Review: The 100 / Author: Kass Morgan / Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks / Release Date: August 29th
Billed as "The Hunger Games meets Lost", this dystopic young adult novel combines teen romance and sci-fi to be just that, nothing more and nothing less.
From the offset the publishers are clear that The 100 has already been greenlit as a TV series that will air on the same channel that brought the world The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, and that this is just the first novel in a new series. We absolutely loved the premise of The 100, which is that after a nuclear catastrophe on Earth, the human race has survived by migrating to spaceships far above the earth's surface. As resources in space dwindle, mankind needs to find a permanent home, so the authorities send down 100 juvenile delinquents to discover if Earth is fit to sustain human life once more. The thought of a toxic planet populated by angst-ridden teen criminals is ripe with the potential for Battle Royale-style mayhem, but The 100 cares more about matters of the heart than teen conflict.
The 100 contains some fantastic teen romance. Obviously influenced by the popularity of teen love stories like Twilight, Kass Morgan puts the emphasis squarely on thwarted young lovers. When asteroids fly past the space station and star-crossed lovers are reunited with a kiss, you can't help but visualise how powerful the TV series might be, and the beauty of The 100 is that Morgan promotes none of the oppressive Mormon tropes that Stephanie Meyer rams down readers' throats. The 100 is packed with powerful and empowered characters, most of whom are working through the issues that they face after being raised in an Orwellian dictatorship where the needs of the many come before the needs of individuals.
Sadly, everything else about the narrative comes across as streamlined, safe and completely lacking in teeth. Given how often we hear about close family members being executed by the state, there's no sense of danger in The 100, and no weight is given to any of the tragedies that are described. The conflict between the hundred criminals forced to survive together in a forest is minimal, other than a bit of macho chest-beating. The story is told by a range of narrators, alternating between present tense and flashbacks, completely echoing the structure of Lost. Unlike Lost, nothing shocking is ever revealed, and everything about The 100 is sickeningly anodyne. Where The Hunger Games packaged seriously disturbing dystopian issues for teenage readers, The 100 waters down serious issues so that they're nothing but fuel for the burning loins of the protagonists.
Ultimately, most of the characters in The 100 alternate between acting sickeningly selflessly and distressingly selfishly, doing things for misguided motives that lead to the death of their parents and closest friends, but none of this ever has any real impact. Teen romance is the order of the day, and any semblance of conflict is there to drive the relationships further apart or closer together. As a teen romance, this is a roaring success, but as a dystopian sci-fi The 100 falls flat. Read it if you liked the idea of Lost but found the narrative too convoluted to follow, read it if you wished Katniss and Peeta had enjoyed more of a love arc in The Hunger Games, but don't read The 100 if you want to have your assumptions challenged.