the city of ember by jeanne duprau

The City of Ember was built by the Builder 241 years ago.  It is a place that is completely dark all the time unless the lights are on.  The store house of supplies left by the Builders all those years ago are running out. So are the lightbulbs.  Even the electricity is no longer stable.  Soon all the people of Ember will be plunged into forever darkness unless two young people, Lina and Doon, can find a way out.

Theology: We’re in the dark

There are some interesting theological concepts in the book but it is difficult to determine what the author actually believers.  There are “Believers” in the book:

“It seemed to Lina there were more Believers than ever these days.  What they believed in she didn’t know, but it must make them happy–they were always smiling.”

This made me laugh. Are we guilty of believing without people knowing what we believe?  It turns out later that they believe that the Builders will return and rescue them from Ember.  This, to me, sounded very much like current day believers waiting for the Second Coming.  Unfortunately, unlike Jesus, the Builders were people and therefore finite.

“…on certain day the back room was used as a meeting place for people who liked to converse about Great Subjects. “Do you think an Invisible Being is watching over us all the time?” she heard someone ask. “Perhaps,” answered someone else.  There was a long silence.  “And then again, perhaps not.”

Not so different than the creation/evolution debates of society.

There are two quotes that are great evidence for a Creator:

“But a bean seed isn’t connected to anything.  Neither are people.  We don’t have plugs and wires that connect us to generators.  What makes living things go is inside them somehow.” Her dark eyebrows drew together over her eyes.  “What I mean is,” she said finally, “something is going on that we don’t understand.  They say the Builders made the city.  But who make the Builders?  Who made us?”

Doon watched until the moth disappeared.  He knew he had seen something marvelous.  What was the power that turned the worm into a moth?  It was greater than any power the Builders had had, he was sure of that.  The power that ran the city of Ember was feeble by comparison–and about to run out.

It’s not clear what the author’s theology is, but the characters in her book are at least debating the existence of an Invisible Being.

Maturity: G

This book is suitable for the whole family.  No profanity, sex, or other adult themes.  Just a good story.

Social Issues:

With supplies and electricity running out, we see the worst of society: greed, hopelessness, corruption, hoarding.  The good thing is that it is only some truly reprehensible characters that are doing these things.  Most of the people of Ember have been there long enough to make the best of what they have.  The citizens are forced to recycle and reuse almost everything because of their situation.  There are nice environmental parallels here.
I enjoyed the book.  I figured out what was going on in the story early, but I think it would keep a younger reader guessing.  There are three more books in the series.  It will be interesting to see if we can learn more about the author’s theology by reading them.

5 thoughts on “the city of ember by jeanne duprau

  1. My youngest, Colin, and I are reading this book now. At 11, he’s not a strong reader, and it’s an ambitious attempt for him. That being said, it’s the first book he’s attempted all year that’s held his attention past the first 3 or 4 chapters – including one of those animal saga stories that seem so popular among young readers and the first Harry Potter book. We’re halfway through it. And the best part? He’s done most of the reading on his own. Nice review, Lisa.


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