Sunday, June 20, 2010

"The City of Ember" by Jeanne DuPrau

Summary: The City of Ember is in trouble.  Ember is running out of food and, most importantly, the light bulbs that power the otherwise entirely dark city.  The people have been living in Ember for several hundred years, but they have no idea how they got there--or if there is anywhere else beyond Ember.  With no knowledge of "movable lights," the citizens have no ability to explore beyond their town.

Twelve-year-old Lina Mayfleet is naturally curious, and when she discovers a torn message stored in a mysterious locked box in her house entitled "Instructions for Egress," she wonders if there is land beyond Ember.  With the help of her friend Doon, a worker in the Pipeworks, Lina tries to find a way to escape Ember and save the city.

Musings: The City of Ember is an excellent dystopian novel for younger readers interested in the genre.  The people and society are just like us--only they have been left to fend for themselves for hundreds of years without the knowledge modern humans have.  Although they rely on electricity, they don't know how the electricity works, so they can only make repairs rather than innovate.  And although they eat canned fruit and wear normal clothes, they have little ability to grow food and no production with which to make new items.  It's an interesting look at our current reliance on science and technology despite the fact that very few people understand it.

One of the most interesting mysteries in the story for me was why Ember was founded in the first place, and I was happy that the reader is given a glimpse of the motivation by the end of the novel, even though full answers are not yet provided.

The world and story DuPrau created could easily go very dark (no pun intended), but because this is middle grade, people remain mostly good and no real danger or depravity occurs.  This does, however, allow for more focus on Lina and Doon's adventure.

I listened to the audio book version of the novel, narrated by Wendy Dillon.  I've had some problems finding just the right type of book for listening, but The City of Ember was perfect.  There were two primary protagonists and few extraneous characters, so it was easy to follow what was happening.  The premise was straightforward and the narrative continuous, so I didn't find myself forgetting what was going on.  The "childish" voices used for Lina and Doon can be a little annoying, but I suppose they are only twelve.  I also liked the occasional sound effects (running water, etc.).

I've already downloaded the sequel to my iPhone and look forward to finding out more about the creation of the City of Ember.


  1. Glad you liked this one! I thought it very engaging. Have you seen the film version? There are some changes to the story line, but I thought it was entertaining (well, probably more so if you've read the book). I've got the sequel in paperback, and it's somewhere near the bottom of my pile...must move it up!

  2. I haven't seen the movie, but I just added it to my Netflix list. Since I listened to the book on audiobook, I didn't "picture" the characters and events the way I normally do when reading--don't know why that is--so it'll be interesting to see how the movie interpreted it. I've heard the sequel's only "so-so," but I'm definitely going to give it a try!