The City of Ember
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American author DuPrau evidently has 'a thrilling sequel' to The City of Ember in hand; and her transatlantic reviewers enthuse about her 'electric debut', 'full-blooded characters', 'the sheer thrill of the climax', 'breath-taking escapes' and 'harrowing journeys'. It's only fair to mention such judgements since although this makes for a good read it seemed to me somewhat short of electricity et al. In fact, Ember itself is also short of electricity. Thanks to an intriguingly ambiguous introductory chapter, we know the city has been constructed by 'the Builders' as a haven to ensure the survival of the race. Ember is underground, lit day in, day out, by an increasingly erratic power supply. An eventual escape route for its citizens is programmed by the Builders to be revealed when, we infer, the surface will again be fit for human habitation. In this dystopian world, our heroine and hero, Lina and Doon, have never known blue skies or warming sun. The pair, released from a utilitarian schooling into a bleak workplace at the age of twelve, are determined to help their city. They are impatient with the decay, complacency and corruption they find around them. Their escape is certainly rapid and energetic, but the obstacles they face, physical and human, lack terror and menace. Somehow, in such stories, we need to believe the protagonists are in desperate danger - that they might fail, even when we know they won't.