Diving into The 100 series by Kass Morgan was a weird adventure. I’ve watched the CW show for three years, so I’ve had plenty of time to form strong opinions about the characters and story progression, as well as what the writers are doing well and what they’re doing really poorly. I recently started writing about it for Rogues Portal, pointing out what I love and hate, and what I just find truly bizarre.
The books, as I knew going into them, are completely different from the TV series. The bare bones of the plot are the same and many of the characters exist, though some only by name. Some of my favorites from the show are missing, which sucks. Others are written very differently from their TV counterparts and still others are pretty much the same, except for one or two key things. Some of those differences are talked about in this Hypable article from 2015 (though the articles does get some things wrong — like the level of Bellamy’s involvement in shooting the Chancellor in the books).
I don’t want to say that reading The 100 series felt a lot like reading fanfiction, because the characters and the world were originally created by Kass Morgan. They belong to her! But it definitely felt like reading fanfiction. I opted to read the books despite hearing from multiple sources that they are drastically different because I was desperate for Bellarke content — and although the Clarke and Bellamy of the books are very different from the Clarke and Bellamy of the show, the Bellarke content is still really solid.
That was a lot of italic text, wasn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever used a ‘ship moniker on this blog before. I usually reserve those things for my Tumblr, but oh well. In 2017, I’m fully embracing all aspects of my geekery. Welcome to the show.
Given how different the books are from the show, I’m loathe to compare them. It’s difficult not to do so, obviously, but once I separate The 100 series from “The 100”, it actually makes it easier to enjoy the books as their own separate thing. So, let’s talk about them!
The 100 series takes place centuries after nuclear war has wiped out all possibility of life on Earth. Humanity survives on a spaceship, but barely — oxygen is running low, despite strict population laws and criminal punishments. The 100 teenagers confined for committing crimes before their 18th birthdays are sent to Earth to test if the planet is once again liveable for humankind, but when they arrive they discover that they are not alone.
Contrary to everything they’ve been taught for centuries, some people found a way to survive the Cataclysm on the ground — and not all of them are willing to share Earth with the newcomers from space.
Like I said, the Bellamy and Clarke content in the books is really solid. Their relationship develops quickly — sometimes too quickly — and I think a lot of the really heavy conflicts they encounter with each other could have and should have taken more time to be resolved. I also enjoyed seeing them fall in love and stay that way too much to complain about it with any real fervor.
Glass’ story is possibly one of the most interesting in the books overall. She’s confined for an unapproved pregnancy and names her attacker as the father, even though the child isn’t his, to save the boy she loves. It’s a fascinating plot, but it isn’t nearly fleshed out enough. Carter, her attacker, is a very close friend of Luke, the boy Glass loves. She knows he’d be angry with her for getting Carter killed (and for not telling him about her pregnancy, presumably), but that’s not explored in any detail, which is really disappointing.
I would have really liked to see her explain to Luke why she named Carter as the father and had him floated, though — the point is used as a throwaway line in the bustle to get people onto the dropships and then once they’re on Earth, Luke and Glass go on with their relationship as normal without ever talking about it. He’s angry initially but then in the hubbub of crash-landing, Carter’s death and Glass’ role in it is seemingly forgotten. And she never tells him why she named Carter and had him floated, which is a missed opportunity. Attempted rapists don’t deserve sympathy and it would have been great to see that plot fully actualized and discussed by all involved characters.
Another thing to love about these books is the fact that Wells lives! His whole story is kind of tragic and awful and he makes some phenomenally stupid decisions before getting to Earth, but it’s cool to see his perspective on things. I enjoyed his POV chapters quite a bit.
Each of these books is a little bit better than the last. I just finished the fourth, Rebellion, which was released in December. Morgan’s writing and handling of the pacing is much better in this book than in previous books in The 100 series, in my opinion. The plot is new without veering too far off course from the original plot (which I felt was wrapped up nicely at the end of the third book, Homecoming) and the characters are forced to confront new danger together, even though they disagree on how to go about it. It also deals exclusively with what’s happening in the present, without dwelling in flashbacks or making heavy-handed references to what happened before the colonists came to Earth.
These books absolutely fly by. It only took me a handful of days to read each one; despite how heavy they probably should be, their tone is light enough that they don’t take a ridiculous amount of concentration to get through. (I know I said I wouldn’t talk about the show, but I think the darker, more dramatic tone of the show is more appropriate in several ways — the writers on “The 100” have pacing issues just like Morgan does, but there’s more emotional weight on the show than in the book narrative, in my opinion. And that’s a good thing.)
At the end of the day, I enjoyed reading The 100 series. If Morgan releases more books in ‘verse, I’ll absolutely pick them up. I’m grateful to her for creating these characters that I’ve come to love seeing on screen every week (despite the show’s many and varied flaws) and I’m glad I opted to read the books.
Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆
Recommended for: Fans of “The 100” who want a different perspective on the ‘verse, fans of light YA sci-fi