No one has set foot on Earth for centuries – until now. Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s surface. Now, on hundred juvenile delinquents – considered expendable by society – are being sent on a dangerous mission: to re-colonise the planet. It could be their second chance at life… or it could be a suicide mission. Clarke was arrested for treason, although she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. Wells, the chancellor’s son, came to Earth for the girl he loves – but will she ever forgive him? Reckless Bellamy fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister. And Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.
The 100 is set to be the next big thing in the world of YA books and TV – I was thrilled to receive one of 100 proofs of the first book in the series to review. Before the paperback has even had its UK publication, a TV series is being developed by the people behind The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, so I was keen to see what all the buzz was about.
The action starts on a group of linked spaceships, above the surface of Earth, left uninhabitable by a nuclear war years previously, and with the main character Clarke. She’s intelligent, articulate and the daughter of two prominent doctors and scientists. I really enjoyed Clarke’s narrative perspective. She reminded me a little of Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy; Clarke is strong, determined and uncompromising. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all four key young leads in the book are similarly strong and positive characters. Kass Morgan has done a great job with her cast, creating well-rounded and rapidly engaging individuals with fascinating back-stories and motivations for action. Also, despite splitting the action four ways, we still get to spend plenty of time with each character, so we feel that we get to know them properly.
When we first meet Clarke, she’s in prison for an unspecified action classed as treason, and we realise she’s in fear for her life. An unpleasant side effect of living in very limited space appears to have been that prisoners are regularly executed, and young offenders simply preserved until their 18th birthday for the sanction to be carried out. Immediately, it’s clear that all’s not well in society and as the story progresses, we gradually discover what it is that Clarke did, and why, and it’s pretty shocking.
Wells is from a similarly privileged and educated background to Clarke, and in fact the two used to be an item; here’s another mystery – why did they split up? Why does Clarke hold so much animosity towards him? And what about Glass – she seems to be from the upper crust but obviously has a secret which has lead to her incarceration. This one, I felt, was a big reveal – not at all what I was expecting. It also provides a bridge for us to the less privileged areas of the human space-colony, where Bellamy lives. He’s the only one who wants to be on the ship going to Earth; he’s a great character, challenging authority and class barriers, but also discovering more about himself and his own potential at the same time.
I found The 100 a rapid and enjoyable read – as a new entry into the Young Adult dystopia genre, this is an adventurous page-turner with plenty of action and even some romance. I’d say the relationship aspects on the book will probably play better with female readers, although they aren’t a dominating aspect of the plot. I very much enjoyed the descriptive elements of the setting too; the linked spaceships with their different classes of occupants were very well realised, and the sections set on Earth are extremely atmospheric, as the young people experience planet life for the first time. I found myself really gripped, racing through the action to see what would happen next. Morgan’s style is dramatic, open, fast and accessible, and will certainly appeal to teenage readers of science fiction, and older ones too.
The 100 is published by Hodder, out 29th August 2013, £7.99