Book Review: “The 100” by Kass Morgan (2013)

6915301dbfb4cc5bedb42f2298c21d19Hi All,

We’re back into science fiction and I have to say, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel is a tough one to follow. It took me forever to find a book worth posting about, but I have to say “The 100” by Kass Morgan isn’t too shabby! Strangely enough, my podiatrist recommended it to me after confiding in me that he watched the CW show based on the novels. All the while puncturing a cyst I got from Salsa Dancing. Go figure, right?

Forewarning: this novel is the first in the series. While I dislike posting about serialized novels, sometimes it’s nice to see if books such as this can stand alone. While I’m not entirely sure “The 100” will leave the readers satisfied in the same way that a stand-alone novel would, they will definitely want to continue to read into this fascinating world.

At this point of time in the literary world, dystopian fiction is a hard sell. We’ve all read (and maybe even seen) Divergence and Hunger Games and the 100s (pun unintended) of other novels about a dystopic reality. While “The 100” isn’t necessarily dystopic, I would tentatively put it in the same category as the aforementioned books. In concept, this novel struck me as an inverse to Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (one of my favorite novels of all time. If you haven’t read it, you need to go out and do just that). Essentially, the premise of “The 100” revolves around the fact that the Earth has become radioactive due to thermonuclear war and due to its inhabitable state, humans created a space station in which they could survive away from the contaminated surface. Curious with regard to the effects of radiation, the head of the space station decides to send 100 of its convicts to Earth to see if the planet can be lived upon. As convicts in the space station are euthanized at age 18, we have a convenient cast of teenage characters thrust together to survive on Earth.

Like in Hunger Games, the space station is stratified by social-economic status with the wealthy Phoenicians (from Phoenix) working the most respected jobs and living in lavish areas while the Waldenites work the lowest jobs and live in poverty. Due to the scarcity of resources, law in the station is swift, merciless, and often corrupt.

The cast of characters Morgan provides is extensive with four main POV characters and additional key players. I’m no stranger to this sort of complex number of perspectives (I mean, c’mon, I’m a Game of Thrones fan). Still, I’m always a bit hesitant to trust authors using multiple perspectives. But Morgan does a great job differentiating their voices, fears, and desires. She provides us with the tone of two girls (Clarke and Glass) and two boys (Bellamy and Wells). All four are interconnected via friendship, romance, or even blood relation. Half the fun of the novel is figuring out how the four share the space of the novel. Plot-wise, “The 100” has a few twists which I enjoyed and Morgan did an excellent job of showing us Earth through the eyes of generations who had never touched its surface.

Although I don’t believe Morgan really gets into the themes that I normally discuss: feminist ideology, gender binaries, or diversity (in terms of race and sexual orientation), she does turn her analysis toward morality. The book, like most dystopias, illustrates a society in which the survival of a community weighs more than the concept of the individual. All four characters are scapegoats of a seemingly unjust and corrupt empire. They are essentially “sacrificed” (i.e. sent to an unstable environment) so that what is left of the human race has the potential to survive off of their space station (which we soon discover may not last much longer). While they have no choice in being sent to Earth, all four demonstrate their own versions of self-sacrifice for one another. Bellamy endangers himself constantly for his illegally born younger sister, Octavia. Clarke gives up her time and safety to care for members of the 100 who suffered injuries during their landing. Glass gives up her social status in order to be with someone she loves. Wells gives up his freedom on the space station to pursue Clarke. While you can say all four are motivated by some degree of selfishness and narcissism in their individual pursuits, they all demonstrate a degree of social conscience which is strangely aligned with the space station’s own actions.

Ultimately, while I don’t believe it was Morgan’s intention, she seems to be drawing a parallel between those operating the space station (and the cruelty associated with human experimentation, justice, and population control) with the four products of such an environment. Essentially, an oppressive and morally ambiguous environment does not spawn a population with duplicate values. In a way, the sacrifices asked of Clarke, Wells, Bellamy, and Glass by their “home” are the same they are willing to make for one another. The main difference, however, is that they have a choice previously subsidized by the space station’s government. Overall, the novel is what you make of it and how willing you are to dive into Morgan’s subtle discussion of cause vs. effect, nature vs. nurture. You might be surprised at what you find.