Have you watched The 100 yet? Did you know the TV series is an adaptation following an ongoing book series? The 100 and its sequel Day 21 are the first two books in a series for young adults by Kass Morgan. Since they are geared towards the young adult market, these books are easy, fast reads, and they are suitable for almost all ages.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mankind has finally destroyed itself, poisoning the Earth with radiation and killing off most of the species. But a small remnant remains, a tiny fragment of humanity that escaped, clinging like half-crazed rats to a few linked spaceships floating out of harm’s way as the planet died. It has been centuries since the war that destroyed human civilization, and the Draconian measures that have preserved humanity’s only known survivors are close to breaking down. The accumulated weight of secrets, corruption and scarce resources threatens to exterminate what remains of the species, but among the closely guarded secrets there is the makings of a plan. Step 1 is to launch 100 of the kids who would otherwise be executed, sending them to Earth as lab rats, to see if the Earth is safe yet.
It is hard to like any of the characters in this book, and no wonder really. This is a world where everyone is the human equivalent of a crazed, crowded, half-starved rat, part of a swarm that has survived on a bit of flotsam floating in space with only the food and water that could be carried at the time of the initial escape. All the luxuries of civilization, the human decency, kindness, generosity, love, and honor are tainted or gone, leaving only such emotions and modes of interaction as won’t threaten to destabilize the tiny raft mankind clings to as its last and only home. My biggest question throughout this book, one that is not really answered yet by the last page, is whether humanity has enough good left in it to be worth saving. They do seem so hell-bent on destroying what little is left, and they are so poisoned by life in space that it is hard to imagine any sort of healthy, good society coming from their efforts.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In book 2 of this series, I still find most of the space-dwelling humans in this story unlikeable, and would not find it too terribly tragic if the lot of them died off. They seem rabidly, deeply poisoned by their generations in space, and I am not convinced yet that they are redeemable. But, perhaps by book #3 these kids and their former shipmates can begin to demonstrate why they as a subspecies deserve to survive and participate in rebuilding the human race on Earth. This book, like the first one, just cuts off rather abruptly, so without at least a third book this story remains decidedly unfinished.
The characters in Day 21 are awfully dense, and remind me somewhat of that doomed Earth II TV series I watched part of as a kid. Actually, I enjoyed this book, perhaps in part because I really didn’t care whether any of the characters survived, so none of their stupidity, and no amount of human nastiness towards or from any of them could upset my enjoyment of the story. By the end of the book, I did find I liked one character, provisionally, but I’d hate to spoil the story by saying more.
My biggest criticism of the entire series is that the gendered roles are so stereotypical and even sexist. The leaders, good or bad, are all male. There are plenty of female characters, but they tend to let the boys and men be in charge. Octavia is protected by her insane big brother, whose plan for her seems to be a bit less than optimal for her, but she just seems to go along with it. Clarke is the 100’s version of the female doctors of Star Trek, highly intelligent and powerful in her way, but only ever serving a supporing role. And, for all the sexist roles in this story, the humans have not yet let their numbers sink in enough to value having more women to regenerate the population. Granted, in the ships there was no room for more babies, but having been dumped on Earth, not knowing if those ~100 teens are all that is left of humanity on Earth, those kids are quite happy to kill the girls they do have among them if those girls get out of line at all.
So, I wish some of the girls had picked up bows and arrows and knives to go hunt food, and I wish that at least one of the kids trying to take charge of the 100 was female, but if you pretend this series was written a few decades ago, it’s a good story and an entertaining series. Day 21 just came out last week, so yes this series is a recent creation, and you can be sure if the third book’s female characters don’t get better, that next one can only get 3 stars, no matter how good it is otherwise. But, I am guardedly optimistic, for now.
If you liked The 100 you will enjoy this book, of course. And, if you enjoy Battlestar Galactica and similar SciFi, you’ll enjoy this series. It is a YA story, so all the main characters are kids about as dumb and short-sighted as the ones in Lord of the Flies, and this series definitely reminds me of that book, which would not be a good thing, actually, but this series is much better than Lord of the Flies so far, regardless of its flaws.