„Liars. Thieves. Rebels. Heroes.” This is how American aspiring author Kass Morgan decided to describe the protagonists of her debut novel, „The 100”, on the cover of the book’s first edition. Ever since the book’s quiet, subtly advertised release, Morgan’s universe has been translated into a successful TV show created by CW, that ended up bringing the trilogy out in the spotlights. The same televised installment has brought the book to my attention, as well; my genuine love for the dystopian genre eventually prompted me to give it a shot. „The 100” turned out to be an outstanding, heart-pounding, intensely-paced novel that will make you marvel at the author’s unique style and the surprising, yet nerve-racking adventures of the main characters.
Three centuries after a devastating thermonuclear war, the only known survivors of the human race live in a space colony called the Ark, a conjunction of several spaceships belonging to different countries, floating far above Earth’s surface. The Ark is governed by a Chancellor through a dystopia-inspired legislative body and the resources are so scarce that all crimes, regardless of their seriousness, are punishable by ejection into space (a reformed method of the death penalty). Those who are under 18 years old still have a chance, though; they are taken away from their families and lives, confined and given a chance to retrial on their 18th birthday. As the nuclear winter is now over on Earth and oxygen resources of the Ark are gradually used up ( thus prompting the governing force to multiply the punishments by space ejection ), the Colony decides to send one hundred of its teen prisoners to the ground, to find out whether Earth is habitable. „The 100” , the first book of the trilogy with the same title, recounts the teenagers’ adventures back on Earth, as they try to adapt to the new surroundings and protect themselves from whatever dangers lie beneath the darkness of the woods.
Four protagonists four different points of view
The reader is introduced, ever since the beginning of the book, to four different points of view belonging to the four protagonists of the novel. Clarke Griffin is a young Medicine probationer. Confined for a crime committed by her parents, for which they are executed. Wells Jaha is the Chancellor’s son and Clarke’s ex-boyfriend, proven to be responsible for the disclosure of Clarke’s parents’ crime; wrecked by guilt and determined to protect the girl no matter the cost, he gets himself Confined in order to follow her on the dropship carrying the one hundred prisoners to the ground. Bellamy Blake is the older brother of Octavia, another delinquent embarked on the dropship; out of desire to follow Octavia to the ground and assure her protection, he attempts to kill the Chancellor and sneaks onto the dropship. Glass Sorenson is another delinquent that is supposed to be sent to the ground, but she escapes the dropship, gets pardoned for her crime and resumes her life on the Ark.
The different points of view that the reader is exposed manage to paint an accurate representation of the Earth and the Ark experience. Morgan’s distinctive literary style embraces the narrative perspectives in order to place the reader in the centre of the action, a surprised witness to the Earth’s breathtaking natural wonders and the outrageous political conspiracies unfolding on the Ark. As a reader, I appreciated this diversity of storytelling, a particular trait I haven’t noticed in many other books.
The book is sprinkled with many exciting events and unexpected outcomes and situations; the astonishing, yet alluringly provocative experiences the characters go through will keep the readers on the edge of their seats. The actual action of the novel is doubled by an extensive network of retrospective moments, that provide significant information for the evolution of events, building up to the long-awaited climax. All four characters recall particular past moments from before the action of „The 100” actually began; these vivid memories extract the essence from the current occurrences and disclose just how much their decisions influence what is happening on the Earth and the Ark alike. I found the action-retrospection interplay extremely enjoyable and favourable for the reader’s rhythm of progressing through the book.
Taking into consideration the structure imprinted by the multiple points of view, the genuine format of the action and the diversity of the backward-looking analysis, the characters don’t seem to undergo a major evolution. Driven by their most intense desires and aspirations, lacking any consideration for the potential consequences and proving an alarming level of recklessness, the protagonists and their sidekicks are just some aroused, overly emotional teenagers thrown into a nasty, almost unmanageable situation that requires a level of maturity they do not possess. The experiences lived on Earth are supposed to prompt them to grow up and act accordingly to the new, disarming circumstances; instead, they give in to the pressure and start copying their parents’ behaviour and attitude, that ended up bringing the mankind on the edge of extinction. The history starts repeating itself and the characters are way too busy dealing with their adolescent crises to notice the gradual dissolution of the group (ex: the central love triangle between Clarke, Wells and Bellamy; the ongoing fight over the leading position on the Earth) . As a reader, I disliked the lack of character development and wished to penetrate the psychological depth of the characters instead of witnessing their pathetic hormone-driven clashes.
Original wide perspective and style
One indisputable element of originality was the setting of the book, changing back and forth from the Ark to the Earth. Morgan’s ideas from this perspective are simply unique and promise to appeal even to the most pretentious of readers. Here, her peculiar literary style gets the readers on their knees, begging for more such exquisite descriptions. Her use of epithets, comparisons and metaphors resemble a perfectly harmonised violin giving birth to a long forgotten song. Everything is balanced, methodical but, at the same time, surprisingly sensitive. As far as the setting is concerned, the author blesses us with the most beautiful and impressing descriptions. One of my favourite quotes from the book is extracted, for example, from the description of a sunset:
„Everyone was pointing upward at the sky, which was turning into a symphony of colour. First, orange streaks appeared in the blue, like an oboe joining a flute, turning a solo into a duet. That harmony built into a crescendo of colours as yellow and then pink added their voices to the chorus. The sky darkened, throwing the array of colours into even sharper relief. The word sunset couldn’t possibly contain the meaning of the beauty above them, and for the millionth time since they’d landed, Wells found that the words they’d been taught to describe Earth paled in comparison to the real thing.”
Last but not least, the novel unfolds on the basis offered by a large range of themes, such as the reconstruction of a fallen society, war and conflict, social and cultural ruptures, love, adolescence, friendship, family. Therefore, a mouth-gaping diversity of messages can be enounced and processed by the readers, according to their own perspectives on what is going on in the book. As far as I am concerned, in “The 100”, Kass Morgan attempts to suggest us a dystopian metaphor for today’s world and the status of teenagers according to its structure; just like it happens in the book, teen ‘delinquents’ are regarded as the last hope for humanity, the proxies of change and political and social revolution. As a figure of this generation myself, I was impressed by Morgan’s wide perspective and openness on the topic and started to regard the situation in a different way, as well. In „The 100”, Kass Morgan believes in teenagers and their power to change the world, and as the action of the trilogy progresses, in the sequels „Day 21” and „Homecoming” , her faith put in the liberty of young age materialises in the characters’ thrilling adventures.
I highly recommend „The 100” to any reader willing to taste an accurate, pure form of electrifying dystopia, regardless of their age and literary preferences. A superb, gripping debut from a promising young author whom we’ll hear about quite a lot in the near future.