The City of Ember brings us to the first piece of dystopian literature so far on the Top 100 Children’s Books list, moving from #100 to #1, that is. What is dystopian literature? Simply put, it is a story set in a world that is anti-utopian. Mostly set in futuristic societies, the people in these novels are sometimes oppressed and controlled by dictatorial or totalitarian governments. Resources are often limited in supply and controlled protectively by aforementioned governments. Some may describe societies in dystopian literature as post-apocalyptic, though certainly not all are. A few classic examples include Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
The City of Ember, the first in the Ember series, follows the adventures of young Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, living in a town with no natural light, and a limited supply of lightbulbs. The people of Ember live with little awareness of the world outside their city. Because they do not have flashlights, there is no way to venture out of the city without being in complete darkness. But with the discovery of ancient documents alluding to the outside world, Lina and Doon team up to find out what exactly is awaiting them outside Ember.
I have to admit that I am usually pretty harsh on dystopian literature, having strict criteria to a believable world and characters. The City of Ember did not disappoint as a whole, and after reading it, I added the next three books in the series to my to-be-read list. And now I anxiously await the arrival of Netflix to see if the movie version lives up to the novel.
by Jeanne Duprau
Originally published in 2003