Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The 100

To help us enter into and better understand the entertainment shaping today's youth, I offer my latest review of books effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at the worldview in the story.

This review will look at Kass Morgan's The 100. Ms. Morgan studied English and History at Brown University before pursuing a Master's Degree in 19th Century Literature at Oxford. She currently works in the publishing industry. In other words, even though this is her first YA novel, her training and credentials have prepared her well.  

In spite if the popularity of The 100, not all the reviewers are overly enamored. Amazon.com's reader reviews are decidedly middle-of-the-road; plenty of Goodreads' readers have expressed surprise that a show is being made from a book that didn't rate that highly on their site. Nonetheless, the TV version premiers on the CW on March 19, 2014.

It’s been one hundred years since mankind decimated the planet through nuclear war. A remnant living on the Ark - twelve space stations linked as one -  have been waiting for the planet to become habitable again, but nobody really wants to find out first-hand. Meanwhile, life on the space station is falling apart. The original 400 has turned to 4,000, and oxygen and supplies are running down. The need to control the population has brought about severe social stratification, excessive capital punishment and draconian birth laws.

The solution is to send underage criminals awaiting execution on their 18th birthday. These kids are going to die anyway –why not let them die for the greater good? That’s the 100 – doomed juvenile delinquents  sent to earth as a scouting party. What could possibly go wrong? If you thought, “Pretty much everything,” you were correct.

I’ve heard it said that our culture’s stories confirm either what we fear is true or what we hope is true. If so, The 100 offers some interesting - and frustrating - insights into this generation’s hopes and fears.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

After having a book published while still in high school, Kenneth Oppel earned a degree in cinema studies and English at Trinity College at the University of Toronto before becoming an editor at Quill and Quire, the trade magazine for the Canadian publishing industry. (Thanks, Wikipedia, for compiling all that for me.) 

In other words, he understands books, films, and the publishing industry in general. His experience and training have served him well. His writing has received both popular and critical acclaim, and at least one book - This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein - is on its way to the big screen.

As might be inferred from the title, Mr. Oppel is writing a prequel to the classic Frankenstein that was grounded both historically and stylistically in the life and writing of Mary Shelley, the author of the original story. He notes in the discussion guide:
“Victor’s parents I actually based on Mary Shelley’s real parents, the radical writers William Godwin and Mary Wollestonecraft, so my Frankenstein household is very liberal for its time. Mrs. Frankenstein writes pamphlets on the rights and education of women; Mr. Frankenstein is a fair magistrate who insists on his own family making the servants their Sunday dinner as a gesture of egalitarianism (a concept that was sweeping through Europe in the late 1700s).”
I was prepared to be disappointed. I am a fan of Shelley's classic, and I was concerned This Dark Endeavor would be a cheesy intro heavy on shock value and silly romance. How delighted I was to be wrong.