The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker.
In her electric debut, DuPrau imagines a post-apocalyptic underground world where resources are running out. The city of Ember, "the only light in the dark world," began as a survival experiment created by the "Builders" who wanted their children to "grow up with no knowledge of a world outside, so that they feel no sorrow for what they have lost." An opening prologue describes the Builders' intentions-that Ember's citizens leave the city after 220 years. They tuck "The Instructions" to a way out within a locked box programmed to open at the right time. But the box has gone astray. The story opens on Assignment Day in the year 241, when 12-year-olds Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow draw lots for their jobs from the mayor's bag. Lina gets "pipeworks laborer," a job that Doon wants, while Doon draws "messenger," the job that Lina covets, and they trade. Through their perspectives, DuPrau reveals the fascinating details of this subterranean community: as Doon repairs leaks deep down among the Pipeworks, he also learns just how dire the situation is with their malfunctioning generator. Meanwhile, the messages Lina carries point to other sorts of subterfuge. Together, the pair become detectives in search of the truth-part of which may be buried in some strange words that were hidden in Lina's grandmother's closet. Thanks to full-blooded characters every bit as compelling as the plot, Lina and Doon's search parallels the universal adolescent quest for answers. Readers will sit on the edge of their seats as each new truth comes to light. Ages 10-13. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Random House Books for Young Readers
May 25, 2004
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Excerpt from The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.
"They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years," said the chief builder. "Or perhaps two hundred and twenty."
"Is that long enough?" asked his assistant.
"It should be. We can't know for sure."
"And when the time comes," said the assistant, "how will they know what to do?"
"We'll provide them with instructions, of course," the chief builder replied.
"But who will keep the instructions? Who can we trust to keep them safe and secret all that time?"
"The mayor of the city will keep the instructions," said the chief builder. "We'll put them in a box with a timed lock, set to open on the proper date."
"And will we tell the mayor what's in the box?" the assistant asked.
"No, just that it's information they won't need and must not see until the box opens of its own accord."