Monday, October 1, 2007

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (2/5 stars)

I had been wanting to read this book for some time. It got many reviews and fellow reviewers have lauded the creativity of this book. Here is a link to the book on amazon: The City of Ember

This book details the lives of the people in the city of Ember. The city of Ember is an isolated city where it is always dark. Only the many streetlights dampen the darkness and although people have tried to penetrate the Unknown Regions beyond Ember - no person is known to have successfully made it out of the city. The Builders left instructions on how to exit the city to the Mayor but greed caused the loss of these instructions. This book follows Lina and Doon as they try to figure out a way to help Ember and to find a way out of the city. In Ember power outages are increasing and supplies are running low and the city's survival only seems to be a matter of time.

This book is well written and an easy listen (we listened to it on audio book). The person who reads the book has some very irritating voices for some of the characters. The mayor's voice was especially annoying and had me and my husband cringing everytime he spoke. The initial idea of a lost city where humans dwell in seclusion is not really that unique. We have encountered numerous stories of humans kept in a safe house during a crisis and struggling to survive. What is creative is the cult-like atmosphere that develops in Ember and the supression of human creativity and intelligence that seems to keep this city working.

I thought that this last trait in the book was ridiculous. None of the humans in the last 240 years have figured a way out of the city; it didn't sound like anyone really tried. This is crazy; humans are naturally curious and, unless there was some genetic culling going on, someone would have tried to find a way out of the city. This book also makes big deal out of creating a movable light to explore the Unknown Regions with. Apparently no one can figure this out and it is a major impediment to people leaving the city. Yet, the people in the city have electricity and they even have fire and cooking oil. You can't tell me that no one in 240 years figured out they could use a wick and some cooking oil to create a lantern and explore the area. I mean this isn't rocket science.

In fact all of the adults in this book are lazy and stupid. I know this is a young adult book meant to empower young adults. But is potraying adults as stupid and untrustworthy really doing anyone really good; is it even remotely realistic? On top of that Lina and Doon blindly trust a number of authority figures that *have* given them great cause to not trust them; this is just a plain inconsistency in Lina's and Doon's characters. How can these characters be so brilliant and clever, yet be so inconsistently stupid?

This book was also full of other inconsistencies. I believe at one point Lina or Doon starts talking about cars and then later they don't know what cars are (this isn't the exact way it happened but it's a similar type of reference). If you are going to make a big deal about Lina and Doon not being familiar with an object, you can't have them be familiar with it earlier in the book.

This book addressed an interesting, if over analyzed, topic. And it addressed it in a poorly reasoned way. I won't be reading the second book in the series because, if it mimics the first, it will drive me crazy. This book gets 2 stars because it was readable and somewhat engaging. I still wouldn't recommend it unless you are totally at a loss for something to read. I think the best thing that came out of this book was that it gave my husband and I something to discuss for an hour while we were hiking; we talked about how stupid the characters were and how lame the story was.

Here is a link to the book on amazon:

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