Source: ARCs from Netgalley
Published by: Hodder Stoughton
Released: 29th August 2013 (The 100) and 25th September 2014 (The 100: Day 21)
Buy them from: Hive
In a nutshell…
What are they about?
The human race fled the Earth hundreds of years ago to avoid deadly radiation. The lucky few who escaped now live in a self sustaining space station. But space is limited on the station and despite strict laws, the population is growing. The 100 follows four teenagers who are chosen to be sent back to Earth to test whether it’s safe again.
It had really happened. For the first time in centuries, humans had left the Colony. She glanced at the other passengers and saw that they had gone quiet as well, a spontaneous moment of silence for the world they were leaving behind.
Follow-up The 100: Day 21 continues the story on Earth and back on the space station.
This is an odd one. On the surface of it, The 100 should be a cracking read. It twists the usual sci fi tropes of being stuck on a dying Earth and rushing towards the freedom of the stars to one in which the humans are struggling to return. And the bit that really draws the interest here is that these aren’t your typical young heroes either. They’re convicts who would otherwise have been sentenced to death, being sent back to an Earth where nobody is even sure if it’s yet fit for human habitation!
In terms of the main plot, Kass Morgan does a fantastic job. Though the characters find themselves alone, in a not entirely dissimilar situation to the boys of The Maze Runner, their reactions seem much more plausible and the characterisation and dialogue is much more realistic. There are also brilliant little points of detail that remind you that the colonists haven’t returned to an entirely safe, predictable Earth.
… the deer’s head swayed back and forth from its limp neck – but it never made a full arc, because each time it swung back, it knocked against something else.
It was another head, swinging from another slender neck. The deer had two heads.
Of the three Earth-bound characters, I liked Clarke and Bellamy the best. They were rounded, but also distinctive and essentially likeable. I was less keen on Wells, though I think that’s probably a deliberate move on Kass Morgan’s part. I’m not sure he’s supposed to be likeable. In fact, I’d say he’s a deliberate examination of whether the popular kids really deserve their titles, once they’re taken away from all the usual trappings. However, he does improve a little in the second book.
Now we come to talk about Glass – the girl who remains on the Colony to tell their story. I loved Glass. I loved her story and the brief glimpses it gave us of the world that the convicts left. But it also showed for me how ultimately the narrative was limited by trying to fit in too many character viewpoints. I know that this series was made into a TV show, though I haven’t watched it. And so I imagine that it may well have been written with a view to making the story suitable for easy adaption, and we know that ensemble character dramas do need those additional viewpoints when translated into film and tv.
But as a reader, I don’t think it worked. I wanted to know more about Glass and about the Colony. I wanted to know more about the social and cultural environment that was established post-Earth, and how the different groups on the Colony lived day to day. But Glass was only one of four character viewpoints and it felt like she took up less than a quarter of the story, especially in the second book. I do wonder if it might have made more sense to reorganise the narrative to show the backstories of the characters in the beginning, together, rather than to interweave them as flashbacks. I think that might have allowed us to get a more comprehensive feel of their “home” environment before everything started changing. Then again, it might also have removed some of the suspense, so it’s hard to tell. But the bossy organiser in me is just dying to start rearranging it, I’m afraid! (Maybe that says more about me!)
Fans of action stories who have previously shied away from sci-fi. This is a good, light introduction to the genre without too much philosophical complication. And if you like this, then you can follow the hint dropped in the character names and look up those famous sci fi authors next! (Arthur C Clarke & H. G. Wells for a start!)