Monday, September 29, 2008

Ember-Related Thoughts

This post contains further thoughts on the first three books in the Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau. I reread the series before tackling the fourth book.

I read this one, The City of Ember, in the Spring of 2007, I believe, along with its two sequels The People of Sparks and The Prophet of Yonwood. But I decided to reread these so I could fully appreciate the fourth novel in the series, The Diamond of Darkhold.

What can I say? I loved it. Still. You know how sometimes when you reread a book, it loses some of its magic. That didn't happen here. The world DuPrau created--Ember--from its people to its structures to its politics and culture--is remarkably well-executed. It's a complete world for the reader to explore. And it doesn't take much suspension of disbelief either. It just works.

Lina and Doon are great narrators. The narrative is told from both of their perspectives. And it's interesting how many adventure stories use dual narrators--male and female--to convey their stories. Perhaps having both genders increases the readership? Who knows! I think this one is exciting enough for both boys and girls to get hooked.

DuPrau created an unforgettable world. A fascinating world. I don't know about other readers. So maybe I'm the only one that has given this a lot of thought...but I want more. I want more stories set in this world. I know it's not going to happen. I know that DuPrau is finished with this series. That she has no intentions of exploring it further. But what I am most interested in hasn't been done yet. I want stories of what Ember was like before. I want stories about those first settlers. Those first generations. Those people--men, women, children, babies--that grew up in those two hundred years when they were living underground in Ember.

What we get in The City of Ember is a glimpse of Ember as it was dying. We see a city collapsing. We see a city on the verge of panic, of turmoil, of chaos. What I would love to see, what I would love to imagine is the creation and foundation of that city. I want to know about how that city came to be. Perhaps a book of short stories where we could get sprinklings of what life was like during those 200 years or so. Wouldn't that be something worth reading??? I think so!!!

This reader wants a prequel. Of course, it's not likely to happen.

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau is the second in the Ember series. It is very different (in a way) from the first novel, The City of Ember. It's an ambitious novel that goes where few have gone before. It beautifully portrays the "us" and "them" mentality of war-mongerers. It illustrates the kinds of behaviors that lead to war, to hate, to trouble, to catastrophe. It's a thought-provoking novel that asks hard questions--hard ethical questions. There is nothing "easy" about the questions it raises. It's about right and wrong, justice and injustice, love and hate, fear and courage. It's grander in scope than the others in the series. And I think that is why I loved it so much. It's an intelligent little piece on the distribution of resources, of immigration, of prejudice, of politics and policies, of war-making propaganda.

Of course it also continues the narrative of Lina and Doon. The two children have brought a little over four hundred people along with them out of Ember and into the great big world. And the community of Sparks is what the people stumble across. This meeting of two very different peoples is fascinating. We get an inside-out-upside-down-outside in look at society and at humanity. The Emberites have known technology--toilets, sinks, electric lights, electric stoves, canned foods, etc. They know about medicine, aspirin, vitamins. But they don't know the basics. They don't know about the sun and moon and stars. The trees. The animals. They've never seen chickens and eggs. They don't understand about fire. They don't know about the seasons. The natural world is foreign to them. They don't know how to manually work and labor and provide for themselves. They don't have the skills to survive on their own. Both cultures are foreign to us readers in a way. And both are somewhat familiar as well.

The book is about the clashing of two peoples. About the misunderstanding, the miscommunication, the willful hatred and propagation of propaganda and blame.

It's just a thought-provoking novel.

The Prophet of Yonwood. The third in the Ember series.

This one is a prequel--probably set 250 (or so) years before the opening of The City of Ember. Our narrator is a young girl--an eleven year old--named Nickie. She's come to the town of Yonwood (in North Carolina) with her aunt. They are closing up her grandfather's house after his death. It's a strange circumstance really. The town of Yonwood is all abuzz about some "Prophet" who speaks the word of God. The town busy-body, Brenda Beeson, has never had it so good.

This is a strange little book. All about gossip, slander, propaganda, the lack of common sense, religious zeal and extremism, conformity and nonconformity, the danger of being different, political threats, terrorism threats, war-makers, and end-of-the-world mania. It's a thought provoking book in many ways. Nickie asks some good questions. Questions about right and wrong. Questions about how you can *know* that something is right or wrong. How you can *know* if God is speaking to someone. If it is God's *will* for something to happen (or not.) This book (like in some ways The People of Sparks and even The City of Ember) examines the mob mentality and going with the flow. Of accepting what you've been told instead of thinking and deciding for yourself.

Jeanne DuPrau's first three books (especially these last two) are all about big ideas, about philosophies, about morality and ethics.

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Anonymous said...

What a fantastic synopsis of this series!! I loved these books!! I have the fourth one on my wish list and I can't wait to get it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Becky, for the wonderful thoughts on this series.

I have to agree with your desires for more in the city of Ember. I wished that she'd done three books there and ended with the Exodus.

Kristina, several of the bloggers on the tour are giving the an ARC of the fourth book away. It would be a great addition to your library. I think Beck might even be giving one away here. Not sure, on that.

Anonymous said...

Becky, thanks for sharing your thoughts on these books. I too love the series and have just finished reading the 3rd book. I am anxious to get ahold of the 4th one so that I can find out for myself what happens. I have linked to your blog in my review.

Anonymous said...

I just finished The City of Ember. I can't wait to read the rest of them! Thanks for the preview.