I think I may have come a bit late to this book as it is a huge E4 hit with cult viewers and lots of good looking teen Americans… yes I Googled them all! I’m not being funny or nuffin’ but, if you grew up on a ship in space would you look that good?!
Anyway, back to the book. The book has four main narrators: Clarke – who is the daughter of two scientists who were investigating whether it would safe to return to earth (more on this later) Wells – who is the son of the Chancellor and a bit of a posh boy, Bellamy – his sister is in the dropship (more on this later..) and Glass who has escaped the dropship to look for, and apologise to her boyfriend. The space ship that they all grow up on is split in to three areas; Waldon – where Luke (Glass’s boyfriend) lives; Arcadia and Phoenix where all the elite people live. Wells, Clarke, Glass and Bellamy are from there. Wells, Clarke and Glass have all been imprisoned for various offences and are due to be retried on their 18th birthdays. The ship has been floating in space for 300 years after a massive nuclear war has made earth uninhabitable.
The government decides that instead of giving the teens a retrial they will send them back down to Earth to see if the atmosphere has changed and it is safe for them all to live on again. The oxygen and resources on the ship are at dangerously low levels and they need to look at other options (like maybe killing them all, but hey they’re only convicts right?) so they send 100 kids on the dropship down to earth to let them explore/ die. Bellamy’s sister is on the ship and he breaks on to it by holding Wells’ father hostage – in the ensuing struggle Glass manages to escape and remain on the ship where she gets pardoned (think her mum might be some kind of high class prostitute but it wasn’t too clear!)
This is clever as Glass is still on the mothership and we can get regular updates about what is going on up there. Meanwhile Wells and Clarke have had a relationship that ended in catastrophe and she now hates him. He still loves her and has broken the law so that he can also get banished to Earth. Even though this is super romantic she still hates his guts and strikes up a friendship with Bellamy.
This book is kind of Lord of the Flies in space. On Earth it’s survival of the fittest and Graham, the typical bully, starts to assert his authority and gather a gang of thugs around him. Octavia, Bellamy’s sister is also one to watch. At the end of the book they also discover that they may not be alone and that Earth may not be as uninhabited as they thought.
It’s an interesting concept but the best bit about the book is the interplay between the main characters and how/ if they will survive. Wells is a bit too bossy and Clarke is a little too sanctimonious but I have just started the second book in the series so I must be enjoying it right!?
Further Reading: Lord the Flies by William Golding and 1984 by George Orwell. Any dystopian novel because the themes are pretty much the same.
Maybe also try The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- bit feminist these ones and they both explore the theme of the state controlling the birth rate post apocalypse. Also, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel which is also post apocalyptic (and brilliant!)