by Jeanne DuPrau
Recently we watched the movie "The City of Embers" and it was so GOOD! I hadn't read the book yet, but the movie was so good that I had to go and get the book to read. Not to mention I also ended up having to buy the movie as well. If I would let him, Calvin would probably watch it like 5 or 6 times a day!!
The books was pretty good, but I have to say that I noticed right away that the author wasn't only writing about a dying city, the writer was saying a lot more. So, I am going to break it all down, but I want to warn you first that this blog is going to contain major spoilers. If you haven't read the book, and want to be surprised then I would quit reading my blog, read the book, then come back read the blog, and tell me if you agree.
That way people who don't want to see spoilers won't have, guess I'm just nice that way :-)
The City of Embers is a post-apocalyptic city that was built underground, to protect people from disaster. The writer doesn't really say what kind of disaster destroyed the earth. I pretty much got the idea that it was many things; environmental disaster, wars, etc, etc. The Builders (of the city) left the people with only enough knowledge to survive. Deliberately leaving out knowledge of how to leave. The City of Embers is an underground city. Just image living, deep, deep, deep under the earth. The only source of light at all is electric light bulbs which are powered by a dying generator. A generator that no one in the city understands how to fix, they only know how to use it, not fix it. They don't even know what fire is, knowing how to make and control fire would provide a way to escape.
The writer is really just talking about so much more then an adventure of two twelve-year-olds out to save a city. The writer is clearly trying to say some things about our own lives, society, governments, educational system, and most of all, our belief systems.
CITY OF EMBERS OUR SOCIETY
Darkness Why are we here? What is our purpose?
I felt like the writer was saying that the builders of Ember put them in this city and then just left them there. I feel like the writer is saying that God created the earth, and then left us here to fend for ourselves.
Outside of the city everything is darkness. Just try and imagine the darkness, real darkness. I am so thankful that God has created this beautiful earth with light sources so that we are not stuck in darkness. I think about when we have visited caves, and it is complete blackness. If you literally had to live in a place like that, you would go crazy. In Ember every night the generator is turned off and the people are in complete blackness for the whole night. I can't even imagine, think if you had to get up and go to the bathroom, complete darkness. They don't have flashlights, they don’t have matches, they don’t even have fire. They have no traveling light. If they try to leave the city before long they are completely and utterly surrounded by the utter darkness! Now, think about the fact that the people know that the generator is dying, they know their clothes and fabrics that they have been using over and over by generations of people for ever 200 years (which by the way how many years old is United States) are wearing thin, they know that their food is running out. There are many different kinds of foods that they don't even have anymore, the little girl in the book had never even tasted pineapple it had run out before she was born. Their library is only filled with knowledge that will help them STAY in the city. What is a boat? They have heard the word, passed down by people that were in they city when it was built, but have no idea what it means. They have heard the phrase "All in the same boat" what could this mean, they can only guess, because they don't what a boat is. Clearly the darkness represents the question of why are we here? What is our purpose? What more is there after this life? I really feel the author asking why did God put us on this dying earth, with bad things happening all around us?
The City of Embers has people called believers. The writers doesn't really give a specific answer as to what the believers believe. I got the impression that the believers believe in the builders, who were meant to represent God. When bad things happen they believers just sing and hope. The generator dies out in the middle of the day, leaving a city of people walking around in complete blackness. Getting separated from their families, children and wondering if the generator is going to turn back on this time, or will this be the end. Are they going to just slowly lose their mind, as they slowly starve to death in complete blackness? (The writer has definitely done a good job of making a picture of a hopeless situation) Meanwhile when these things happen the believers just say that the builders will come and save them. Is this really how the writer sees Christians? She gives no evidences, she just acts as if the believers have a silly, pointless, even lazy, and stupid religion. This is not what Christianity is. Now, I could sit here and tell you why what I believe is more then that. But instead, I will let the writer do that.
In the book there is a part about a bean. She talks about how the bean looks dead on the surface. But inside there is life. And when the bean is put into some soil, the life pushes itself out. It grows in to a plant. How did the life get in there? Clearly something had to put life in there. So even deep down, in the scary, dying City that the people of Ember are trapped in, they can see that God is real, because only God could have put the life in that bean.
There is another part where the boy finds a worm which he watches for awhile as it builds a cocoon and then turns into a moth then flies away. This also shows that even down in Ember, God is at work, creating, how else did the worm know how to do this?
Finally, Escape. The kids have to find the way of escape. They find directions, and have to puzzle it together to find a way out of Ember. I felt like the writer was saying that we have to make our own way. We survive our own selves, despite God. Here's the thing though, even when the kids find a way of escape, it is with the help left behind by the builders. So even when the writer tries to make example of how we can survive despite God, she are still leaving you under God's power. Because deep down inside we cant escape God, because He is real, and He is in control of everything.
While this book is pretty well written, and interesting. It is hard to make much good out of it. But when I read it, I couldn't help but think how thankful I am to know the real God. I know that God is not some heartless, compassionless being that created earth and then left us here to die. God created us to have relationship with Him. We choose to sin causing a rift between us and God. But God isn't a builder who left us here alone! Instead He is a loving creator who sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins! Giving us a way to Heaven. A way to be saved from the darkness!
One good thing about this book, is that it does make you appreciate that we should be good caretakers of this earth. God told us to take care of it!
While the writer brought up many questions on many different topics. I have actually not even scratched the surface in the blog, btw. She doesn't really give any good answers to those questions she poses. There are parts of the book that I think aren't completely thought through. For instance, it would pretty much definitely be impossible for people to live underground for that long of a time. She writes about green houses. It would be possible for plants to grow and grow without the sun, using only electrical lights, for over 200 years. Living in a city of utter darkness, with only electrical lights that are turned on and off, at night and morning, people would literally go insane without the sun. It would not be possible for them to survive that long.
I don't know if you will choose to let your kids read this book. I am going to let mine, and then I will discuss with them the book, much as I have in this blog. These ideas that are presented in this book are things that they will face in their own lives. I would rather have them learn to deal with them now with me, than to send them out blind and naïve into the world.