I admit, I mostly picked up The 100 by Kass Morgan because the blurb on the back said it was developed in conjunction with Alloy Entertainment, who are behind Gossip Girl (and The Vampire Diaries, but I don’t watch that).
The 100 (said The Hundred) is pretty well set up to be made into a television programme. One hundred teenagers, jailed for their crimes aboard the spaceship they live on, are sent back to Earth, which has been devoid of human life since a nuclear war centuries ago. When they land on Earth, these 100 teenagers must set about exploring their new world, and learning how to survive.
I think it’s a great concept, and I really enjoyed all the aspects of The 100 that covered how Earth was destroyed, how new colonies were set up in spaceships and how the 100 go about creating a society from scratch. The politics onboard the spaceships – the poor live on Walden and Arcadia, the rich on Phoenix; the strict population rules; the new kind of democracy – were fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the power struggle that played out very subtly between the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor in both the present time and through a series of flashbacks.
The book is told through alternating focus on four teenagers (with flashbacks to how they got to where they are in the present day). Clarke was arrested for treason and both her parents are dead. Wells is the Chancellor’s son and only wants to make things up to Clarke, the girl he loves. Glass escapes just before the ship transports her to earth, and discovers life on Phoenix is pretty dangerous too. And Bellamy fights his way on to the ship to earth to protect his younger sister. Each of them has a different role to play within the book, especially Glass who is our only pair of eyes into the present time aboard the space ships, so it’s good to have a variety of characters to see this world through.
Like on the spaceships, the politics on Earth are interesting as the teenagers go about creating a whole new world from scratch. How do you create a democracy? Do you even want to create a democracy, or is a dictatorship better in a situation like this? Who gets to be in charge – the brains or the brawn? All interesting questions that play out over the course of The 100.
While I enjoyed the aforementioned aspects, I did feel The 100 was let down by its focus on romance. Most of the time, The 100 felt like a romantic novel set in a dystopian world, rather a dystopian story with elements of romance. I definitely wanted to spend less time reading about the romantic entanglements of the characters and more about the way they dealt with the problems of the world they were in. The romances, or not in some cases, didn’t add any welcome tension. There is enough tension in the situations the teenagers find themselves in (in the past and present) to create a compelling story.
Having just watched the trailer for the television version of The 100, it seems like they’ve dispensed with much of the romance to focus on the core issue of reinhabiting Earth. That’s exactly what the book should have done, and what I hope its sequel will do. In the meantime, The 100 may be good enough for a television series, but it’s not a must read unless you like your plot taking second place to your romance.
How I got this book: From the room of unwanted books at work.