre-ordered The Last Star?
The movie is based on the first book of Rick Yancey’s epic sci-fi trilogy – and the final volume, The Last Star, will hit bookstore shelves and the Internet on May 24th. The release is hotly anticipated by Yancey’s fans – possibly including new fans brought in by the movie. The series is Yancey’s first venture into science fiction, though he has previously written YA fantasy in the form of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp (with two sequels). He and his publisher both hope that the books and movies, with a strong focus on how humanity deals with its problems, will continue to appeal to mainstream audiences. In that sense, as with much good apocalyptic fiction, the nature of the disaster almost does not matter, and the fact that the book combines several different disaster scenarios doesn’t appear to have affected its sales. What did affect sales was the large amount of marketing Penguin put into the launch, with multiple book trailers and an initial print run of 500,000. This tactic definitely paid off, as the book launched right to number one.
The Last Star will finish out the trilogy (the middle volume is The Infinite Sea), and Yancey has already promised that he won’t leave any loose ends. The series very much rides the current trend for dark or dystopic YA fiction – although in this case the dystopia has an external cause in the form of the alien Others that take over our planet. A New York Times review of The 5th Wave novel says it successfully appeals to both teenage and adult audiences, and The 5th Wave won the Red House Children’s Book Award and was nominated for a number of other awards. Both of the published volumes have been New York Times bestsellers, so there’s no reason to think that The Last Star will not follow suit.
Although no reviews have been posted for the new book yet, USA Today was there for the October cover reveal – a striking image that includes a single figure facing the rising sun, and with a preview for the book’s first two chapters in December. The first novel received a starred review from Kirkus, and both the first and second novels were well received. And anticipation for the movie, which some compared to the “Hunger Games” (although in story and setting it bears a lot more similarity to the TNT drama “Falling Skies“) pushed The 5th Wave back to number one on the USA Today Best Sellers list for a time. So there’s definitely a demand for more from Yancey.
But with what some would consider disappointing performance at the box office (roughly $30 mil domestically and additional $70 mil worldwide), will that slow down demand for the upcoming novel? Third volumes in trilogies do benefit from a certain reader inertia, in that people who read the first book will often finish out the series even if they only liked it. However, with the movie not setting things on fire, performance wise, will it kill interest in the series? Even if it doesn’t, it would be a surprise for it not to achieve New York Times Best Seller status. A little more than a month before release, the book is #1 in the category on Amazon. Pre-orders tend to attract serious fans, of which Yancey clearly has a good number.
The fact that the book has been significantly delayed, however, may have both a positive and negative impact. The initial release date was supposed to be September 8, 2015, and no reason for the book being pushed back has been revealed. One downside is, of course, that there is now a significant gap between the movie and the release of book three, possibly enough to cause some casual readers to lose interest. Movies tend to draw in people who are not already fans of the book or series, and they often want to see the entire series available. That said, Memorial Day weekend is a good time to release a book and catch people looking for summer reads, and the book will need little effort from the marketers to be noticed. And, of course, the series being completed may increase sales of the first two books, especially after the delay.
Between what Yancey has said and the tone of the other two books, it seems likely that The Last Star will be something of a downer: Yancey has stated that no character is safe in this final volume. However, this is likely what Yancey’s readers are expecting and hoping for, and there is no immediate sign that the trend for dystopian and apocalyptic YA fiction is changing. It might not be the new Hunger Games (Divergent tried to be that with only mediocre success, not helped by the fact that the books proved hard to adapt), but I think it can safely be said that The Last Star will be a highly successful book. Predicting whether it will be turned into a movie is harder at this point, especially based on the lukewarm performance of the first, although Sony does hold the rights to the entire series. Yancey’s fans, of course, are more likely to turn their attention to what this versatile, multi-genre writer will do next.