In mid-2013, a book appeared. This book was called «The 100» by Kass Morgan. Oddly enough, it received very little fanfare and somehow found the attention of TV producers. Let’s have a look at the book that started the TV show.
Before we get going, it might help if you read about the TV-show. I wrote about it and it you should read it.
Read it? Good. Then let’s get to the story of the book. Because it’s quite different from the TV show in a few key elements. A few centuries ago, humanity finally got too stupid for its own and managed to annihilate itself in one final atomic war. The last survivors managed to save a few things from Earth and flew up to The Ship. The Ship has many names. Well, mostly Phoenix, but on it lives a society divided. The people from Walden are the poor, working class and the ones from Arcadia are the richer ones. Still, they do wonder if Earth is hospitable again. So they plan on sending down 100 convicted youths who would otherwise be sentenced to death to see if they can live on Earth again.
Just as with the basic plot of the show and the, book, there are big differences in the characters. For one: Clarke’s parents are both dead. In the TV show, her mother’s still alive and a central character of the plot-threads that go on up in space. Generally, the entire adult world is pretty much inexistent other than a few glimpses at how evil they are here and there. For example, while in the TV show, Vice Chancellor Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) is ready and willing to make tough choices that must be made, in the book it’s Chancellor Jaha – father to one of the main characters Wells Jaha – himself who has not pardoned a single teenager in the past year, whereas Kane – who is called Rhodes and will pretty certainly turn out to be a bad guy – is the guy to pardon Glass. Glass being a girl who was supposed to be among the 100 but managed to escape before the dropship launched.
So if you like the TV show it’s definitely worth checking out the book and vice versa.
However, Kass Morgan is not the best writer on Earth. The story is riddled with tiny holes such as a character being able to get into an area of The Colony that was hermetically sealed off and running out of air. Morgan also manages to focus heavily on the plot. She does occasionally think of going out of her way of people kissing one another or accusing each other of some crime or another to describe surroundings, but there is no coherent sense of a larger world. The Colony aka. The Ship could be anywhere on Earth, on the moon or even under the sea for all the author seems to care as she treats it – for the most part – as just a place that is far away from our ragtag band of criminals that make a living on Earth now. Similarly, Earth doesn’t pose much of a threat to The 100. They’re there, barely any food, no medicine and they manage to sleep outside without freezing, again with the hunting and the gathering and everything is just too easy.
What Morgan does, though, is think of some interesting little details. For example: There are a few musical instruments left on The Colony. These have lasted centuries. In order for them to last longer, they’re locked up in vacuum-sealed chambers.
On the other hand, she contradicts herself on the same details. Morgan realizes that water is extremely precious and has her characters live with strict water rations. Similarly, food is precious and so is anything, really. There’s also what can only be described as «stuff» found in conveniently placed and undiscovered storage units that are aboard the Colony. I somehow doubt that something like this could realistically exist, but that’s not my point. My point is that they bury humans by throwing them out the airlock. This is okay, if you have an infinite supply of everything, but in a world where the water you drink is your pee from yesterday that has been filtered, I would be willing to bet that humanity would become a very grisly place where corpses are used for food. Another time, Clarke knows exactly how far an infection of a wound has progressed down to the number of organs that it has claimed. All this while Clarke had no medical equipment at her disposal and after having stated that this has never been an issue aboard The Colony.
Still, it’s not all bad. Kass Morgan does think of interesting things that haven’t found their way into the TV show yet. For example the sort of class-conflict that is only hinted at in the show is far more elaborate here and expanded on in Glass’ story. The people from Walden are generally not very highly regarded. Those on Phoenix have some sort of accent and live a comparatively lavish lifestyle. It’s still pretty much crap, but much better than the guys on Walden have it. Somewhere in there, there’s also Arcadia, but I don’t quite remember where and how they fit into the mix. Maybe Morgan will expand more on this in the next book, because this book is only the first in a series of books.
It’s also the only book Kass Morgan has ever written and it shows. She’s not the worst writer, all in all, and her ideas are pretty good and The 100 definitely has potential, but Morgan just might not be up to the task to deliver it. I do hope she’s learned from all the flaws that people have pointed out to her and she’s working on it. Even having a character and his clothes be described once. Or giving them a personality that has more than one trait. Or thinking about how The Colony actually functions (which is something she could copy from the TV show because those guys seem to have it figured out). Or how to get rid of the idiotic love triangle that couldn’t be any more stereotypical: There’s the good-at-heart heroine in love with both the responsible leader and the bad boy outlaw… come on, seriously!?
Luckily, the author knows which words to pick and she has written a quick read that you can breeze through in a few hours. It’s perfect reading for your commute to work or when you’re bored or something. It has potential, but that has yet to be realized in a sequel.
Image credit goes to Kate over at Adventureswithwords.com