Sunday, 15 September 2013

Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan

Book cover of The 100 by Kass Morgan
When this dropped onto my doorstep (thanks to Hodder Books), I wasn't really sure what to expect. The cover images imply a fairly futuristic plot, perhaps set in some kind of space station, and that's not really My Thing. I picked it up anyway, expecting to trudge through it... and found a story that is a thrilling YA dystopian mixed with the retelling of a classic adventure novel.

Plot summary: Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents - considered expendable by society - are being sent on a dangerous mission: to re-colonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life... or it could be a suicide mission.

CLARKE was arrested for treason, though 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, the other half of the only siblings in the universe. 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.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope.

The story is told in four alternating perspectives from different characters - Clarke, Wells, Bellamy and Glass. These chapters are very short, changing over very frequently, and usually feature some kind of flashback to the past. It actually works quite well as the story never gets stale and it can be interesting to read different perspectives of the same event. However, and I accept this may be a small point to most of you, I hate different fonts in one book. I understand that here it's used to differentiate between past and present, but there are other ways! I don't need a flashing sign to tell me that we're going to talk about the past now. It seems overly juvenile and unnecessary. It's a small point that hardly affects the quality of the book, but there you go. It irks me.

The story itself is very much dedicated to slowly unravelling the past. When the story opens, you know that these one hundred 'criminals' are there to recolonize the Earth, but not why the spaceships are desperate to do or so why the teenagers are criminals in the first place. All of the main four characters have secrets and a little more is revealed in every chapter. As a result, not a whole lot actually happens in the book, but that's alright. The discoveries seem to be the point of the novel more than any actual progression, but it works very well.

The 100 is immediately engrossing - it didn't take many pages at all for me to feel like I was 100% part of that story. The prose is actually pretty damn good - it flows very nicely and dialogue is natural and unstilted. Debut authors sometimes write in a very 'clunky' style, but here I wouldn't even be able to tell that Kass Morgan was new to the game. She writes like an experienced author and that can take a lot of skill.

My favourite chapters were those told by Clarke, although as a character she can be a little annoying and preachy. Her previous life is the most fascinating, involving a moral question that many of us would find different to answer. Wells is my favourite character, although his past is perhaps the most mundane. Of the lot, he's the most sensible and the obvious leader for the new colony. Bellamy needs to be strangled and Glass' situation is a little too... domestic.  All in all though, there's a great mix of different personalities, emotions and circumstances and I never felt like I had to persevere through the 'boring' ones, simply because there weren't any.

The one thing that I can't get away from is the obvious resemblance to Lord of the Flies. This isn't a bad thing - hey, I loved that book - but I do think that some form of acknowledgement would have been nice. I accept that any book where young people end up stranded on an uninhabited beach could be said to have parallels, but this goes deeper. Opposing male leaders, something lurking in the night, a theoretical certainty of rescue... it's all there, minus the damn conch shell.

Like I said though, I don't really object to this. It works really well and fits in with the story perfectly. The ending is different, although the futuristic twist almost demanded it. I did see it coming, although it was a logical path for the story to take so I can't really complain.

I actually thought this was a stand-alone book, so now I'm quite frustrated that I have to wait for the next installment. I really enjoyed The 100 - isn't it great when a book you weren't sure about ends up being one of the best young adult books of the year?  

Find Kass Morgan on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. I love 'surprise' books...the ones you aren't really expecting anything and end up loving them! I think I might give this one a chance :)


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