By Cynthia Ayala
It’s been centuries since people have set on Earth. But now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent to Earth for one mission: to see if Earth is habitable and recolonize it if so. This is their second and only chance of survival. But for some of them, this is more than just a chance to be free of their prison in Space, it’s their chance to make up for their own mistakes and start anew.
This was the inspiration for the CW Network series The 100, but don’t expect them to be the same. The novel follows the exact same concept, but functions in a different way focusing more on world building than on action.
Kass devotes much of her time to building the world and grounding the reader, and with that, she devotes her attention to making sure that the characters fit the world, that they are believable. Moreover, that’s what this novel is all about, setting up the world and making it believable for the reader, and there are two worlds here that need building from the perspective of four characters.
Both worlds are vastly different, not just because of location, but also because of what rules define the worlds. In Space, the world is defined by a class structure, the satellite they live in determines if one is an upper, middle, or low class, much like Victorian society. Moreover, it is very Victorian in space, the rigidness, the rules that govern society, they can break a person and right now, they are breaking the people, and with the satellites falling apart after three hundred years, the class system is becoming even more rigid for survival. Even though these people are living in space with such high technology, their way of living has devolved, becoming archaic. So through Glass, readers can experience the rigidness of society and question everything they are doing for survival, how their inner selves are cracking under the pressure to survive.
For the one hundred who were sentenced to “recolonize” the earth, their world, despite them all being juvenile delinquents, evolves quickly. These characters are angry, and justifiably so as revealed through the carefully structured flashbacks. Space was not easy for them, where many of the punishments did not fit the crime. Just think of Les Miserables. It was a hard life that has lead to a lot of built up resentment, but that is what these kids are trying to undo: the class system. These kids want to start their new lives free of the constraints that bound their hands behind their backs, and it’s such a powerful thing to read, to see these dangerous convicts basically start their own penal colony where they are all treated fairly and justly. They want what the “adults” denied them for so long and to see this kind of evolution not just through the eyes of Clarke or Bellamy, but through the actions and dialogue with some of the other characters is so powerful. It proves something to the reader that there is more than just survival and getting through the day, it proves that equality and justice are not things to be taken for granted. These kids figured it out the hard way.
Now, while that all leads to powerful story telling and world building, what is lacking is some characterization. The reader doesn’t get a sense of what they look like or who they are. Through flashbacks, there’s a semblance of what motivates them. Those are the only moments when the reader gets any sense of where the character comes from and what motivates them. However, the reader can’t visualize them off the book alone. Honestly, if it weren’t for the television show, no one would be able to visualize these characters. That isn’t a good thing. (★★★ & 1/2 ☆ | B-)