The City of Ember

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The City of Ember
The City of Ember.jpg
Author Jeanne Duprau
Country United States
Language English
Genre Post-apocalyptic, science fiction, children's literature
Publication date
May 2003
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback),digital (DVD)
Pages 270
ISBN 0-375-82273-9
OCLC 50166630
Dewey Decimal [Fic] 21
LC Class PZ7.D927 Ci 2003
Followed by The People of Sparks

The City of Ember is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Jeanne DuPrau that was published in 2003. Similar to Suzanne Martel's The City Under Ground published in 1963, the story is about Ember, an underground city that is slowly running out of power and supplies due to its aging infrastructure. The young protagonist, Lina Mayfleet, and her friend, Doon Harrow, manage to decode a message and follow clues left behind by the original builders of the City of Ember that would lead them to safety in the outside world.

It is the first "Book of Ember" in the eponymous series, which also includes The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and the final installment The Diamond of Darkhold. In 2008, the book was adapted into a film by Walden Media and Playtone.

A graphic novel adaptation by comic book artist Niklas Asker was released on September 25, 2012.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Unidentified architects, referred to as "the builders," designed an underground city with supplies for its inhabitants to survive for 200 years. During that time, the Earth would be dangerous, because of a war and later uninhabitable for an unspecified reason, although the book's prequel, The Prophet of Yonwood, points to that reason being a devastating nuclear war. After completion of the city, the Builders give the first mayor of the city a locked box that was to be passed down from one mayor to the next. Unknown to the mayors who were to pass it down the line, the box was set to open after 220 years and provide instructions to the city's inhabitants on how to return to the surface.

For several generations, the box is faithfully passed down from one mayor to the next until the seventh mayor who, hoping that the box might contain a cure for the deadly cough that was infecting many citizens of the city at the time, takes the box home and tries to break it open. He fails, and dies before he is able to return the box to its rightful place, or inform anyone else of its importance.

The story moves forward to the year 241 where the town is running out of supplies and the massive generator that provides the light and power for the city is on its last legs. At a graduation ceremony where young people are assigned their jobs, Lina Mayfleet is unfortunately assigned the job of “Pipeworks Laborer," while Doon Harrow has to be a “Messenger.” Both are unhappy with their assignments and decide to switch jobs.

At home, Lina's grandmother finds an old piece of paper she salvaged from inside a box. Unknown to her, it is the box that was passed from mayor to mayor. Currently, many people referred to as the "Believers" believe that the Builders would come back and guide the citizens of Ember out of the city. Lina attempts to decipher the letter, but her little sister, Poppy, has chewed on it and the letter has holes and is ripped. Finally, she asks Doon and a few other people to help her reconstruct the letter. After much trial and error she and Doon realize that it is instructions from the Builders on how to exit the city of Ember. Soon, they discover boats in a secret room by the great river that powers the entire community. The boats were meant to be used by the community to escape down the river. They go on a wild boat ride and when the boat finally stops, they find an old journal explaining the history of Ember. The Builders decided to protect 100 adults and 100 children to ensure that the human race would survive. After they find the journal they are faced with a very steep climb that takes hours, but when they get to the top they discover the outside world, and through a series of events they find a cave leading to a cliff that shows the underground city miles below. In a scene reminiscent of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, they are shocked when they see the dim, glimmering lights of the city beneath them: they never knew they were living underground. They throw a rock with instructions tied to it down to the city in hope that the people of Ember will escape. The novel ends with Mrs. Murdo, Lina's guardian, finding the note.

Critical reception[edit]

The City of Ember was praised for its setting and main characters, Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow. Kirkus Reviews praised the characters finding them "likable" for their courage, but also for their flaws of human pride. The reviewer noted how "their weaknesses often complementing each other in interesting ways".[2] Sally Estes from Booklist commented how readers would be able to connect to Lina and Doon's courage amidst the conflicts.[3] Robert Sutton from Horn Book Magazine compared the novel to Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, noting how "the darkness of Ember is essentially literal" with the generator failing and running out of power. Sutton noted how DuPrau does not explain the history of Ember all at once, which would confuse and overwhelm the reader and instead, "allows the events of the story to convey the necessary information". Lina and Doon were described as "good sorts" that are "deeply etched".[4] Dian Roback from Publishers Weekly also praised the "full blooded characters" as every bit as good as the plot which would hook readers until the end.[5] While Jones Johns from School Library Journal found that the setting isn't as ingenious as the ones in Joan Aiken's Is Underground and Lois Lowry's The Giver, he found that the characters and pace of the plot will keep readers hooked.[6]"""

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation of the novel was produced by Walden Media and Playtone with Bill Murray as the mayor, Saoirse Ronan as Lina, and Harry Treadaway as Doon.[7] Filming was finished in October 2007 and the film was released a year later on October 10, 2008. City of Ember was released on DVD on January 20, 2009.

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jeanne DuPrau.com : Coming this year! The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel!". Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  2. ^ Kirkus Reviews (EBSOhost) 71 (10): 749. ISSN 0042-6598. 
  3. ^ Estes, Sally (April 15, 2003). Booklist (EBSCOhost) 99 (16): 1466. ISSN 0006-7385. 
  4. ^ Sutton, Roger (May/June 2003). Horn Book Magazine (EBSCOhost) 79 (3): 343. ISSN 0018-5078. 
  5. ^ Roback, Diane (March 10, 2003). Publishers Weekly (EBSCOhost) 250 (10): 72. ISSN 0000-0019. 
  6. ^ Peters, John (May 2003). School Library Journal (EBSCOhost) 49 (5): 150. ISSN 0362-8930. 
  7. ^ "City of Ember (2008)". 
  8. ^ "Mark Twain Award: Previous Winners". Missouri Association of School Librarians. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Surviving the Applewhites
Winner of the
William Allen White Children's Book Award
Grades 6–8

2006
Succeeded by
So B. It