I’m a stickler for getting things right. Scientific or historical inaccuracies REALLY BOTHER me. On the outside I’m polite and forgiving, but inside? I rail against writers who don’t do their homework, who make completely avoidable mistakes as if it didn’t matter, who maybe don’t even run anything past a critique group or post a question on a NaNoWriMo forum. And what about the editors? Don’t THEY know to check these things out? Don’t they CARE? I do. I care so much that I even wrote a blog post about this. I compared stumbling across an error to LITERALLY stumbling out of a story.
…and then I read THE 100 by Kass Morgan.
I bought the first book on sale. I like YA dystopian science fiction, and I’d kind of heard of the TV show. I paid $2 to download it to my eReader. And I started reading.
Chapter 1: WHAT? They’ve all been living on an orbiting space station for 300 years and they bury their dead IN SPACE? No, no, they’d have to recycle every scrap of matter on the station…oh wait, who’s that coming into Clarke’s cell? IS SHE REALLY GOING TO DIE? She can’t die, we’ve only just met her…
Chapter 2: A LIGHTER? You can’t have an OPEN FLAME on a space station, it’d use up too much oxygen! Even if Wells did have a lighter, he couldn’t set fire to a living tree just by lighting one twig for five seconds, anybody who’s ever been a scout knows it’s REALLY HARD to start a fire …. Oh! Wells set fire to the Eden tree for the sake of his One True Love, Clarke? SWOON! And they bonded over their mutual love of books, in the very last LIBRARY in existence? DOUBLE SWOON!
Chapter 3: Bellamy grabs a GUN? You can’t risk punching holes in walls when a leak means everybody dies in the vacuum of space! … But does Bellamy kill Wells’ father? Does Bellamy die? Does he make it to Earth with his sister Octavia? Would my brother even do something like that for me?
…and so it went: swipe, swipe, swipe the eReader pages as the characters fell down with all the gravity you’d have on Earth (WRONG!); as Glass crawled through an open air vent to reach a section of the station that had been sealed off from any source of air (HELLO, It’s SEALED OFF?); as teenagers who’d never even been to Earth felled trees and built cabins with hinged doors by hand; as a comet streaked by the spaceship like a rocket (c’mon, Hale-Bopp was visible for months back in the 90s, did you even look?), and on and on and on.
And yet I couldn’t possibly stumble over these errors—I was reading too fast, skipping quickly over the rocks in the story’s pathway to see what happened next, every chapter with the highest possible stakes, ending in a cliffhanger and turning to a different character.
And when I reached the end, I did something I’d NEVER, EVER done before: I clicked BUY on book 2. Immediately. Full price. No discounts. And I kept reading.
THE 100 is an unlikely mentor text—it’s as commercial as they come, filled with the risk of death, the chance of sex, stupid choices made for noble reasons, noble choices made for stupid reasons, tested loyalties, risky romances, double-crosses, conspiracies, mysteries, strained relations between parents and children, desperate actions of desperate people… in short, the kinds of things that keep readers turning pages, again and again. Even without all the science errors, it’s over-the-top unbelievable—but so what? It’s fast-paced, it has so many characters you can’t get bored with any one of them, and even with all the characters it’s easy to follow. No wonder the tv show just got renewed for a fifth season.
Yes, THE 100 gets a lot of science WRONG. But Kass Morgan is doing something very RIGHT with the storytelling. Clearly, there’s something I can learn from this unlikely mentor text.
What do you think? Comments are open!