As it turns out, they are more like alternate versions of the same universe than a literal interpretation, and that’s fine by me. But while I will tune in for season 2 on my TV, I don’t think I’ll give the book sequel the same leniency when it comes out later this year.
After a catastrophic nuclear war that devastated Earth, humans have found refuge in a space station in orbit. They’ve lived there for centuries, and as the story starts the leaders of the station have decided to send a first wave back to the surface to check if the planet is back to being habitable. Who better for that possibly suicide mission than a hundred teens that have been languishing in the station’s jail, waiting for their 18th birthday and the probable death sentence that’d be passed on them at that time?
The book is told in four alternating point of views, and each point of view includes flashbacks to important/traumatic events in the characters’ past.
Clarke is the main heroine on Earth. She was training to be a doctor like her parents before she was jailed right as they were executed. For the most part, she’s level-headed, and her efforts to help those who were wounded during the return to Earth makes her someone easy to root for. If I find fault with her, it’s with her attitude with Wells; how she could come to forgive him is a head-scratcher to me.
The other heroine, Glass, should have been part of the 100 returnees, but she took a chance and escaped before the launch so that she gives us a view of what’s going on in space - or at least, a very limited view of it. Frankly, her part of the story was boring to me. Things were too easy for her, too predictable, and while the reason of her imprisonment was teased out for most of the book, I had it figured out early on and it became rather annoying to wait for the story to get there.
Wells is a character that rather infuriates me. Unlike most of the other returnees, he chose to come to Earth, forcing the hand of his father, the leader of the space station. That much could make him interesting. And oh, look at that, he did it for love. Isn’t that something. Except… When I see what he’s ready to do for the girl he loves, it becomes more than a little creepy. It’s as though the whole ‘look how romantic I am’ is supposed to cancel his faults - which, sorry, no, it doesn’t, especially when you betrayed the girl in the first place.
My favorite of the lot has to be Bellamy. A little older than the rest of the characters who are just shy of 18, he also chose to come to Earth, and also did it for a girl… but that girl, Octavia, is his sister. In a world where everyone is a single child, that’s something very special and he knows it. And while it’s clear he’d do anything to protect her, he’s also not so blind as to ignore her failings. A little bit of tough love goes a long way.
The good, the bad and the WTH:
I particularly liked the few moments when the returnees get to experience some very mundane (by our standards) Earth things for the first time, like watching a sunset of experiencing rain, but those moments seemed few and far between. For kids who have spent their entire lives inside a space station, they seemed to adapt pretty fast to the great outdoors… go them, I guess, although I’m not convinced it’d work quite so easily.
I did not, emphasis on the not, like the romance aspects. There was quite too much of that, thank you very much. Don’t get me wrong, I like romance. I like it enough that most of my stories are romances. But methinks poor Clarke had better things to do, being the only medically trained person in the returnees and all, than finding herself at the center of a love triangle. And Wells, who took on a leadership role, also probably had more important things to do than stalk Clarke. As for Glass, her entire plot revolved on her love life. What do these people do when they’re not busy mooning over someone? Also, while there are (close to) a hundred young people on Earth, the three point-of-view characters among them seem to interact with a very limited number of people. Mostly, they deal with each other, and I couldn’t name more than three additional returnees.
All this accent on the romance was to the detriment of the world-building. There are a lot of things on the station that are only alluded to and not explained in a satisfactory manner - the one that comes to mind is, if every couple has only one child, wouldn't the population go down by half with every generation, especially given how easy it is to end up in jail and executed? As for Earth... was Bellamy really the only one trying to hunt or find food? One deer for a hundred kids - who've never eaten meat before... okay, then, what a feast...
And now the part that tips this book into ‘ugh’ territory for me: nothing gets resolved. NOTHING. Or maybe the reason why Glass was jailed, but like I said I figured that too early for the reveal to hold any satisfaction. The book ended so abruptly that I actually checked that I had all the audiofiles and was not missing something. I enjoy series a lot, and like the anticipation between installments, but this is not the first part of a series. It’s the first part of a longer book that just happened to be split in two (or more?). Like I said, I won’t be coming back for more.
The audiobook narration:
Both female and male narrators have smooth, expressive voices, although the male narration sometimes includes odd pauses within sentences. I never had a problem identifying which heroine’s or hero’s head we were in, even when picking up the book in the middle of a chapter, nor did I have issues identifying flashbacks even without any sort of cue.