Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan
Release date: September 3rd, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: #1 in the The Hundred series
Source: Borrowed from Lili by way of Montana
In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.
Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.
The cover: I find this cover really visually appealing, and it definitely captures the romantic-sci-fi vibe that the book has going on.
The story: I will watch almost any TV show on the CW, whether it has vampires or love triangles or super heroes or really hot, shirtless people (they all have really hot, shirtless people).
So when I heard that one of their new fall shows was based off a new fall book, I knew I had to get in on this business. Especially because the book is sci-fi, and I love sci-fi, and the trailer looks awesome.
Warning: trailer may spoil some aspects of the novel.
Space stations! Delinquents! Earth as a wild, unihabited wilderness! Romance! Shenanigans! Corruption! The fate of humanity! Yessssss.
I was sold by the premise (Earth is toxic and has been uninhabited for a couple centuries. All the humans live in a web of space stations that are highly stratified by class). And while I blazed through this book in basically one sitting (it's only 277 pages and the pacing is zippy), I was ultimately disappointed in the fact that this book had no impact. It should have been awesome and intense. Big dramatic THINGS were happening. But the author didn't take it to the places it should have gone (and to the places the show seems like it may go). Honestly? I couldn't care less about any of the characters. They had interesting back stories, and they did interesting things, but they just didn't grab me. This book utterly failed to make me connect.
This book is written in a close-ish third person. We start off in the POV of Clarke, a girl who's been Confined for a crime and whose parents have been executed. Underage kids who commit crimes get put in these cells at the bottom of the space station until they turn eighteen and are then re-tried. Almost all are found guilty and executed. Clarke thinks they're coming to kill her early, but--surprise!--she and one hundred other delinquents are being sent back to the abandoned, radioactive wasteland known as Earth to see if it's ready to be lived in again. Clarke, while a decent viewpoint character, is grave, earnest, intelligent, and ever so dull.
We then hop over into the third person POV of Wells, the boy who lurrrrrves Clarke EVER SO MUCH. He's the son of the Chancellor, so he's able to find out about the secret Earth landing and the fact that his former lady love is one of the hundred. So he commits a heinous crime to ensure that he goes to Earth with her. I can't tell you what it is he does to ensure his going to Earth, but let me just say that ONE GIRL IS NOT WORTH THAT. NOBODY IS WORTH THAT. YOU... YOU... UGH. Say it with me, kids. When faced with the option to a) be there emotionally and physically for an ex-girlfriend who hates your guts, or b) save all of humanity, PLEASE SAVE HUMANITY. PLEEEEEASE.
So yeah, Wells super loves Clarke and it's super boring. Luckily for us, there's a third POV character, Bellamy, who's by far the most interesting of the bunch. He's not technically one of the hundred, but his sister is, so, like Wells, he does what he can to ensure he's on that drop ship. His personality was the most vivid, and while he unfortunately decided to fall in love with Clarke (who has red hair and a reluctant-but-magical smile, naturally), I most enjoyed being in his head, learning about his troubled, underprivileged background and his (often blind) devotion to his sister. He's also the only one who decides learning how to hunt might be a good idea.
And then we get the FOURTH POV character, Glass, Wells' female best friend. Yes. There are four main characters, which isn't a problem for me, but in a book this short, there just wasn't time for me to connect to all four, and so I connected to none of them. Their mental voices were bascially interchangeable, except for Bellamy. Glass is a perfectly fine character with a perfectly ridiculous name. She's supposed to be one of the hundred, but she escapes and stays on the space station so she can make amends with her boring, wrong-side-of-the-tracks boyfriend, Luke, who she also super loves. I'm tired of characters starting books off already super in love.
The problem with the two central love stories (Wells-Clarke and Luke-Glass) is that we never got to see them fall in love, so I literally did not give a flaming fruitcake if they made it or not. Wells and Glass love their counterparts more than life itself, and that is just not that interesting. At least Clarke knows the two boys who like her are the very least of her problems, and at least Bellamy knows that his own sister is way more important this his crush on Clarke. I was marginally more invested in Luke-Glass, since they did have some really tragic back story, but too much of this book was romantical angsting, and not enough of it was awesome Earth exploration and space station shenanigans.
|This is how I feel about unnecessary romantical angsting.|
Which brings me to the part of this book that works like gangbusters: the plot. Well, the basic plot's premise, anyway. It's aces. There are secret revelations, evil chancellors, unauthorized shenanigans--all the science fiction elements I wanted. Almost every chapter features a lengthy flashback, which I ended up loving, since the gradual unveiling of the characters' skeleton-jammed closets. THe world-building is pretty darn solid, though I still have a million questions. This book should have been a hundred pages longer so that we could know more. More about the space station, more about the other delinquents on the ground (we literally know only seven or eight of them by name), just... more.
The stuff on Earth with the delinquents really didn't go where it should have, though. There were hints of some Lord of the Flies stuff, but that kind of fizzled out. Sometimes I got the feeling this book was written just so there could be a TV show, since the visuals and character setups were dynamite and the execution was blah. The focus was on romance and angst, though sometimes the plot ended up creating terrific character moments. There are certain set pieces and ideas here that blew me away. If this has all been happening to characters I loved, this easily could have been a five star review. Alas and alack, I am, as they are in Europe, whelmed.
It's almost, almost, almost a great book and then... not.