Friday, September 2, 2011

Fiction Friday: De-Light-Ful Dystopian

I've been reading quite a bit of dystopian literature lately.  It's been fun, for the most part.  Among the series that I've read is the City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau.  This series is one that I would recommend to twelve or thirteen year olds before I'd recommend it to older young adults, but I really enjoyed reading them.

I think I had a greater appreciation for these books because I started reading them right after I experienced a 36 hour power loss at my apartment.  The first book, The City of Ember, takes place in, well, the City of Ember.  This is an underground city that was built some 250 years ago by the Builders, and it is powered by a generator that is beginning to break down, threatening to leave the city's inhabitants in total darkness. 

The night before starting these books, I had to use a lot of candles, and let me tell you, candlelight doesn't really cut it.  I'm not sure what people did before electricity, but I'm pretty sure they went to sleep earlier than I typically do.  I needed three candles just to be able to have enough light to read.  When the lights finally came back on, I did a major happy dance.  I've never been so glad to see an illuminated light bulb in my life.

And so I was really thinking about what it would be like to be dependent on a power source that was breaking down.  The main characters of The City of Ember, Lina and Doon, were just twelve years old when they had to face this problem.  They were both a little naive (a lot of the attitudes in this book seemed a little naive, which is why I would recommend it for younger "young adults"), but they were both courageous and hopeful--and in a lot of ways, much wiser than the corrupt adults in control of the city.  I'm not going into any further detail about the plot, because I think you should read these for yourself.

I like science fiction.  I like it a lot.  So dystopian literature is usually right up my proverbial alley.  I like fiction that takes place in the future after some kind of disaster has taken place, but only if the characters involved in such a situation end up with some sort of happy, yet realistic ending.  I'm not looking for a "happily ever after" necessarily; I'm looking for a "hopefully ever after."  The City of Ember and the following books, ending in The Diamond of Darkhold, do end hopefully.  Themes of hope and light are woven through them, so even if they are a little naive at times, I am glad I took the time to read them.

I also managed to read the whole four book series in about 4-5 days, which also leads me to believe they'd be better for younger readers.  And there was a LOT of description, which was sometimes very good.  I was able to see many of the scenes very clearly.  I just often felt a little intellectually insulted by the author's descriptions, as if she felt the need to explain how things worked or what things looked like too much.  Perhaps she did this intentionally because her target audience was younger readers.  In that case, the overkill of description was probably a good thing. 

I also want to say that I'm not sure I agree with all the author's philosophies on religion (they were ambiguous, and I'm not always sure what point she was trying to make), which were included in all of the books, but mostly in the prequel (book three of the series) the Prophet of Yonwood.  If you're interested in the series, I don't think it's entirely necessary to read the Prophet of Yonwood.  It was a good story, but the other three books could exist very easily apart from it. 

I plan on seeing if Redbox has the movie version of The City of Ember that came out a few years ago, but I heard it wasn't very good.  Still, Bill Murray's in it, so I figure it's worth a shot. 


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